When people ask what prompted me to start bicycle commuting, my first answer is: BP*. After the BP oil spill of 2010, I was devastated. There is something about oil spills that is so unbelievably tragic. They destroy ecosystems and kill animals, birds and marine life in such a horrific way. And the worst part about it is that they are totally, 100% preventable. (Imagine a world in which we harvested clean, sustainable energy, instead of mining the earth for its finite supply of oil.)
When I was 12, the Exxon Valdez oil spill was the story du jour. My 7th grade science teacher, a very young woman by the name of Molly Brown (ironic that she had the same name as the “unsinkable” poster woman of the Titanic tragedy, at that time of another maritime disaster), was so affected by this oil spill that she brought in newspaper clippings every day to show us what was happening in a place that seemed to us, in New Mexico, very far away.
Images like this have haunted me ever since:
I believe that something like this is a crime against nature. This oil spill dumped over 10 million gallons (apparently, a conservative estimate) of oil into our ocean, affected over 1,000 miles of North American coastline and took four years to clean up. And this is not even close to the biggest oil spill the world has seen.
There have been more than 20 major oil spills in the last 50 years, including a 240 million gallon spill of oil into the Persian Gulf during the Gulf War in 1991 (most of which was, I’m sorry to say, deliberate).
By the time BP blew the Exxon Valdez spill out of the water (it’s estimated that 185 million gallons spilled into the ocean, making it the largest accidental spill in history), I was at my wit’s end. That was the day I dusted off my mountain bike and made a promise to myself that I was going to fight against our dependence on oil by riding my bike as much as I could, instead of using my gas-guzzling SUV.
Lately, however, I have realized that there are so many other aspects to this protest of mine. There is more to do – for all of us. Fighting oil dependence isn’t just about our cars and whether or not we use them. All you moms out there, who tell me how much you want to bike more, but don’t find it practical with your young children, all of you who don’t like biking and don’t want to do it, all of you who have commuting needs that simply cannot be met by bicycling…no worries! There’s always something that can be done to help the cause, no matter where you are in life, no matter what your needs and obstacles are. I’ll talk about that more next time, as well as other oil-related issues that go far beyond the spills.
*While it is true that I was ultimately inspired to get off my rear end and start biking by this environmental and political issue that is so important to me, I wanted to note that I was also incredibly inspired by my fellow bloggers, most especially bicycle commuters EcoGrrl and Suburban Yogini. It is incredible to me to see how one person’s actions can inspire another, and that person in turn inspires another, and so on!