Stop Blaming BP, Start Taking Responsibility

Courtesy Chris Wilkins/AFP/Getty Images

OK, BP screwed up. Seriously screwed up, and seriously screwed over whole ecosystems, species, careers, and local economies. For decades. I don’t wish to diminish the magnitude of how badly they screwed up, and am certainly not going to offer them an apology.

However — and this is the point at which I get lynched — the oil spill ultimately isn’t so much BP’s fault as it is the fault of our national oil addiction which we all share to some extent. Some of it is choice; I choose to drive a car, I choose to have a carnivorous pet with a significant carbon footprint, I choose to occasionally travel by plane. But even if you make all the right environmental choices, other choices are taken away from you. From pacifiers to polyester lined coffins and embalming chemicals, our lives are steeped in oil. I am part of the problem. So are you. Get used to the idea.

The full list of everyday objects made with petroleum would be impossibly long, but just looking around my immediate surroundings, I see: sunglasses, ballpoint pens, laptop keys, CDs, cell phone, kitchen appliances, food packaging, candles, polyester towels, vitamin bottle, canned food lined with BPA, a styrofoam peanut that Brie has gotten ahold of and is playing with. And that’s to say nothing of the oil I don’t see, the oil used to transport virtually everything I eat, use, or own. The oil used to produce the electricity that allows me to type this entry. It’s not simply difficult to eliminate oil from my life; it’s actually, systemically, infuriatingly impossible.

If nothing else, the unspeakable tragedy of the oil spill should tell us something about the danger of this addiction, as well as its true cost. But if we don’t make the connection that this is our fault, too, we won’t have gotten anything out of this horrible, stupid, and totally unnecessary incident. And we won’t change. It’s OK to be pissed off at BP, but only if you’re also pissed off at your own reliance on oil and the system that makes it hard to have other options.

Instead of spending all this energy demonizing BP (not that this exempts them from paying the full tab), let’s put it towards cleaning up the mess and looking for ways to reduce, if not eradicate, our oil addiction.

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