Louisiana Gulf Memories

June 11, 2010

Though I can’t remember exactly where we were, I do remember the tremendous fishing.  I remember my dad and the early morning wakeup and  the long boat ride in the salty morning air.  I remember the hilarious and warm charter boat captain.  Some of the best fishing we had was directly off the oil rigs.  When we got there the workers would play music over the  loudspeaker system and we would pull up red snapper after red snapper.  I definitely remember the delicious eating in the weeks after we returned to Chicago.

In the ensuing fifteen years I’ve often thought about going back, and am disappointed that I never did.  The Gulf is devastated now.  While the direct responsibility lies in the hands of BP, their subcontractors, the MMS, and the rest of those that pushed for lax regulation of the oil industry, the truth is that we all own it.  Oil is involved in nearly every facet of our lives.  I’m not sure where our country and our world goes from here.  It is a finite resource and will at some point run out.  The fact that BP was drilling in water as deep as they were is indicative of the fact that we’ve already drilled and recovered the easy to access oil fields.  The time to start transitioning away from oil was thirty years ago. That didn’t happen, obviously.

The harder and more difficult the oil is to extract, the more likely events like the Deepwater Horizon spill are to happen. Perhaps as a society we’ve become willing to accept the destruction of the Gulf of Mexico as collateral damage resulting from our way of life.  The ridiculous slogan “drill, baby, drill!” makes me uncomfortable.  It makes me uncomfortable because I want to abhor those people, but I am forced to look at my own actions and realize how big a part of the problem I am.

Last Tuesday morning I drove an hour and a half up to Mt. Hood by myself to go skiing for a few hours and thought about what an excess that was.  And I thought about the thousands of miles I’ve driven and flown over the last ten years to go climbing.  And all the petroleum based products, from my synthetic clothing to my plastic helmet, that I use.

The truth is that I feel like a hypocrite.  I am disgusted by our dependence as a nation on oil, but am myself an addict.  I don’t WANT to stop.  I love climbing and skiing, traveling and getting out and more often than not oil is involved in some way.  But I can still smell the Gulf air and I remember the fishing and the wildlife, the beauty of the bayous, and am deeply saddened when I see pictures of the devastation.  Is it worth it?  Will we be able to escape our oil dependence before it’s too late?  I’m not entirely sure that we can, but I do know that in order to stay sane I’m going to have to do something to change my own relationship to oil.