Keep the Oil out of Your Food: BP Deepwater Horizon, a year later

Brown Pelican above Vero Beach

A brown pelican flying above Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, CC: US Fish and Wildlife Service

It has been a year since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, precipitating the worst oil spill this country has seen…ever.  The disaster released an estimated (by the US government) 200 million gallons of crude oil into the beautiful, precious Gulf of Mexico, to which was added another 20 million gallons of chemicals in the form of oil dispersant. (Scientists are even conflicted on whether adding dispersant to the mix was a good move, or a harmful one).

Why am I writing about this on my wee garden blog, you may ask?  Two reasons.  First, so that this unprecedented man-made disaster does not pass quietly into the distant, foggy realm of the collective memory.  The world has been facing many escalating problems since the oil spill, but it is not time to let this one go.  Not enough has been learned, and not enough has been done about it.  The second reason I am writing about it is because I believe that there is something small, simple, and revolutionary that every individual can do about it.

So who do we blame for this accident?  The obvious “criminals” are British Petroleum, Transocean and Halliburton.  The secondary target might be the U.S. government, for its lax oil policies.  Others will rail against the societal engines behind what has happened: perhaps profit motive, greedy, unscrupulous people, soulless corporations, and “capitalism” are to blame.  One could rightly consider all of these entities and principles to be to blame.

Here’s the rub:  As workers and consumers, each and every one of us is implicitly responsible for propping this system up.  Each time we fill up our gas tanks to drive to work, each time we hop on a plane, each time we buy food packaged in plastic and shipped here from the other side of the globe, each time we build a new house or building, each time we buy a new hair dryer, computer, plastic toy, lawn chair, lighter, toothbrush, comb,  or water bottle, we are telling the oil companies, “We want more!  Give us more oil! Get it from anywhere you can, and keep giving it to us for cheap!”  The truth is that we vote every day with our choices and our money far more than we ever do in the ballot booth.

Industrial mechanized wheat harvest

CC Attribution: el clinto

Back to food, though.  When we put typical grocery store food into our mouths, we are consuming oil.  Not in a strictly literal sense, but consider it:  cereal crops are grown in the Midwest with huge amounts of petrochemical fertilizers.  They are then harvested with big machinery that runs on diesel gas.  Then the grain is transported to a plant that will process the grain, likely in the 18-wheeler trucks that chug and belch diesel fuel all over this country’s highways.  Then that cereal,  which is edible as America’s breakfast food of choice after being further processed, is poured by machinery into plastic (oil-based) bags, stuck into cardboard boxes, and then trucked again to regional distribution centers.  From there, it’s trucked one last time to your local grocery store, where you transport it back to your home in your gas-combusting vehicle on the final leg of that breakfast cereal’s oil-intensive trip from seed to stomach.  Wow. That’s a lot of oil, right?  You bet!  And this type of eating behavior also tells oil companies to keep it coming, no matter what!

CC Attribution: Rennett Stowe

One of my goals with Open Lotus Garden is to let people know that what you choose to eat is a significant political act.  You’re voting with your stomach, every day, at every meal, with every food purchase you make.  You can say “no” to our ever-increasing demand for oil by eating food that’s not packaged, that doesn’t come from a far-away, mono-crop wasteland, or that’s not pumped up with oil-based fertilizers.  In other words, you can protest the oil industry’s reckless practices and our national dependence on oil by choosing to eat as much local, organic food as you’re able.

Farmers' Market, Jackson Mississippi

Farmers Market, Jackson Mississippi. CC Attribution: NatalieMaynor

You can do this by shopping at local farmers’ markets, which are experiencing a surge in popularity across the country these days, or by growing food in in your own yard.  It doesn’t get more local than your own yard, right?  I like the satisfaction of knowing exactly where and how my food was grown, so I’m growing as much as I possibly can in Open Lotus Garden.

If this sounds sensible to you, then stay tuned.  This blog is all about growing organic produce in a way that promotes positive social change and respects the natural environment.  It’s not that hard, it doesn’t take much to get started, and the irreplaceable benefits of growing some of your own food will quickly make themselves apparent if you give it a try—satisfaction, connection with the land, accomplishment, empowerment, health, and happiness.  With the BP oil disaster just a year behind us, and Earth Day 2011 just two days off, maybe it’s high time to start your own little seed of change.

Open Lotus Garden Spring Seeds

Seeds for the Garden


About Ashley in Open Lotus Garden

Organic and biodynamic gardener, writer/editor, lover of nature, animals, and the world.
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1 Response to Keep the Oil out of Your Food: BP Deepwater Horizon, a year later

  1. David says:

    Great article! People do make an important vote with their food choices. As oil prices sky rocket the days of shipping food around the world are numbered. The future of food is local. It is coming and probably a lot sooner than we all think!

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