Thursday, August 05, 2010

Oil as the American Body's Crystal Meth

BP's static kill of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in the appears to have worked. 107 days and 4.9 million barrels of oil later (almost 20 times the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill), Daddy may have indeed plugged the hole. But this family's got a deeper problem: we've got whole way of life built around a nasty drug habit, one that is making us very sick and will be hard to kick. No competent drug counselor would call an addiction to methamphetamine “unsustainable.” To call our use and abuse of the Earth's finite resources “unsustainable” is to miss the gravity of our situation. This habit is tearing us apart and we are paying for it in numerous ways.

As we have all been recently reminded, every US president since Nixon has called for the end of our dependency on "foreign oil," but George Bush was the first to call it an addiction. Although I deeply questioned his commitment to do anything about it other than naming, I admit that the metaphor was and remains spot on. How like a single individual's addition to meth-amphetamine is our national addition not just to oil, but to consumption itself? (See my most recent post on the modern day version of this disease.) Have we allowed oil and its enabling consumer culture to take over our lives, empty our bank accounts, destroy our families and home, and force us into a life of crime? Has this addiction become the insidious driving force in our culture, insisting that we sacrifice everything dear to us for a satisfaction that never satisfies?

We pay for this way of life, this addiction, and we pay dearly. We literally pay by financing the oil wars and military infrastructure that protect the illicit-substance supply chain. At $722 billion annually, US military spending dwarfs all other public expenditures, ballooning national debt while debilitating our economy and our ability to invest in heath, education and, not surprisingly, clean energy alternatives. We pay in global security. Since US tax payers are responsible for 41.5% of military spending world-wide (China is second at 5.8%), we in effect drive the market for global violence. We pay with the very lives of our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters who systematically die, kill or are maimed in the gears of this war machine. We pay in the the corporate capture of our democracy where public officials increasingly answer to CEO’s not citizens, providing financing and legal cover to the richest and most powerful companies the world has ever seen. Of course, the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico and the just-beginning effects of climate change illustrate how we pay in the wanton destruction of our environment. In the manner and scale of our harvesting and emissions, our use of oil is killing the bounty of life on this planet, our just-one Earth, the only planet so far as we know that hosts the astounding miracle of life. And, finally, we pay in our integrity, the sense of wholeness and justice in our hearts for the reality is that we transfer many of the costs of war and environmental degradation to those without the power to object.

Just how precious are we to ourselves? Do we have the eyes to see what lies right in front of us? Do we think we can change? Do we believe in a happiness that comes from harmony, proportion and justice? Can we help ourselves and each other to heal? Addicts who recover begin by admitting the problem, acknowledging the enormity of its costs and believing that another way, a clean life, is possible. With the loving support of community, they then get down to the practical and hard work of transformation, committed, unwavering, and one day at a time.



At 5:26 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Powerful piece, Kristin. Thank you for sharing. I don't know what it's going to take to overcome the deep conditioning of ignorance, greed, and delusion that literally and figuratively fuels unconscious consumption that is destroying us, other sentient beings, and this beautiful planet.

We've had so many wake up calls, and we keep hitting the snooze button. Until we, collectively, truly realize the this preciousness of being born human and the responsibilities we have to ourselves, each other and this earth, we are, in a word, doomed.

Are we willing to make sacrifices in order to get back on track in time for future generations to come? I hope so.

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Excellent commentary, Kristin. May we one day be recovering addicts rather than practicing addicts. I agree with La that we keep hitting the snooze button, even in the face of this most recent disaster. The public is numb and we need to wake up the collective heart of compassion.

At 4:50 PM, Anonymous write my essay said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing!

At 3:40 PM, Anonymous Paul Roland said...

I too have reflected on the "addiction model" of our social-environmental crisis. I think it's important to look not only at ourselves individually as "addicted" to both substances (oil, unhealthy foods, stimulants, etc.) and processes (unhealthy relationships, work, diversions, etc.), but to see the underlying dynamics of an addictive society (power relations, delegation of decisions to others as a form of dependence/co-dependence, institutional reinforcement of false needs and desires, habituation to technological conditioning, etc., etc.). It runs deep and is so omnipresent as to seem "natural." We are both addicts ourselves and in "co-dependent" relationship with those who are addicted to power and control in positions of decision-making authority in the addictive and addiction-producing social system. Those of us who are working on our own personal issues towards mindful awareness and healing have the added work of needing to "intervene" in the addictive processes and distorted power dynamics themselves, as it seems those most addicted simply cannot stop themselves. We need both more mindfulness and more courage (and mutual support) in confronting the epidemic abuse of power and con games of the un-mindful. In my experience, collective direct action is a very powerful modality, in the tradition of Gandhi, the U.S. civil rights movement, anti-nuclear movement, Greenpeace, Earth First!, and others.

At 4:50 PM, Blogger Dan Shoutis said...

Hiya Kristin! For some reason all your posts rolled through google reader today, instead of when you actually put them up. :)

This one made me think of Vonnegut: "Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum."

At 4:51 PM, Blogger Dan Shoutis said...

Hiya Kristin! For some reason all your posts rolled through google reader today, instead of when you actually put them up. :)

This one made me think of Vonnegut: "Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum."

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