Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Gulf Spill, One Year Later: Still a Good Reason to Get Off Oil

Today marks one year since the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform blew up, killing eleven workers and initiating what’s been called the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. This week, news outlets are running retrospectives of this crisis that has not yet ended. There is still oil to clean up, there are still claims to process, and there are still visible environmental effects around the Gulf of this huge spill.

In a segment a few days ago, NPR reporter Debbie Elliott mentioned the significance of two ongoing Gulf spill stories: the many long-term ecological effects that remain unknown, and the significant mental health impacts on Gulf residents that continue to grow. As an example of the latter, Elliott noted that calls to an Alabama mental health hotline tripled just last month, long after the Deepwater Horizon leak was capped.

It’s a sad circumstance whose repetition could be avoided if only we could wean ourselves from oil. With an eye toward recovering from oil addiction, I ran a series of posts on this blog starting on June 21 last year and running daily for a month as crude continued to gush from the broken BP well into the Gulf.

These posts suggested simple strategies we might all pursue to cut our use of crude, things like using bike trailers, walking kids to school, taking Amtrak, avoiding petroleum-based perfumes and body-care products, or eating food produced with less fossil fuel. The series ended with a four-part story (starting here) about a hypothetical small town that reduced its use of oil with several simple-to-institute measures.

It’s still a good time to do these things, and I hope readers will return to these posts and reconsider the ideas they suggest. Not only is the Gulf still struggling a year later from the oil spill’s ugly effects, but gas costs have once again spiked. We might no longer have a spill disaster topping the headlines, but we still have a long list of good reasons -- and many good ways -- to get off oil.