86 days. Nearly three months. That's how long it took to plug up the gulf. 4.9 billion gallons of oil. This disaster should not have happened. In my previous piece, I talked mostly about what had happened to that point, but now that the oil has stopped flowing I want to address what should be done for the future. What should be done for these animals and for ourselves.
THIS ISN'T THE END
While the Gulf spill appears to be slowly ending, worldwide spills are not garnering nearly the attention they deserve, though that they are garnering attention at all is an improvement. Firstly, a spill in Michigan that is slowly wending its way towards Lake Michigan. [link]
And then there are the awful spills that have been ongoing for more than fifty years in Africa. [link]
These places are overshadowed by the Gulf's numbers and resources. African economies just do not have the power to combat big oil, nor would many of them choose to, because of the money that is injected by having companies there. And even in the Gulf, the recent report that much of the oil is gone (75% of 4.9 billion gallons still means there are 1.2 billion gallons out there) doesn't mean that the ecosystem is restored. Scientists admit that they don't know what effects the dispersed oil (broken up by both nature and incredibly toxic chemicals) will have on life in the gulf for years to come, and the uncertainty is simply too great a risk, not only to endangered species like the manatee, but also to unseen species and seemingly meaningless species like plankton and seagulls.
It's clear that even with the media pressures resulting from the BP oil spill, big oil is more concerned with the bottom line than with safety. Take a look at BP's rap sheet. [link]
And not just BP. BP doesn't actually own the rig that exploded, but was leasing it from a company called Transocean. It's recently been revealed that Transocean is just as reckless in their safety procedures. [link]
So we cannot rely on big oil to follow regulations closely. That much is clear. Nor can we rely on the government, whose job it was to monitor these companies and keep them in line, a job that it is clearly not fulfilling.
What then should we do?
I'm the first to admit that I'm no environmental scientist, nor am I particularly knowledgeable about how far we are from petrol-free vehicles and whatnot, but it seems to me that there are common sense solutions for this that all people can undertake without the interference of the government or involvement of big oil law teams.
Take a look at your life style. The products you use every day are the results of fossil fuels. Soap, shampoo, cell phones, computers, cars, and that chips' bag in the waste basket. Try and go natural. More and more natural solutions for shampoos, soaps, detergents, and other household products are becoming widely available on the market. Not only do these products come from natural resources, but they are also less likely to contain harmful chemicals. You don't even need to buy special products (which I admit can be more expensive) in some cases. Do you know how much baking soda can clean? Or lemon for that matter? Give it a shot. [link]
Or, if you want to try and make a difference down south, buy a bottle of Dawn dish soap and put a dollar towards rescuing oiled wildlife.
And while I can't offer you a link to a sustainable computer or cellphone, I can tell you that computers and cellphones are recyclable. Give them to a place that can gut them for usable parts and then reuse the plastic for other products. A quick google search can locate your nearest recycling operation.
As for cars. Carpool. Walk. Use a bicycle. Use public transportation. The next time you're about to drive to that grocery store a few blocks away to pick up a few things, rethink your decision. The exercise is good for you. And buy cars that have high gas mileage. Do you really need a giant SUV? Are you really off-roading with it, or are you just driving it down the highway to look intimidating? Rethink choices in terms of the economy. It's cheaper to have a small, fuel efficient car, and in this economy, everyone needs every corner they can cut.
Also, with a little customization (lighten the tires, lighten the car, grab some solar power, forego AC, take off the right side mirror, install an aerodynamic grill, or even just drive more conscientiously), you can seriously increase your fuel efficiency. I'm talking up to 100 miles to the gallon. Can you imagine getting 100 miles of driving for every gallon of gas? It's not that hard. [link]
Or better yet, switch to two wheels, especially if you live in the city. Scooters, mopeds, and motorcycles are all infinitely more fuel efficient than cars because they're lighter.
We can't go oil free all at once. I'm not foolish enough to think that. But even just improving fuel economy and being conscious of the products we buy can go a long way. And we should also start pushing now for scientists to develop viable alternatives. Drop subsidies to oil companies, start giving them to companies developing renewable resources, offer tax credits to people who switch to renewable energy and efficient cars, start public works projects similar to those of the New Deal. The Tennessee Valley authority was responsible for spreading electricity to much of the rural south, helping to create jobs and make lives better. Why can't we do something like that again? Admittedly, hurdles in Congress are tough and intimidating, especially with the opposition many politicians (particularly those of coal and oils states) present, but we all need to think beyond our normal limits.
Being a defeatist won't do anything to change the world. Most of us are young. Teenagers or college students. But it starts with us. We are creating our own lifelong habits and shaping our own futures RIGHT NOW! Look at it this way. If we all switched to cars that got at least 35 miles to the gallon, it would be the equivalent of taking 58 MILLION cars off the road. But this can only happen when we all work together and take an active stand.
I wanted to do something expressing all the species that would be affected. I tried several times to do a compilation piece of some of the more iconic species of the Gulf, but never found something that graphically pleased me. And then I thought about a text art piece. These kind of pieces have always fascinated me because of their ability to have multiple deep meanings that only the artist may ever know. Particularly when the text is deeply layered to the point of unreadability. This particular bird I kept sparse because the point is readability. I wanted people to be able to make out some of the species.
But there's something deeply sad about this piece. I could not fit all the species on the list. I got through birds and mammals and the piece was nearly finished, with the list of fish and invertebrates still untouched. There are some fish species within the text work, but I'm terribly sad that I couldn't include them all, and sadder still that the list would be so long that I didn't have enough space. And that's not to mention the millions and millions of microscopic life forms that weren't even mentioned.
If you'd like to see the full list of affected animals, you can find it here. [link]
Thanks very much for stopping by and please do think about what I've said. It starts with us or it never starts, and if it never starts, we sign our own death warrants.
Special thanks to
for hosting this contest and raising awareness.