I haven’t blogged yet about the disaster in the gulf of Mexico from the oil rig that exploded more than 50 days ago. I’ve been having a really hard time with it – the environmental crisis and the blogging about it. The devastated habitats make me literally nauseous, and my attempts to blog about it keep bringing me back to a very uncomfortable truth about where the fault lies.
Each morning I watch the news updates about the most recent failure to contain the spill, the anger of the people, the frustration of the workers, and the pictures of the flora and fauna of the gulf ecosystem being slowly and silently slain by it.
I have felt many things toward the different people, organizations and businesses that are involved in this crisis. But until this last week I have not been willing to examine my feelings toward my own self, and my own addiction to oil and its products. I am as guilty as anyone I know in my blase’ use of oil without thinking about its direct impact on our planet.
There has been a slow but sure move toward decreasing dependence at my house before the spill. One of the ways we use less oil indirectly is in how we eat. We do not buy packaged foods that contain petroleum byproducts. I buy flour from a local mill. We grow lots of our own vegetables in the summer. We share them with neighbors and are thankful for neighbors who share other produce with us. I have been purchasing hygiene and beauty products without petroleum byproducts in them.
Okay, I’m having trouble finding hair products that I like. Any suggestions? I did, however, make the kids switch shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap and sunscreen. They still look awesome, but alas I lack their youth.
And, obviously, I breastfed all of my children and didn’t buy them prepackaged baby foods. I also used cloth diapers (most of the time). It makes me feel a little better to think of all the petroleum products I did not consume via the processing of formula, bottles and feeding equipment, those actually in disposable diapers and all the fuel used to haul those products from factory to store. When you realize how much formula and how many diapers I have NOT used over an 8 year period, that is a lot!
I also started cleaning with things like vinegar and baking soda once I had babies. I didn’t want them exposed to all the chemicals in most cleaning products, and most of those products contained some kind of petroleum derivative.
Of course our farm, as far as straight ‘number of gallons’ uses the most petroleum products in our family pie chart. However, our farm feeds an average of 114 people every year. And My Farmer works hard to use as little fuel as possible (it’s one of our greatest expenses, of course!) and to keep all of our equipment running as efficiently as possible. That fuel is not gas being used to drive the kids to the library or make an extra grocery run because I forgot the (insert item here) that we really could do without. Agriculture is purposeful and necessary petroleum usage. People need to eat to stay alive. They do not need to have shiny, frizz-free hair or processed food (I use the term food loosely here because most food that comes in a box has little to no nutritional value at all) to stay alive.
The way I see it, there are two areas where oil usage should be prioritized until we have different (better) technology to replace it. Those areas are agriculture and defense. We must eat (and most Americans do not realize that we have the least expensive food in the world) and having a food surplus keeps us independent as well as giving us bargaining power with the rest of the world. We must also have civil defense. Our military, as well as those who protect us in our own communities (firefighters, police, EMTs) should have a constant supply of whatever fuels necessary to protect and defend our country. Both of these elements are necessary for our survival. But it is my hope that this most recent disaster will finally bring changes in technology that will allow us to wean from the oil industry. And I hope our farmers and military will be on the forefront of that change.
In the mean time, to preserve petroleum usage for farmers and those in uniform and to reduce environmental impact, here are some things I am going to do to reduce my family’s consumption of petroleum products specifically because of the environmental massacre happening to our gulf coast:
1. Make a conscious and concerted effort to limit trips into town. I will plan ahead better to combine our errands with our lessons at the YMCA and our other necessary trips (library, swimming) with one another. I will keep track of them on the calendar to help me plan better as each week goes by.
2. I will mow less often, letting the grass grow taller between mowing and cutting it shorter when I do mow.
3. I will begin requiring equal bike time for the boys in exchange for time on their blade-less lawn mower.
4. I will work harder to buy local fresh produce.
5. I will work harder to preserve my own fresh produce rather than purchase frozen or canned items for off-season consumption. I will also work to serve in-season fruits and vegetables to reduce the need for shelf-stable items.
6. I will offer to carpool any chance I get. And when we feel the need to ‘get out’ I will try to do it in our own back yard. When we are in town, I will try to plan walking between destinations when possible.
7. I will bitch less about BP and spend more time bitching at myself, and attempting to have constructive conversation with others about what we can actually do to help those in the gulf and those at risk for future spills because of our own behaviors.
Another way to change things is through political action. In actuality, my self-examination began after reading this blog.
Have any of you also been angry but unwilling to examine your own contribution to America’s fuel addiction? What plans have you made or ideas do you have for reducing your own personal dependence?