Monday, June 7, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill

I've been following the Deep Horizon disaster in the Gulf in relative silence until now. I figured it's about time that I get a few things off my chest. First, I was an environmentalist and proponent of clean renewable energy long before the current disaster, and to a certain extent it bothers me that it takes a huge problem like this to finally make people realize how big a problem our dependence on oil has become. Sure, it's fine if some little countries in the Middle East are setting fire to each others oil fields, no one really cares about that, even though that was a pretty big ecological disaster too. Out of sight, out of mind.

I just don't understand why it's so impossible to figure something out. Europe has had amazing public transportation systems, trains, buses, subway systems, etc. for ages. You can see wind turbines doting hillsides, solar panels or at least solar water heaters on almost every roof, small dams and nuclear power plants along the rivers, and tiny cars on the streets everywhere you go. Recycling plays a large part in that as well, and if the DC metro area thinks the $.05 plastic bag fee is bad, they should go to Ireland which has a $.15 plastic bag fee.

Why is going green such a stigma in the economic world? On the whole, green companies are actually doing really well, maybe there is a higher initial investment, but it pays off in the long-run not only in profit and capital gain, but also in employee health (leading to lower health insurance bills and less paid sick days) and morale.

Which brings me to another point, which is green buildings. There is never going to be a huge disaster which will show people how terrible our current building materials are to our health. Carpets, insulation, formaldehyde-treated woods, and paints off-gas toxins into the air, dark roofs create a heat-island effect in cities leading to higher temperatures, light pollution is a huge problem that affect people's sleep cycles, and the list goes on. Some of these things are hard to quantify.

Why is it taking this huge disaster to show people how bad our dependence on oil has become, how badly we're treating this planet, and that our way of life and the demand for "more, more, more, bigger, bigger, bigger" is hurting everyone.

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