Our fearless leader, apparently bending to pressure to show a little anger, did so yesterday during an Oval Office address in which he said he was going to demand that the powers that be at BP Global set aside trillions of dollars to pay for cleanup and compensate folks along the Gulf Coast whose livelihoods have been disrupted or destroyed.
First, I couldn’t care less how much anger Barack Obama shows about the Deepwater Horizon disaster because, frankly, temper tantrums are not going to clean up the mess. As Steven Pearlstein writes, this mess will get fixed with cooperation, not hissy fits. (Best line of his column, referring to the prez and BP’s CEO: “This needs to be the Barack and Tony Show, not the Barack and Tony Showdown.” Amen, brother Steve.)
Second, we all need to get a grip and realize this was not caused by BP alone. No, dear readers, this was caused by you and me and our consumption-driven, oil-fueled, low-prices-at-all-costs, unsustainable manner of living. We want to drive what we want, when we want, where we want. We want to live in giant homes far from our workplaces and we want to fly to vacation with family and friends. We want to eat fruit and veggies out of season, even if it takes 10,000 gas-and-oil fueled miles to bring those things to our table. Most importantly, perhaps, we want to lord our desires over Mother Nature and do such insane things as drill for oil beneath 5,000 feet of water and pressure – and then we’re shocked when a great big oops happens. Then we get angry (or demand that our leader does) and we point fingers and assign blame, but refuse to take any of the blame ourselves.
I’m just as guilty as the next guy. Well, maybe not: I grow some of our food, we drive Hondas for their gas mileage, I walk to the store and bike to the farmers market at least 20 percent of the time, we consolidate all our car trips and we try not to buy over-packaged, long-distance food. That said, we’re flying to France to see our daughter this summer and I just got back from a trip to Dallas to see my cancer-battling sister-in-law. Worst of all, we still own a very old, gas-guzzling minivan because our college daughter needs it to get from where she lives at the university to her job on this side of town. (Public transportation, you say? Ha! That’s another post.)
Point is, we should all be angry at ourselves for our inability to break our oil-addiction and move toward more sustainable lifestyle. And maybe we should stop blaming everyone else and look at how we can change things ourselves. I’m not the only person thinking this, of course, and I’m probably not the one best explaining it. That honor goes to Mark Mykleby, who wrote a letter to the editor of the Beaufort Gazette, taking responsibility for the oil spill – and apologizing for it. He identifies what is wrong, says he’s sorry and points the way forward, realizing this isn’t a liberal or conservative problem, but a human problem:
For those on the left, government regulation will not solve this problem. Government’s role should be to create an environment of opportunity that taps into the innovation and entrepreneurialism that define us as Americans.
For those on the right, if you want less government and taxes, then decide what you’ll give up and what you’ll contribute.
Here’s the bottom line: If we want to end our oil addiction, we, as citizens, need to pony up — bike to work, plant a garden, do something.