How You Can Actually Help With the Gulf Oil Spill (but probably won’t.)

June 25th, 2010 § 0 comments

An uncomfortable minimalist solution to a problem everyone wishes they could fix.

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

Editor’s note: I’ve been sitting on this article for a week or so because I was honestly afraid it would offend a good portion of the readers here. Tammy Strobel’s article on The Moral Imperative to Drive Less convinced me that this message can no longer wait.

This is the defining change that needs to happen in our time, and if the idea that you are responsible for the health of this planet offends you, then I want you to unsubscribe from my blog. I’m serious.

If you’ve googled the news lately, you know there’s a lot of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.

I won’t go over the exact details here, because I’m not an expert on oil spills, but from what I hear it’s a ecological disaster the likes of which we haven’t seen before.

And no one knows how to fix it.

Here’s what most people like to do in this situation: point fingers at people in power and say “how did you let this happen?” They like to whine, cry, complain.

And do you know what? Whining doesn’t do one damn bit of good. Why?

Because the oil spill is our fault. It’s not Obama’s fault, it’s not BP’s fault, it’s ours. And our whining isn’t doing anything to fix it.

Large amounts of oil aren’t being pumped out of the ground to fill a business’s pockets with money, that’s just a side effect.

The reality is that oil is being produced to fill the needs of a large portion of America that thinks commuting an hour and a half to work and driving to the mall is what you’re supposed to do with your life.

Why is it our fault? Because we drive. A good portion of our population own (or are paying back a giant loan for the next ten years.) a huge block of metal on wheels that does a couple of things:

  1. Cars kill people who walk, bike, and drive other cars.
  2. Cars consume an expensive limited resource that is spilling itself all over the Gulf right now.
  3. Cars pollute the environment with their construction, emissions, and finally when you junk them at the end of their lives.
  4. Cities built around the idea of cars are in many cases inhospitable to people who walk, bike, or take alternative transport.

And do you know what? I’m guilty too. Even though I haven’t owned a car in my entire life, and I live with less than 75 things, I still fly occasionally, I still drive a few times a year, and I still buy things off the Internet, and these things come in trucks.

So we’re all guilty of this, but if enough of us make the right decisions, we can put an end to demand for oil in this country (or at least put a dent in it.) That will make a difference, I really believe this, because it actually matters.

So here’s a brief guide on how to stop whining and start making a change in the world.

1. Stop driving now.

There are no longer any excuses. If you stop driving, that big lump of metal you drive around stops consuming the oil that BP was drilling out to fill your gas tank. How do you stop driving? You donate your car to recycling center that will turn your car into something that isn’t a car. Or sell it if that makes more sense to you.

Then you move to a city that you can walk in, and you buy a bike off Craigslist. If you already live in a city where you can walk or take public transit, and you’re still driving, you have no excuses. Stop now.

And guess what? You’ll be healthier and skinnier once you start walking and biking. It’s an epic win on so many levels.

2. Stop buying stuff now.

Stuff is a triple whammy: it’s keeping you in debt, it’s tethering you to a location, and most of all it takes oil to make and to deliver stuff. Stop buying junk, and start living your life. If you stop buying 1,000 things a year, and reduce that amount to one that is reasonable, say 50 items a year, you can make a difference in your oil consumption.

I think enough of us are living with less than 100 things at this point to prove that living a freedom lifestyle is much more enjoyable than filling your 4th bedroom with junk you don’t use. If you’re not on board with this idea yet, I don’t know what’s stopping you.

3. Eat local now.

Finally, our food distribution system is screwed up by big agribusiness in this country. The best way you can fix it is to seek out local food. This means taking the time to make sure your tomatoes didn’t get flown in from the Philippines, it means shopping at farmers markets, and yes, it means your food will cost more. What it won’t cost is the health of our planet, and also? Local food is healthier for you because it hasn’t been pumped full of chemicals to keep it from turning the color puke by the time you eat it.

4. Share this message.

If all 4,000 subscribers of this blog convince 10 people to stop driving, 40,000 people will cease to be consuming huge amounts of oil. I know it’s unrealistic to think that can happen, but you all known I’m an idealist.


If you can’t start doing one or all of those three things, then I want you to stop talking about how terrible the oil spill is over coffee before you jump into your car to commute to work, and instead go down to the Gulf and start scrubbing turtles with a tooth brush.

Because you are responsible for this. You, me, everyone.

This is our planet, and we’re destroying it with our choices.

I realize this is terrifying to most of you, but you haven’t been living in a little place I like to call reality. Your impact on this planet matters, and only you can change it.

Minimalism is about saving the planet.

Thank you, have a good night.


If you have time, check out Tammy Strobel’s article on The Moral Imperative to Drive Less.

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