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Gulf spill: What oil habits will you change?

I'm not an activist. But the BP oil spill prompted to me to commit to using less petroleum.

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For those of us from Louisiana, the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is not really a spill. It’s a gusher.

It is a deep wound in the minds, hearts, and yes, the pockets of anyone whose life has been enriched by the beauties of the Gulf Coast. The wildlife, the natural waterways, and yes, even the alligators: all those things we love are under dire threat.

The view from Louisiana

My home town is Sulphur, La., a relatively small place with a powerhouse football team and a heavily oil-dependent economy. My father, uncles, grandfather, and some cousins have all put in time working the oil fields of rural Louisiana, the rigs along the coast, or the refineries that dot our cities.

It’s fully understandable, then, that weaning ourselves from oil dependence has never been a popular proposition in Louisiana.

In fact, environmental awareness in the state has been embarrassingly bad. When I was in elementary school, teachers taught us “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” but there were no recycling facilities in town. I once encouraged a woman in Louisiana to buy a hybrid vehicle, and she stared blankly at me as though I’d suggested she should eat cardboard for dinner.

But the BP oil calamity is changing that.

The people of Louisiana and oil-dependent communities throughout the country are waking up to the realities of this dependence.

Every time I call my dad, he is angrier about the damage being done to his home. Meanwhile, his barber is angry because he thinks the media is making too much of the oil spill and hurting Louisiana’s reputation.

As a community, our journey has only begun. We’ve all known for years that we need to reduce our oil dependence, and we’ve known how much damage an oil spill could do, but we’ve hidden behind a deceptively comforting mantra: It won’t happen to me.

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