Home > Energy Policy, Environment > Time to change – Our Role in Creating the BP Oil Slick

Time to change – Our Role in Creating the BP Oil Slick


According to Mark Mykleby, it is time for us to pony up and make the choices in our lives that will reduce our dependence on oil – driving us to a more sustainable future. These views were expressed in a letter written by Mykleby, in response to the BP blame game, and became the subject of Thomas Friedman’s column this past week. The title of the column – This Time is Different – argues that we are our own enemy in the drive toward sustainability. I agree.

Thomas Friedman is one of the few columnists that I follow every week. His commentary on current events and America in an international context is consistently insightful and eloquently presented. More fundamentally – I like reading his pieces. His work challenges me, taking my mind in different directions that it might have gone on its own. It doesn’t shock me to know that Friedman has won three Pulitzer Prizes for the New York Times and is the author of at least 5 books (depending on how you count).

One of Friedman’s banner issues is global climate change. His book, titled Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution – and How it Can Renew America is but one example of his numerous writings on the topic. His NY Times column is another example, that I personally find more compelling (it is a favorite of mine when I only have 10 minutes before class – not nearly enough time to read a 528 page book). Friedman’s column this past Friday was another case of clear, concise, and powerful writing on the topic from the desk of this NY Times author.

In this column, titled This Time is Different, Friedman presented a letter to the editor written by his friend, Mark Mykleby, for the Beaufort Gazette that is “the best reaction [Friedman has] seen to the BP oil spill – and also the best advice to President Obama on exactly whom to kick you know where.”

Quite a bold statement. OK, now I’m intrigued and must read this purported “best” advice. Here goes…

I’d like to join in on the blame game that has come to define our national approach to the ongoing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This isn’t BP’s or Transocean’s fault. It’s not the government’s fault. It’s my fault. I’m the one to blame and I’m sorry. It’s my fault because I haven’t digested the world’s in-your-face hints that maybe I ought to think about the future and change the unsustainable way I live my life. If the geopolitical, economic, and technological shifts of the 1990s didn’t do it; if the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 didn’t do it; if the current economic crisis didn’t do it; perhaps this oil spill will be the catalyst for me, as a citizen, to wean myself off of my petroleum-based lifestyle. ‘Citizen’ is the key word. It’s what we do as individuals that count. For those on the left, government regulation will not solve this problem. Government’s role should be to create an environment of opportunity that taps into the innovation and entrepreneurialism that define us as Americans. For those on the right, if you want less government and taxes, then decide what you’ll give up and what you’ll contribute. Here’s the bottom line: If we want to end our oil addiction, we, as citizens, need to pony up: bike to work, plant a garden, do something. So again, the oil spill is my fault. I’m sorry. I haven’t done my part. Now I have to convince my wife to give up her S.U.V.

Mark Mykleby.

Short, sweet and to the point. Nicely done, Mr. Mykleby.

In the face of the growing oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, we should all pause before placing the blame exclusively on the shoulders of BP and recognize our role in creating this mess. But, we should also recognize that acknowledging our role is the first step toward solving the problem (sound familiar?).

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