More than a month after BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the oil continues to flow from the Gulf of Mexico to pollute the shores of America’s once-beautiful coastlines. The other week I saw a report put out by the University of Adelaide Environmental Institute that ranked countries around the world by their environmental impact. They measured total degradation based on forest loss, habitat loss, fertilizer use, water pollution, carbon emissions, and other factors. The U.S. was ranked number two, second worst, beaten only by Brazil.
But that was before the worst oil spill in American history.
It’s almost too much to fathom, isn’t it? The gushing geyser of crude oil that has no end in sight, with flimsy, all-too-human efforts to staunch the bleeding when a jugular vein of the Earth has been cut. How long will it take to clean up? How long will the toxic effects last? What can we do? Send pet hair and panty hose to the Gulf of Mexico?
Already the blame game has started, the official criminal investigations and finger-pointing. But that’s not going to help what was left of marine life in the Gulf before the spill (remember the quaint little dead zone down there? It all seems so small now). It’s not going to help the fisherpeople, the tourism industry, and more important, the people who just live down there and now find themselves covered in oil, and not in a good way.
Obama is calling for a clean-energy bill in response to the crisis. Cynics and conservatives are still stalling and blaming. We watch the back-and-forth like a tennis match, solidly seated with our favorite players. Meanwhile, the devastation is almost too big to absorb.
What will it take to get us to change our behavior? Our world view that lets us feel OK about being the worst, or at best second worst, environmental destroyers in the history of our planet? Is that something to be proud of, America? Really, you can’t blame Obama for this whole situation. He was brave enough to think he could step into the toughest job on earth and fix things. Let’s all take a moment to be thankful we don’t have his job.
I think it’s a time for uniting. The real time for change is now. Allowing our more primitive anger to rule our responses is not going to stop the bleeding. It’s not going to make us better citizens of the world. It’s not going to make the spill disappear.
We all want to help. We are a generous people. We give money to call-in TV fundraising specials. We consider ourselves a people of faith, freedom, and independence. We consider ourselves leaders. And yet, we often allow those good actions and comfortably superior feelings to let us go on living our lives as if nothing has changed and our daily behavior doesn’t really matter.
Guess what? It does. What more will it take to get us to change?