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BP Oil Spill: Placing the Blame

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Elizabeth Lindell: A few years after I moved to California, a friend drove me to Santa Barbara for a walk on the beach. As we drove along the Pacific Coast Highway, she pointed out the oil rigs in the ocean.

pelican covered with oil

"Those are why I wanted you to bring old shoes," my friend said, referring to the oil. I was young, naive and mostly thought the oil rigs were ugly.

"If the drilling is safe, how is there oil on the beach?" I wondered aloud. My friend, who had lived in and loved Santa Barbara, generously tried not to patronize me and shrugged. "That's a good question," she said.

It is easy to blame BP. It's even easier to demand that they fix the problem. The problem, though, is not just the oil that is devastating the ocean, but our demand for it -- and our demand for an entire way of life. We use the oil. It's supply and demand. We need to stop being so demanding, use what's available on land and stop stealing from the ocean because of our desire for more. There is no more.

BP made a massive mistake -- with horrific consequences -- but the blame is ours, and it is time to own that.

We have had time to change. Not enough people have been willing to change, however, even though the changes are simple, really: Make fewer trips to the grocery store. Eliminate unnecessary errands. Ride with friends. Use public transportation, bike or walk. Live in and support our neighborhoods. Drive efficient cars no bigger than we need. Stop chauffeuring our children to a different lesson several nights a week. Travel less, or closer to home.

Our world is in crisis for no other reason than our consumption. When we can begin to use no more than we need, we can begin to change our environment and future.

There was, in fact, an oil spill in Santa Barbara, in 1969, that many credit for igniting the environmental movement. In eleven days, 200,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from a disabled oil rig.

If you happen to be in Santa Barbara, take a walk on the beach. Look out at those oil rigs in the ocean, and as you wipe the residue off of your feet, ask yourself how we could have ever allowed them to be out there to begin with.


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