Friday, June 11, 2010

Our oil dependence can fuel disaster

By Jeanette Arnquist
Director, Diocesan Dept. of Community Services

Once, many years ago, I found myself attempting to sleep with 23 other women of the floor of a 24’ X 18’ room in a county jail. How that happened is another story – and a good one which I will tell someday. But what I want to write about today is how interconnected we were. If one woman rolled over, a slow wave or rolling over took place. Of course we were close together, each occupying a space of approximately 6’X 3.’ But somehow this doesn’t explain entirely how what one did caused a reaction or accommodation on the part of everyone else. I think, rather, it was our solidarity.

Today, some 25 years later, I find the same thing. Not sleeping on the floor, but rather the awareness of how interdependent we are as citizens of the planet earth. We all are suffering because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, even if we live in California. When we see the images of wildlife strangled in oil, we feel pain. We feel frustration at failed attempts to fix the leak. Perhaps we even pray for a solution.

At the same time, we might not be aware of it, but we are part of the problem. Our thirst for cheap oil continues to grow. I will use myself as an example. I could ride my bike to work, in fact, I could even walk, but I continue to drive my car, a car which is not very energy efficient. I don’t plan my shopping well, so probably at least twice per week I make a trip to the grocery store to get one or two items. As I write this, in early June, I could get by without running the air conditioning at home, but I don’t.

Even worse, in terms of consumption, I fly. There is no other way I can see my children who live in Dhaka, Boston and Tucson. And, of course, that plane is going to use the same amount of fuel if my seat is full or empty. The point is that it takes an enormous amount of energy to fly across the country or half way across the globe.

Residents of the United States, making up less than 5% of the population of the world, account for 25% of the planet’s energy use each year. Our use of energy is one driving force for off-shore drilling. It is also driving global climate change. What we consume has an impact around the world.

Let us reflect on how we can be more in solidarity with the people of the world. Let us make wise individual choices about energy use and let us work for public policy changes that will be more friendly to the planet. As a first step, visit the web site of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change at or

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