After a month-and-a-half of Top Hats, Top Kills, robots with saws and other absurdities, today the news is that the damaged riser pipe has been severed close to the well. They say that this is good news, but let's just wait a few days to be sure. How many times have we been misled by BP so far?
The vast majority of Americans feel helpless watching plumes of oil filling the Gulf of Mexico, and anger is rising like a tide of fetid fossil fuel. The people of Louisiana aren't just angry, they're livid, and yet the BP executives keep putting on a show and keeping the media as far away as possible. It seems clear that the earliest resolution for this horrible disaster will be August. But we'll be living with the devastating consequences on marine life and fishing communities for many years to come.
It's too late to stem this awful tide, but what if we could prevent future disasters? Obama has finally decided to temporarily halt offshore drilling. But the operative term is temporarily. Oil industry lobbyists are gearing up to make sure the moratorium doesn't last long.
We're absolutely, resolutely, and irrefutably addicted to oil, but not in the way that you might think. It's not all about the way you fill your tank at the gas station. I'm talking about the ubiquitous presence of plastic in our lives everyday, in every way. Look around the room you're in right now. Plastics rule us. They are in the keyboard you're typing on, the mouse you're clicking, the screen you're reading these words on, they're in your TV, your refrigerator, your microwave, your DVD player, your remote control, your suitcase, your contact lenses, your toothbrush, and much, much frighteningly much more. Petroleum is also in shampoo, cleansers, moisturizers, lubes, and just about every personal care item you can name. And many plastics aren't just keeping us on a steady diet of oil -- they are literally making us sick. Welcome to the scary world of phthalates. Check any conventional product in your medicine cabinet that has "fragrance" on its ingredients list, and you can be sure that it's a bottle of endocrine-disrupting poison.
Green chemistry can and eventually will change the game, but until then, it's up to us. So you take a reusable bag to the grocery store -- good for you. That's a nice start, as the bags themselves do more than just choke sea animals -- they keep us tethered to our corporate petroleum overlords. If you're struggling with how to bag your garbage, check out Biobags, the largest brand of 100 percent biodegradable and compostable bags made from GMO-free starch and other renewable resources. I am addicted to these need little bags (the t-shirt shopping bag fits nicely in my under the sink NYC-sized garbage pail.)
You can also drive less, and walk and bike more. (Not just better for the environment, but better for your body.) But here's a totally radical idea. Why not buy less stuff? Consumption is the altar at which we all worship, and it's a big part of the reason that corporations have such a hold on us. Even if you've already seen it, a refresher course in The Story of Stuff is a stark reminder of the hamster wheel that is modern life. It doesn't have to be this way.
Next time you're at your local Walmart, play the "Need & Want" game. Do you truly need what you're throwing in your basket, or do you just want it? Experiment by sticking to your needs for one week, and see what happens. Only in America could we have a show like Hoarders where our lust for stuff has literally become a disease. If we all took an honest look at ourselves and our habits, perhaps we'd discover a small bit of this pathology. It's not innocuous -- it's a condition that is polluting one of our most sacred and beautiful seas right now.
If we say yes to reducing, reusing, recycling, and DIY'ing, we can eventually kick BP to the curb and wash that dirty petroleum right out of our hair.
Like I say in my new book, Eco-Sex: Go Green Between the Sheets and Make Your Love Life Sustainable, it's time for us to break the cycle and find better energy boyfriends.