The Bigger and Greener Picture

During this Earth Day week (it is this Friday, April 22), I can’t help but reflect on the state of the world.

It seems the past year has been one major environmental disaster after another.

First, there was the Gulf oil spill last spring, which, according to this interview on NPR, didn’t have the magnitude of effect on the environment as it could have.

I’m sure the hundreds of thousands of fish, birds and other wildlife that were impacted wouldn’t agree.

And then we had the horror of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which has created a nuclear disaster on par with the 1986 Chernobyl incident.

There are a lot of things I find disconcerting about both of these disasters, but one of the things I hate is the short attention span the public has had overall in both of these incidents.

After the initial oil spill and when there didn’t seem to be anymore headline grabbing photos, the media all but gave up reporting on not only the environmental effects the spill had in the Gulf, but on the land and business owners who were impacted.

This NPR interview (notice a pattern emerging here, NPR, which Congress wants to do away with is one of the only organizations still reporting on the Gulf spill) reveals just how little BP is doing now to continue to mitigate the environmental effects as well as paying business owners in the region.

It’s been a month since our local radio station first reported that Arkansas officials didn’t have the means to measure radiation in our rain and then came back within the next few days to report that yes, the feds were monitoring and there was in fact, higher radiation levels falling from the sky.

I asked my friend and neighbor’s opinion. She has not only worked in a nuclear power plant as an electrical engineer, but also has the super hero ability to read more news in one day than I can in a week. She’s looked at the EPA findings and isn’t overly concerned right now, but says that may change, depending on how long it takes Japan to stop the leaks. She also cited findings of leading nuclear scientists who say the reactors need to be buried as soon as possible.

This article seems to suggest the power plant could be leaking for months, although it also suggests that they eventually do intend on covering the plants with sand and concrete.

Both of these disasters were caused by many factors that lead to our insatiable appetite for energy. We demand our government leaders “live within our financial means” by balancing the budget. Yet, we get up every morning, turning on lights, driving as we always have and using energy as if our sources for energy will last forever and there isn’t a care in the world as to how we will continue to harvest it.

What’s worse, is that our governments don’t seem to be doing a thing to either find cleaner energy, but conserve what we have. For example, Texas is literally on the road to raising the speed limit in parts of the state to 85 mph.

Congress is dragging their feet on tougher legislation to make oil rigs safer and several politicians are still touting the benefits of nuclear energy as a “clean” energy when, after 40+ years of operation, they don’t know where to put the waste and cannot guarantee the safety of the buildings when they are constructed.

With all this news, the push to provide for a greener, safer world may seem moot. But the truth is that it does all start with us.

We just have to keep on top of it and pay better attention. I, for one, am going to write my Congressmen this week and ask why they haven’t passed the bill for safer standards on off shore oil drilling.

Looking at the big picture, what will you do to help the environment this Earth Day, based on recent environmental news (there will be a quiz on Thursday regarding smaller steps we can take in our own homes – hint: there’s a book giveaway coming!)

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14 Responses

  1. I wish we could afford technology to convert more of our personal energy usage to renewable sources like solar and wind (which we have a lot of here). We’re entering a local contest to win a $75,000 energy makeover that would take us off the grid … how neat would that be?

  2. I totally agree that we need to pay better attention, conserve energy whereever and whenever we can and pay attention to what is going on around us.

    • Kerri says:

      Ye, Heather. I think sometimes we have somehow developed a feeling of being powerless with our government. The truth is we still control it, we just have to take control of it through our interest in the issues and voting.

  3. Sheryl says:

    I just realized why so many people (myself included) have been feeling blue and extra-burdened lately. It’s the state of the world; one disaster after another. Between the oil spill, the earthquake, nuclear leak and the recent tornadoes in N.Carolina, our earth – and people – are being destroyed. So sad…and I think the feeling of powerlessness adds to the sadness. Thanks for the reminder to take action!

    • Kerri says:

      I think there is a collective feeling throughout the world, Sheryl. I even hear Oprah is doing a show on it (really).

