First Step = ELIMINATE THOSE PLASTIC BAGS!
Bad things that carry unprecedented cultural consequences seem to always happen on April 20th. In 1889, Adolf Hitler was born. In 1961, the US launched the Bay of Pigs invasion signaling a heightened tension in the cold war era. In 1998, two teens went on a rampage in Columbine, Co., rupturing the fabric of security in suburbia. In 2010, a deepwater horizon floating oil rig owned by British Petroleum exploded, killing 11 workers, while creating an underwater eruption of crude oil from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.
Barring a miracle or an even greater disaster, the spill is likely going to be the greatest environmental catastrophe of our era. Although it is nearly impossible to accurately estimate the extent of the spill, BP and the US Coast Guard have estimated that the oil volcano sitting 5,000 feet beneath the water's surface is spewing and will spew 200,000 gallons of oil every day until it is capped (maybe 6-8 days from now, best case scenario). By these estimates, the spill has already leaked 2,800,000 gallons into the gulf.
Courtesy of NASA
The oil is slowly making it's way to the fragile marshes and beaches that comprise the Gulf's coastline. The first victims (sea turtles) are beginning to wash up on shore. The fishing industry is training to somehow contain the oil before it crushes their fragile industry.
As "Drill Baby Drill" turns to "Spill Baby Spill," I wonder how Americans will react to the reality of the situation. As we grapple with the second major disaster from fossil fuel based energy (search Upper Branch Mine/Massey Energy) in less than a month, I would hope that these explosions would spur those who believe drilling, blasting or invading (search Operation Iraqi Freedom) our way to energy security to realize the short sightedness of their approach. If we are to reach real security, we must harness sustainable/non-exploding forms of energy, while reducing the demand for the incredible amounts of energy we presently consume.
Every problem has a solution. If we are to say that our problem is that our entire economy and way of life are precariously supported by the burning of a finite resource located in obtuse or volatile places in the world, than we must find homegrown solutions that reduce the demand for oil. One first step is to actualize conservation. We can and should target parts of our economy that:
- use excessive resources
- are completely unnecessary to maintaining a good standard of societal/community/individual wellness
- ELIMINATE THEM.
A first proposal: ELIMINATE THE USE OF PLASTIC BAGS. Maybe I am biased because I pick so many up on a daily basis while on the road. Maybe I am biased because I give presentations on how they are destroying our streams and oceanic ecosystems. Maybe I am biased because a plastic bag is just a bag, easily replaced by a reusable bag through daily habit and practice. Regardless, here are some unbiased figures to serve as food for action.
from CERMARK RHODES ARCHITECT
Conservative estimates say that America uses 100 billion (100,000,000,000) plastic bags per year. That is 273,972,602 bags per day.
It's estimated that the production and transport of 100 billion (100,000,000,000) plastic bags uses 12 million (12,000,000) barrels of oil per year. That's 8,333.3 bags/barrel.
There are 42 gallons in a single barrel of oil. So we yield 198.4 bags per gallon.
273,972,602 bags/day divided by 198.4 bags/gallon = 1,380,910.3 gallons/day to support our country's plastic bag habit.
British Petroleum estimates that the spill is releasing roughly 200,000 gallons of crude oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico. If the spill capped within the next week (21 days since the explosion), 4,200,000 gallons will have spilled.
4,200,000 gallons/ 1,380,910.3 gallons/day = 3.04 days of bags for our country.
If you follow the math, you will discover that the extent of the entire spill equates to nearly 3 days of oil to serve our country's plastic bag addiction.
All of the oil spilling, what may end up being the most catastrophic spill in American history is unthinkable. The amount of oil needed to produce our plastic bags on a daily basis is unthinkable.
This tangent is made to provide an indicator as to how our daily consumption habits relate to resource extraction; how excessive resource extraction for unnecessary ends leads to an increased incidence of a possible environmental catastrophe. To prevent future spills and conflicts, we must reduce the demand for crude oil.
One obvious way to reduce our demand for crude oil while not obstructing "The American Way of Life" is to ELIMINATE THOSE PLASTIC BAGS. Please find and (whenever possible) use reusable containers and products in your daily life. It will go a long way.