Moving the BP Oil Disaster

I got some serious news about my health recently. I’m still waiting on a definite diagnosis, but I probably have a degenerative disease with a likely outcome of paralysis or blindness. Fun stuff. Imagine Yankee Elv with her hearing dog and me with a guide and/or assistance dog. Won’t we make a pair? I’m hoping I’m one of the lucky ones who misses out on those symptoms, but there’s no way to know, there’s no cure and I haven’t responded well to treatment so far.

As you may imagine, this has had me a bit distracted. That’s partly why recently there have been lots of posts about happy, achievable things, like saving chickens and eating vegan food – I haven’t felt up to delving into the serious stuff. Plus, aside from eating healthily, exercising regularly and avoiding illness and tiredness, the best way to look after myself is to reduce stress. Just for a little while, reducing stress has included not keeping up with the really nasty environmental crap – like the disaster of the BP oil spill. It just didn’t seem like something I should stress about. So that’s why you haven’t seen anything from me about arguably the greatest single event of human-created ecological catastrophe in memory.

However, a friend of mine posted about this site on Facebook, and I thought it was too good not to share. It’s called IfItWasMyHome.com and it allows you to digitally move the oil spill around on a map. You think it’s bad in the Gulf of Mexico? Well, of course it is. But is it better or worse if it’s in a major city? What about if it was where you live? On this site, you can try it out.

I found it interesting because I lived on the Gulf Coast in Texas for a while. In reality, it’s getting close to places I’ve been, so I can picture what it’s doing.

BP oil spill

The BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The little red circle shows where I used to live.

I also moved the oil spill to Brisbane. It helps me understand, more tangibly, how big it actually is. It covers up the entire south east of Queensland region, including where I live now, where I grew up, where I go camping… everything. It’s huge.

oil spill if it was moved to brisbane

Here's what the oil spill would look like if it had happened in Brisbane.

Here it is in New York. The place where Yankee Elv grew up is covered in oil.

oil spill if it was moved to new york

Here's what the oil spill would look like if it had happened in New York.

Possibly the most shocking and frightening image came up when I moved the spill to Rome.

oil spill covering rome

Here's what the oil spill would look like if it had happened in Rome.

The width of the spill is greater than the width of the entire country of Italy. The BP oil disaster is bigger – significantly bigger – than a number of European countries. You can see them right there on the map. Get that in your head…

…then think about how the oil has been gushing out unchecked for well over a month. So far, BP has not done much. What kind of company doesn’t have a contingency plan for a disaster like this? Did they really think nothing like this would ever happen? Why didn’t they have plans in place, just in case? So far, the most help has come from Kevin Costner. Good on him, his brother and their company – but why on earth is a movie star better qualified to clean this up than the enormous company who got the world into this position? And if he’s so much better qualified, why didn’t they get him on board before this happened?

See why I have been trying not to think about this? I get into a stressy, rant-y place. But really, even if BP can’t figure out how to stop the tragedy, why aren’t they at least paying people to get out and clean it up? That’s something achievable that, sadly, people have experience with.

oily pelicans

Why isn't BP paying people to clean up the affected areas and wildlife, like these poor pelicans in Louisiana?*

*Photos by Charlie Riedel for The Big Picture.



Greenpeace PSA: Give Earth a Hand

Ecorazzi alerted me to the latest Greenpeace Public Service Announcement (PSA).

The forest of hands is simultaneously creepy and awesome. The ‘give Earth a hand’ slogan makes me think of the lyrics by John Lennon, ‘give peace a chance’, which is pretty similar, I guess. Overall, I like it! Have a look. (No need for captions as there is no talking or singing.)

What do you think?



Newsflash: Cow-vision?

Today’s WTF is…. cow-vision from Russia! (Click the link to read the article.)


Cow-vision? Really?

Aside from the Tantalus-like torture of it, I’d be interested to know how much those tvs add to the farmer’s electricity bill, and if s/he (zie?) thinks it’s worth it. I was just telling my parents how much more plasma tvs cost, now they just bought their first one. So I just wonder…

The poor cows!



Newsflash: Kitty Litter Not Created Equal

Our cats are outside cats (bring on the calls of those who want to get nasty about how cats don’t belong outside, but I’m telling you up front that I’m too tired to get into a debate). However, Old Fatso is too old to jump out the window at night if he wants to do his business, and Diva is too much of a princess to go outside if it’s rainy and her fur might get wet. So we have a litter tray that gets used occasionally, at night and on rainy days. It’s more like a suite really, their own little room – it is enclosed and has a door flap. It took a long time to find the right one, and they like it. They also like the litter we normally use, which is this grey, rocky sort of stuff. El cheapo brand, you know.

We decided to try buying this biodegradable kind for a change, to be nicer to the environment. We discussed adding it to the compost bin (although I’ve since vetoed that idea cos I think I’ll use the compost on my vege patch and the nitrogen from cat waste isn’t good for edibles). Ultimately, we thought it would be better.

Well, it’s not; for two reasons.

1. It reeks. The stench is something like four-day old instant chicken noodle soup. None of us even like fresh homemade chicken noodle soup, so you can imagine how much we love this.

