Everything I Touch Destroys Our Planet!

Posted on July 20, 2010 by Courtney

Today’s post is by guest Greenist Deborah Adams.

The oil spill in the Gulf has been the lead story on every major news broadcast for weeks now. Like most people, I was horrified and sickened by the images on the screen and in my head. The devastation of wetlands and beaches, the death of wildlife, the extinction of a way of life for hundreds of thousands of people in the region, is too overwhelming to consider for more than a few seconds. The worldwide impact of this tragedy is impossible to know at this point. We may as well try to grasp the size of the universe.

At first I was angry at BP, the company that didn’t bother to develop an effective prevention or a workable clean-up plan for such a contingency. It’s easy to make a faceless corporation the bad guy in such a situation. However, honesty compels me to admit, to myself and to you, that I am the heart of the problem. The truth is that BP and other oil companies are only supplying what we consumers demand. Like almost every other human on Earth, I am addicted to petroleum-based products.

I had to ask myself – if we, the self-proclaimed environmentally-friendly activists, had known six months ago that this oil spill would occur, would we have given up our destructive behavior? Would we have sworn off buying petroleum-based products for the rest of our lives? Is it even possible to survive in this world without oil?

When the price of gasoline shot sky-high, we didn’t give up driving, did we? But if we had switched to electric cars and bicycles, we’d only be addressing half the problem. Approximately 50% of the oil being pumped out of the Gulf and all over the world is turned into polymers that form the basis of plastic, which in turn is used in the production of…

  • Cameras
  • Telephones
  • Lipstick
  • Hair color products
  • Pantyhose
  • Candles
  • Trash bags
  • Deodorant
  • Asphalt
  • Soap

… as well as millions of other items that we use every day.

Unless and until we give up every single petroleum-based product, each of us is responsible for what happened in the Gulf. The death of every person who died when the BP offshore drilling operation exploded is our fault. Every bird, every turtle, every inch of oil-soaked beach is our responsibility. We chose to trade those things for light-weight computers and Plexiglass.

We want to make it an easy judgment – blame the oil company for their irresponsible behavior. If only it were that simple. We can talk and rage and protest all we want, but in the end we will have to make major and inconvenient changes in our lives if we truly want to save this planet. Am I ready to make that sacrifice? Are you?

Deborah Adams is a content writer for Online Schools and Online MBA who gives advice on the pursuit of education and living a healthy life. She also is a contributing writer for a site that helps students determine the best online nursing programs for them. In her free time she enjoys gardening and yoga.


  1. I had the same reaction as you: first anger at BP, then guilt over my proflagate ways. From your list, I gave up lipstick, candles, hair color products, and pantyhose a long time ago. From the oil embargo in the 70′s, I developed the habit of minimizing driving, e.g. run errands on the way home from work. Since the BP tragedy, I have also arranged to work from home one or two days a week. My efforts feel like such a drop in the bucket.

    July 20th, 2010 at 9:22 am
    Comment by Abby
  2. Yes, it does feel like doing nothing in the face of the enormous challenge. Like you, I’ve reduced consumption of petroleum products — driving less, driving smarter, etc. The real trouble, I think, is with the insidious nature of plastic. It’s everywhere, and in most cases, there is no viable alternative at this time. Perhaps if enough of us make the sacrifice and simply refuse to buy another item with plastic in it, some clever entrepreneur will come up with a better way.

    July 20th, 2010 at 9:56 am
    Comment by Deborah Adams
  3. This is a really great post, Deborah. I’ve actually become annoyed with all the “Boycott BP” movements that have been going on — not that I support the company, but just because people are diverting blame onto one entity when, in reality, we’re all at fault.

    July 20th, 2010 at 11:23 am
    Comment by courtney
  4. Yup, when it comes down to it, consumption is our problem, because “a little plastic here, a short car trip there” doesn’t really cause too much damage, but multiplied over millions of people and a lifetime, we’ve dug a huge hole.

    I think the first step is realizing that what we consume is an implicit vote in favor of the way a product is obtained. Good post.

    July 20th, 2010 at 11:55 am
    Comment by mickey
  5. I work in health care which is completely dependent on plastic. Health care providers don’t see their use of plastic as an issue.

    Another major component is non-local and unsustainably produced foods. Most pesticides and fertilizers are petroleum based. It takes huge amounts of fuel to get bananas from South America to your breakfast table, for the burgers at McDonald’s to cross continents.

    There are lots of things I’ve given up on (many on your list) including shampoo and conditioner (every single ingredient in the two, including the bottles, are petroleum based), bananas, oranges, and any fresh veggies in the winter. The food I buy is local. I stay home more than I go out.

    July 20th, 2010 at 12:08 pm
    Comment by Howling Hill
  6. I agree with all of you. The biggest part of the problem is our own lack of awareness. We don’t see our actions as part of the problem, and petroleum products are so much a part of our lives, we’re oblivious. A local economy would be an excellent step toward changing our mindless consumption habits, but we still have a long way to go before we’re free of petroleum.

    July 20th, 2010 at 4:40 pm
    Comment by Deborah Adams
  7. Well I agree with you that we, the consumers of oil based products are chiefly to blame. But that doesn’t let that greedy company (BP) off the hook… their CEO wants his life back. Jesus I think that is true for every one in the Gulf region who depends on the gulf for their living. Until Oil Companies get over the fact that they are in a finite business, and we the consumers get over the fact that we love finite products, we are always going to have problems like these. And as much as I love solar and wind power, I have to remember that petroleum is used in the manufacturing of solar panels and wind turbines. It’s a catch 22 I tell ya!

    July 20th, 2010 at 8:16 pm
    Comment by Rob
  8. Right, Rob! It’s nearly impossible to find a product that doesn’t contain plastic or come wrapped in it.

    As for the oil companies getting over it … they KNOW. They’re trying to make hay while the sun shines, i.e. make tons o’ money while the oil is still flowing.

    July 21st, 2010 at 10:46 am
    Comment by Deborah Adams

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