It has been just under two months now since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and oil, with natural gas and other chemicals, started spewing into the Gulf of Mexico. I need not recount the ensuing debacle, as I am sure almost everyone is far too familiar with the dire results. Considering that there has not been much positive progress in cleaning up the mess, I know too well how painful the reality of this situation is.
Everyone in affected areas is suffering from this terrible disaster, the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. Yes, residents are losing income from fishing and tourism, and people working or living in affected areas are already having health problems. But the wildlife is suffering, too. Scores of birds and other innocent creatures, on the coast and offshore, will be irreparably harmed for many, many years to come. No amount of scrubbing and financial reimbursement can make up for all of those lives lost…not even for one bird or fish. Why? Because this deadly disaster is a product of human action, plagued by greed and selfishness and ignorance.
I cringe every time I hear an update on the oil spill response, whether from BP or the U.S. government. It seems like neither is stepping up to take full, honest responsibility for all of the factors involved here, and so far their actions and rhetorical quibbling have indicated more of a deflect and defend approach than one of full accountability and serious response. So when BP talks about “making it right” in their response, it is hard not to be utterly, ruthlessly cynical.
One potentially positive outcome–and I shudder even saying “positive” in this context–is President Obama’s temporary moratorium on offshore drilling. Thanks to this, many still-pristine areas got a little more time…if only a little. Without a permanent ban, we could soon see oil rigs offshore (and onshore as well) in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or any number of other equally fragile ecosystems.
How to “Make It Right”: Crafting Your Own Response to the Oil Spill
When it comes to “making it right,” then, I think it falls onto us, average citizens who can shape future policy with our words, our votes, and our cash. And we can, indeed we must, try to “make it right” with more sustainable lifestyles in order to reduce the at-all-costs drive for more oil.
But what do we do in the near term, right now while oil is still leaking into the Gulf and washing up on more and more coastlines? (If you think this is just a distant problem, far from wherever you live, try making it more “real” and see how the spill would look covering your home turf.) We can, and I think we must, speak up and let our anger, sadness, and desire for change be known. Here are a few ways to speak out about the oil spill and our policies on oil development:
- Write to BP and let them know how you feel about their dithering, delay, and deflection.
- Boycott BP gas stations. (You probably will not have to go too far on any American street to find an alternative.)
- Contact the White House and tell President Obama to do more and offer more resources to the oil-spill response…and to change our energy policy, ban offshore drilling for good, protect key habitats like ANWR, and stop giving oil companies so much leverage in Washington.
- Tell your representatives to oppose/ban offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean specifically; although the Gulf spill has already occurred, we can prevent another similar disaster in the Arctic by nixing all offshore drilling (and then onshore drilling, too).
- Give BP “the bird” with a t-shirt or other item from PETA. The oil-splattered pelican with vertical middle feather says it beautifully.
It seems we cannot rely on BP or the government to “make it right” for real, and for the long term, so we better start doing something ourselves. I have seen far too many goo-covered birds already…we have no excuse for doing this to more of them in the future.
Image credit: Marine Photobank, from Wikimedia Commons, under a Creative Commons License.