The Oil Spill and the Green Revolution

By Stephen Fiske

Historical paradigm shifts occur when a critical mass has coalesced, born out of a movement embracing a new idea, a new consciousness.  Examples of this are the Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights Movements.  This consciousness shift begins at the grass roots level, finds its way into the fabric of society, and eventually into corporate and government policy-making.

The Green Revolution is a shift in the very way we live and do business in this world. Its mission is to  place environmental considerations at the very top of every societal agenda.  It acts to preserve, protect, and restore what is left of the vital planetary life support system: our forests, soil, air, and water. It begins with each individual doing the everyday things like driving less, driving more gas efficient, hybrid, or electric vehicles, using alternative transportation, using reusable shopping bags, reducing, reusing, and recycling.  It extends to activism on the broader collective issues such as writing to elected officials, joining and supporting an environmental group, and voting for proven environmentally-supportive candidates.   Every individual act counts and adds up to create a tipping point.

The Green Revolution confronts the paralyzing policy-making machinery that prevents progressive life saving steps to a positive, sustainable future.  It recognizes the interconnectedness and interdependence of all living things and embraces the sacredness and sanctity of the Earth and its biodiversity.   It builds a sustainable future using renewable energy and non-polluting technologies.  It strives for carbon neutrality and a reversal of global warming.  With education and non-violent activism at its core, it seeks peace and prosperity for all people and for the long term good of the planet. Nothing is impossible when we put our will, creativity, ingenuity, and power of action into making it so.

The calamity of the BP oil spill lays bare the hubris and greed of the corporate industrial complex. Wherever we live, we are all the victims. The spill most specifically and immediately impacts the environment and economy of the Gulf States, but hits like a sucker punch to the kidney of an already staggering national and international economic system built around fossil fuel dependency.  This low blow to the Gulf States spreads like debilitating goop on the economic global tides, and weakens the stamina of a financial system already punch drunk and propped up by handlers who erroneously believe their champion can go the distance.

The cost of this catastrophe is beyond estimation. The global economy based on fossil fuel addiction is going down for the count, its non-sustainability more and more evident with each tragic gush.

All things in this revolving incubator bubble that we call the Earth’s ecosphere are subject to this mega-spill’s gross violation.. There is no “away” to throw anything. Already ten times more vast than the Valdez disaster, the damage of the Gulf spill is global in its impact, increasing every day.  We will be feeling the deadly, disgusting consequences for years to come.

We are all part of the global atom pool. We are all intrinsically intertwined in a common global life support system. What you spill into the system in your part of the world impacts me in mine.  Winds blow and drift radioactive fallout, volcanic dust, and toxic pollutants all over the globe. Tides and currents carry the stinky ooze throughout the oceans, to its shorelines and life forms.

BP tried to cover up the enormity of the spill and minimize its impact through a slimy, lying PR campaign. Outflanked by the continually spreading slicks, the BP line that the oil spill was of minor consequence  became exposed as infuriating doublespeak.. Tell that to the “small people,” the fishing, tourist, and other industries destroyed by this disaster.  Tell that to the pelicans, migrating birds from all over the world, or the sea creatures. Tell that to the workers faced with the impossible task of clean up, using toxic dispersants while breathing oil fumed air, risking untold health hazards in the process. Tell that to the families of the eleven killed on the deep-sea oil rig, rigged for profit at the expense of safety.

It is a biological fact that an organism cannot survive in its own waste. There comes a point when the pollutant overwhelms the life form.  The Earth is a living organism on life support alert.  Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring sounded the alarm about DDT poisoning. The first Earth Day 40 years ago initiated the Green Revolution as a mass movement speaking the environmental truth to power.  The movement has been simmering, mobilizing and growing ever since, pointing to scientific evidence, crying out the warnings, offering solutions.   Chevron, Ford, Dow, Wall Mart, are all greening themselves.  BP had gorgeous TV ads touting their diversification in renewable technologies.  But the conversion process is continuously encumbered by corporate and political collusion.

This is a dirty business in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and a dirty business on Capital Hill. For years,  BP money has found its way deep into Republican and Democrat coffers, including the pockets of President Obama who, according to the Los Angeles Times,  has been a leading recipient of BP cash. The President has also been a proponent of offshore drilling.  The Bush administration, with Cheney’s oily hand steering the course, provided subsidies and incentives for gas and oil companies drilling on the outer continental shelf, legislation that Obama, then as Senator from Illinois, supported. No wonder government  oversight skipped some regulations and looked the other way while BP was at play in ultra deep water  without a clue of how to handle a hole in a pipe a mile down. It seems they drilled a little bit over their heads.

Now President Obama, in a let-me-change-my-tune speech, despite the fact that oil spills have occurred regularly for decades, is seeking to restrict offshore drilling and toughen regulations, using the spill to reemphasize his renewable energy platform of wind, solar, and other green energy sources.  Better late than never.

It is an old story that crisis precedes solution. . Add this oil spill to the list of environmental crises such as global warming, overpopulation, water and food shortages, biodiversity and resource depletion, rampant pollution, loss of species, to name a few, and you come to see crisis overwhelming solution, especially when solution is blocked by the blindness of corporate lobbyists and political gobbledygook.  The oil spill raises the ante of the overall situation so severely while the window of opportunity for solution keeps shrinking so rapidly, that to feel immobilized by the hugeness of the problems facing this planet is understandable.

Yet the magnitude of this oil spill and its ongoing in-our-face daily reality can be precisely the wake up call needed to mobilize the environmental movement to the necessary planet-saving proportions.  Now the Green Revolution reaches into every household, every corporate desk, every policy makers’ agenda, like an emergency siren.. Saving the planet is no longer just an environmentalist’s slogan, but the call to action for every citizen. Our life support system is in peril and we must act as if our lives are in danger.  Because they are.

Everything we do must take into account the environmental impact of our actions. We must make the shift from exploiter and pillager to caretaker and steward.  The Industrial Revolution and the rise of corporate hegemony have had a 200 year jump on the relatively young environmental movement. But now the tide must turn. No matter what your political affiliation or world view, the Earth is literally every living thing’s common ground.  The lesson to learn from the Gulf oil spill is that a paradigm shift must be undertaken with no time to spare.   This crisis tragically and vividly illustrates the ecological implications of corporate oil self-interest driving economic and political policy.  It comes at a critical turning point in our planetary history.  We must convert from fossil fuel to renewables.  We must see that going green benefits the bottom line and that green is the way of the future. This won’t happen overnight, but the Green Revolution has begun, and we must accelerate this conversion with every ounce of vitality and technical know-how we can muster.

This catastrophe is a call to action.   Join the Green Revolution in building the sustainable future for our children and future generations.

Stephen Longfellow Fiske is a musician and founder of the July 10 Venice Eco-Fest.

Categories: Environment