“We need to move beyond oil. We need to reinvent society, technology and economy. We need to do it fast and we need to do it creatively. We can.” — Dr. Vandana Shiva
In July 2011, courtesy of Exxon, 42,000 gallons of oil spilled into Montana’s Yellowstone River affecting areas as far as 150 miles downstream according to initial reports. Last week, Shell had its own “little spill” in the North Sea. Shell officials “regret” the spill. Here’s the real kicker: for all their spilling, the U.S. government awarded Shell some additional exploratory drilling permits.
As terrible as each new oil spill report is, what’s more tragic is the sheer volume of un- and under-reported spills that occur. Nigerian oil accounts for 40% of United States crude imports. That means the country has a lot of oil wells, which means a higher probability for oil spills (oil drilling = oil spilling). I know, I know companies tell us not to worry as they have excellent technology that allows them to “recapture” more spilled crude than ever.
If you believe that spilled oil can be cleaned up, I bet the nice people of Ecuador have some property they’d sell you. The effects of continual drilling and spilling in that country are documented in the film, Crude. The film recounts the remarkable story of a group of Ecuadoran Amazon Indians who filed a lawsuit against Texaco (later Chevron) for the irreversible effects of oil exploration and exploitation on their environment, health and culture.
Crude makes visually explicit the meaning of “development.” In the current economic system of globalization, “development” means creating and utilizing a system dependent upon external resources, energy and money that converts the environment, cultures and societies into mechanical systems designed to produce profits over everything else. (For more information on this concept of development, read Soil Not Oil by Dr. Vandana Shiva.)
This type of “development” is what the indigenous Ecuadorans, Nigerians and many other communities across the world are fighting. News reports and documentaries about oil spills make me angry at corporations and complicit governments that continually put people, animals and the environment in harm’s way for simple profits. But, they also serve as calls to action.
Right now, a coalition of environmental groups, tribal leaders, farmers and other concerned citizens from Canada and the United States are organizing a civil disobedience action against the Keystone XL pipeline. If a permit for the project is granted by the Obama Administration, the pipeline would connect oil from Canada’s tar sands to refineries in Texas crossing tribal lands and important waterways.
Not a civil disobedience fan? How about petition signing? It’s simple: click, open, read, sign and share.
My thanks to Ecuadorans, Nigerians, tar sands action participants and those fighting against environmental, economic and cultural degradation everywhere with acts big and small. We won’t get what we don’t demand. So, I demand companies and politicians cease saying how costly it is to switch to sustainable energy. I’d like to see the balance sheet for how much they’d have to spend on developing this technology if they stopped spending so much on drilling, spilling, recapturing and making excuses.