Macro Re-Engineering vs. Micro Suffering

There are two conflicting things that are spinning around in my head about this oil spill situation.

The first is that there is major suffering occurring in the affected areas of the Gulf region in the form of job loss, poverty, habitat destruction and fragmentation, and just overall economic and ecological stress. Suffering divulges in other areas as a result, such as in divorces, sickness, homelessness, crime, and so on.

The second is that we need to end using oil as our main energy source, period. The world’s dependence on oil, and specifically, Middle Eastern oil, causes an exorbitant amount of global suffering, on a much, much, much, much greater level than suffering along the Gulf. This kind of suffering includes exploiting entire countries, systematically keeping people in poverty for decades, outright stealing of oil, an insatiable appetite for political control of oil production and distribution, and of course, pollution and global warming which puts all of humanity at risk.

We absolutely need to re-engineer our energy sector so that we can continue to thrive on the Earth, because oil won’t get us very much further. We need clean energy from sustainable sources, if we, as a species, want to be sustainable.

Contrast that with the massive oil-industrial complex of the world, or more locally, the Gulf. The Gulf region is a major hub for oil exploration, extraction, processing, and distribution. Because of this spill and the moratorium on deep-sea drilling, the entire supply chain of oil production has come to a halt. Subsequently, all the people who depend on those jobs for income are now at risk and are suffering greatly, as mentioned above. The oil industry is such a massive influence that nearly every job somehow relates directly or indirectly to the survivability of the oil industry.

So here is my dilemma: How are you going to tell someone who has lost his or her oil industry job, who only wants that job back, that we need to move beyond oil, and their job will not and should not exist in the future? All they want to do, understandably, is make a living and provide for their family.

This dilemma is really part of a vastly complex, more general question: How do we move beyond X when we currently depend on X? In our case, not only do we depend on oil, but we have unimaginably powerful entities deeply entrenched in the fabric of our society that use their massive influence to keep things as they are, because they profit from keeping the status quo. So what do we do?

Is it this scenario that motivates me to go on this trip.

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08 2010