  4. It’s frightening when you start to realize that the people in control of planet-destroying technology are the ones writing their own rules over its control and usage. After the BP disaster, we learned how that company successfully used their money and power to gain exemptions from oversight by government. I am sure the same is true of the natural gas industry and other big polluters as well. I think a large part of the problem is the fact that there isn’t accountability by these corporations, for the harm they’re inflicting on the planet and on our health. America has moved steadily away from government regulation of corporate activity and as a result, we’ve seen not only more disasters like the BP oil spill, but economic crisis brought about by the same lax attitude towards regulation of industry. I think it’s a mistake to trust that giant powerful corporations will look out for our interests and the interests of the planet. They will look out for the profit bottom line and do anything to improve it, including putting all of us and the earth itself, at risk.

    • Kerri says:

      Exactly, Kathleen. There’s an old saying, which I’ve lost this morning, that essentially says it is stupid to think the people who profit from something will keep it from corruption.

      • Well, the old saying that comes to my mind is a common one, but it applies: “Don’t put the fox in charge of the chicken house unless you want a chicken house full of dead birds.”

  5. Alexandra says:

    We are thinking along the same lines! Yes, I wrote about this today. As a grandmother, I feel so upset by the state of the world. I want President Obama to take the lead, roll up his sleeves, and suggest conservation measures individuals can take to save energy. I want corporations reigned in. I just read the book Pollution, which explains how the chemical industry succeeded in avoiding regulation up to now. What frightens me the most is endocrine disruption. I did not have a clue what those two words meant until last year when I read Our Stolen Future. Now I keep copies of the book and give them to B&B guests who share my concern for the environment. Dr. Theo Colborn, the author, recently made a video in which she explains the endocrine disruption will get us before global warming. I will post it to my blog again on Earth Day. If you listen to the BBC on NPR, you get a totally different take on the BP disaster. I’m horrified that the government is giving out permits for off-shore drilling again. That our government leaders could be for “fracking” to get natural gas seems so short-sighted and makes me shudder. We need a strong environmental leader to emerge. I hope everyone will follow the progression of Senator Frank Lautenberg’s Safe Chemicals Act of 2011. Urge your own senators to sponsor this important bill. Yesterday I went to talk to the district rep for our new Congressman to share some of these ideas …

    • Kerri says:

      We’re both definitely horrified. You amaze me, though, with all you do! Your blog routinely contains very important information.

  6. Kerri says:

    Thanks for pointing out my typos, David. That’s what happens when I try to write a blog post after a 12 hour day.
    >>the U.S. needs seri­ous reform of taxes and spend­ing rather than the par­ti­san ran­cor and dem­a­gogic rhetoric that has been preva­lent if we are to be strong enough to make the needed changes<<
    Truer words were never spoken.

  7. David says:

    First, pardon the automatic reflex of a longtime corporate writer and editor: “has been one doe one major…” I have no clue what “doe” means in that context. “…may seem mute.” Did you mean “moot”?

    There is no doubt that there must be serious reassessment of our environmental and energy priorities. When I lived for six years in California, every time I drove by the nuke there sitting right on the San Andreas I shuddered.

    We must do far better in finding non-toxic means of “fracking” in producing the oil and gas that appears to be in abundance in shale formations worldwide–while we are on a far greater move to reduce demand. I believe, too, that we are facing severe water shortages that will have profound impact on food availability as well. (Hint: it doesn’t have much if anything to do with “climate change.”)

    Moving to smaller houses (and getting rid of outmoded zoning and building codes that require larger structures than are needed would be a huge help)…that is one obvious improvement to reduce the consumption of precious resources. Rainwater capture rather than so much pumping groundwater would be another huge win.

    I’m afraid I have a much less sanguine view of NPR than you do, but then I’m not much on the rest of the mainstream media either. As a nation, the U.S. needs serious reform of taxes and spending rather than the partisan rancor and demagogic rhetoric that has been prevalent if we are to be strong enough to make the needed changes.