2. The cats hate it. Diva, in fact, hates it to the point where she decided to dig up my bathroom pot plant (fortunately devoid of plants for the time being; I was thinking about trying some mint in there again) and pee in there instead. Nice. Have a look at the evidence.

kitty toilet in pot plant - evidence

The makeshift litter box. Oh, how delightful.

Diva is completely unperturbed by her actions – in fact, she did it again the next day.

diva princess

Unperturbed kitteh is unperturbed.

The moral of the story? Not all things eco-friendly are good – it pays to try some different options. Also… if your cats hates the new litter you bought, change it on the first day… don’t leave it for a second day…



Eco Sex Ed

I read about issues outside of concerns for the environment (I know, gasp!), and one of the things I’ve been reading about lately is the efficacy of school sex ed programs. Mr Teeny-bop is right around the age where, although he’s so young it scares me, you gotta seriously think about it. Australia is pretty open-minded about sex (legal age is 16, the kids start learning about condoms and stuff in primary school). In America, however, lots of places rely on abstinence-until-marriage type of advice, which is about as effective as paper parasol in a monsoon. Yeah, I just made that analogy (metaphor?) up.

There’s been some discussion recently, on some blogs I read, about moving towards an abstinence-until-ready style message instead, which is in keeping with growing acceptance of de facto families. (Read Alex DiBranco’s post, Could Abstinence-Until-Ready Programs Work? for more detail.) Adding to the confusion is the way the messages can be interpreted for different cultural groups. For example, Whitney Teal’s post on Abstinence Education, Minority Teens and Religion on the Women’s Rights blog indicates that even in areas where safe sex (condoms, birth control pill etc) is advocated, there is still reasonably high numbers of teen pregnancies among Black and Hispanic populations, likely due to the higher importance these groups (typically) place on religion. Safe sex is pre-meditated sex (you have to plan to get a condom or the pill), which means you willfully had sex outside of marriage, and didn’t just get caught up in the heat of the moment. The latter is considered more acceptable.

So when I saw this post on Endangered Species condoms on ecorazzi, it occurred to me that the environment might just be the one thing that crosses cultural, religious and socio-economic divides. I wonder if anyone has thought about using eco-consciousness as a motivator for safe sex?

The crux of the argument is that condoms reduce unplanned pregnancy, which in turn reduces overpopulation. I talked more about why overpopulation is bad here, but the Centre for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Arizona is specifically making a point about how overpopulation is affecting plants and animals, particularly endangered species. Think of the images of the polar bears on shrinking ice caps and all the stories we’ve heard lately of the demise of wild tigers. Think of the orangutans in Indonesia, dying as their forests are cleared to plant palm trees for palm oil. All of these animals, and many more, are dying due to human influence – influence that would be dramatically reduced if we simply had fewer people living on the Earth.

So their solution is to start their own little safe sex ed campaign, complete with pretty pictures and the opportunity to win a lifetime supply of condoms. I think it’s pretty genius.

Artwork promoting the use of condoms to save endangered animals - sponsored by the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Arizona.

Artwork promoting the use of condoms to save endangered animals - sponsored by the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Arizona.

I also think schools everywhere, but particularly in those places with a lot of cultural and religious resistance to the use of condoms, could jump on the bandwagon. The choice of whether or not to have sex before marriage and how you’ll do that is a personal one, but the choice of whether or not to damage the environment is one that everyone has a stake in. Maybe this could be another tool to help kids who struggle with the idea of pre-meditated sex, to justify making the decision to stay safe.

Or you could do what I do. Lesbianism* is a great form of birth control.

*There are condoms and dams same-sex couples can and should use too; there are other reasons to have safe sex outside of preventing pregnancy. You know it, I know it, but I gotta say it…



Newsflash: UK Goes Electric

Awesome news! Treehugger has announced that the UK government is funding new Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations across the country. This is a fantastic step forward! I hope we get these in Australia soon, but of course the Europeans are first.

The UK government are funding EV charging stations around the country.

The UK government are funding EV charging stations around the country.

It makes so much sense to introduce EV charging stations in this way. Electric cars rock – check out my review of the movie ‘Who Killed the Electric Car‘ to find out more about why they’re superior to cars powered by other fuels (including biofuel). However, I’m wary about getting one because I wouldn’t be able to travel too far – there’d be nowhere to charge it except my own house. Considering how large Australia is and the kinds of distances you have to travel if you want to go somewhere, charging stations are important.

As the Treehugger article says, it’s kind of like the chicken and the egg – which comes first? People want to buy electric cars, but won’t because there’s nowhere to charge them. Conversely, no-one will build charging stations because no-one owns electric cars. But no-one will buy electric cars because there are no charging stations. No-one will build… yeah, I think you get my point. The only way around this is for the government to step up and fund either or both of these options, to sort of kick start the industry. Kudos to the UK government for figuring that out and taking that big step forward.

Sometimes I think it would be cool to live in Europe and benefit from all these cool kinds of laws and politics. Then I remember how cold it is… nah. I like living in a place where, when it’s not even summer yet, there’s more of my skin exposed than covered. Sunshiny warm goodness. Perfect for the solar energy I would buy to charge my electric car with. If I had one.