09 Jun Dinosaurs and Oil
A Great Blue heron glided like a pterodactyl over us yesterday as we sat on a friend’s back-yard deck. It was almost within arm’s reach, something huge and wild and as ancient as a fossil. Birds are dinosaurs, don’t forget. Wondrous and humbling, the Great Blue is a reminder of how small a link we are in time’s long chain. Which is all the more reason why the Gulf oil fiasco devastates me. We’re talking decades and decades of reparations. It won’t be done before I die.
So, sure, I despise BP Oil for its having made this happen. Apparently, it was working too fast, got sloppy, skipped some steps, and boom! a rig blew 11 men into oblivion. Now oil plumes as deep as the Grand Canyon carry their atomized remains to the rest of the world. I may never forgive this particular oil company for this particular failure. I can’t imagine how BP could have done worse. But, at the same time, I can’t help blaming myself too.
I drive a car. I heat my house. I want oil and lots of it. I am NOT a part of the solution. And I can’t be selective about the blame. I can’t say, I don’t my oil from BP, I get it from Exxon (Valdez, anyone?). I could pedal my bike to work but don’t because it’s inconvenient — I don’t want to get sweaty. I could live without air conditioning but don’t, even though generations before me did without it. And, well, you get the picture.
The sad thing is, despite this most recent disaster, I’m not going to change. Or, rather, I’m not going to change enough. I might buy a hybrid car (do these really make a difference?), I might buy more low-energy light bulbs (they have mercury in them, you know, and have to be disposed of in a specific way), I might do a hundred little things to reduce my sizeable carbon footprint, but that’s what most of us are doing as budget-minded homeowners anyway. The big stuff, the really hard stuff, I’m letting go because I’m not brave enough or tough enough to take it on.
What’s going to happen — I think we all suspect this — is that a number of crisis will compel us to make deep and drastic changes once and for all. But we’re not going to make those changes on our own. Like school children waiting for the teacher to call the punishment, we’re biding our time and, while we wait, making the best of what’s left. Every time I drive the freeway and (always) exceed the speed limit and still not keep up with my neighbors, I think: How much longer will I be able to do this? Our vast nation was built for waste, there’s no denying it. An episode from season two of AMC’s “Mad Men” captured that waste perfectly in a picnic scene where Don and Betty Draper fold up their blanket and leave all of their garbage in the grass. That’s America’s legacy and, alas, it’s hard to shake.