A Justification of Habit

Jan 18, 2011 by

A Justification of Habit

It was just a matter of time.

It was an unconscionable denial of inevitability. When I filmed and reported the oil disaster in the Santa Barbara Channel in 1969, I did so with a feeling of dread, knowing in my mind that this would be the first of many environmental disasters we human’s would wreak upon our planet, all in the name of Wall Street investors, corporate profits, shareholder’s demands, small business demands for less regulation. Add to that motorist’s desires to drive to work alone in their gas guzzling autos all the while cursing because they can’t use the carpool lanes.

British Petroleum’s 2010 blowout in the Gulf of Mexico will go down as the worst disaster in offshore oil exploration history (to date) and because of it we are facing disasters of unparalleled magnitude. But like the already forgotten lessons of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, the ongoing deforestation of the jungles of Brazil, destruction of the grasslands of Argentina, interruption of the “Great Migration” of wild animals in Africa and Alaska, and because of our unwillingness to change our habits of transportation, the continued use of carbon based fuels are driving planetary temperatures up to the point of extinction of ice fields that have existed for untold eons on this planet.

Oil Soaked bird from BP Oil SpillThere is no other way to justify that poor tiny wading sea bird, globs of heavy crude oil dripping from its beak, dying. That life and thousands, perhaps millions like it, were snuffed out because of our greed and intractable resistance to change.

When something threatens our comfort zone we react with typical human indifference by making excuses like, “That’s not for me, that’s for my neighbor who drives a Humvee or some other gas guzzler. I drive a fuel efficient Ford, Honda, Kia,” or whatever. The sad truth is that we have probably passed the point of no return and all carbon base fueled engines are polluting our air faster than our natural air conditioner – the winds and the jet stream – can carry it into the atmosphere and neutralize it.

If you don’t believe me look at photos of Detroit, Michigan, Mexico City, Shanghai China, Manila, Tokyo, Berlin, Los Angeles, London or any other large city in the world. In many cases you can’t see across the street because of the air pollution.

We who live in Southern California pride ourselves on the strides made to clean up our air. Many of us remember days driving on the L.A. freeways, tears coursing down our cheeks from burning eyes, a terrible taste of gasoline bile in the back of our throats. Now it’s better. Now there are no tears and that raspy, oily feeling in our throat is gone. We can see Mount Wilson and the San Gabriel Mountains almost every day of the year.

And yet it is still there, not as visible perhaps, but still there, like some science fiction monster waiting to devour the “City of Angels” and all of its “Angelenos.” There is no way two million cars, trucks, motorcycles and any other means of transportation using a gas engine can travel the freeways of L.A. every day and not leave a huge footprint of pollution. We have just learned to live with it, that’s all.

It’s the same all over the world. China is now instituting rationing of ownership of automobiles because of the growing pollution problems in their major cities. Paris had to declare a pollution alert when the top of the Eiffel Tower disappeared in the smog. Moscow has had many days when driving limitations were placed on its motorists, Tokyo, Manila, Rome, Berlin, even some of the Arab states where the largest amounts of the gooey stuff is extracted from the earth have had pollution alerts.

Polar Bears on ice flowWe know all of these facts, we know the ice fields are melting, we know temperatures are rising all over the world, we know what disaster lies ahead if we do not do something extreme to stop the polluting, but will we do anything about it? Do we as critically thinking human beings have the intestinal fortitude to demand changes in our methods of transportation? Have we got the guts to elect legislators who will do something about it? Or will we once again hide in our shell of indifference and self indulgence until we can no longer breathe the air around us without some artificial filtering device strapped on our backs. We already have a huge load on our backs, making the air of our world safe to breathe again. We don’t need anything else loading us down.

I intend to do something about it.

Do you?

In my own small way I will cut our travel in our automobile by 25%. Instead of four trips a week into town we will make do with three. By preplanning and careful management of our supplies we can do our shopping, get to our Doctor’s appointments, and any other necessary things we need to do in three trips. (Hopefully we can eventually cut that to two trips a week.)

We have sworn to turn out lights when we leave a room. We have turned the gas log fireplace down to a mere flicker when it is in use and we have changed most of the lights in our home to low energy emission bulbs. We are planning a vegetable garden in the spring and we are giving away the manure generated by our horses free to people who use it as fertilizer.

energy saving light bulbEverything we do to lessen the use of energy is a step away from disaster. It might seem like a small contribution but just changing your lights to low energy bulbs can save importing hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a year.

What’s the point of all of this you ask? Just some thoughts that have been rambling through my mind. Also to let you know that I am as guilty as all of the rest of you.

I have to hurry and end this before I head to the gas station for a fill up.

I guess it wouldn’t hurt to pray to the good Lord to help us all ‘cause BP sure as hell won’t…Maybe Standard Oil or Shell?

Don’t hold your breath, if you have any breath left, that is.