Rowan Anderson: Oil, it’s in you to give (up)
The subject ofoil, by its very nature, is a controversial one. It’s the lifeblood, and the addiction, of the society we’ve come to know. Oil is in everything, from the toothpaste you use every morning and evening, to the clothes you wear on your back. It’s even in the eyeglasses through which you might be reading these words, or the toilet seat on which you might be sitting. Without getting into specifics, let’s instead discuss what is generally agreed upon. According to multiple sources, including OPEC’s World Energy Model, the human population (just over seven billion) uses roughly 90 million barrels of oil per day. That’s right, from the time you wake up in the morning to the time you go to bed, our population will have used 5,600 Olympic-sized swimming pools filled with oil.
Next, let’s quickly discuss the topic of world population, and where we’re headed over the next few decades. Again, according to multiple sources, including the United Nations Population Division, it is generally agreed upon that we’ll add another billion people to our population by 2025 (13 years from now). So what does this mean? Well, in simple terms, it means there will be one billion more people who will need access to clean drinking water, clean air, and food (at the very least). However, let’s be honest: the majority of us living in Vancouver would fully admit that we need more “stuff” to survive and make us happy than simply clean water, clean air, and food (that’s a whole other article). Regardless of this, let’s try to stay on track.
So, if we’re using 5,600 Olympic-sized swimming pools filled with oil every day, and the world’s population will likely increase by another billion by 2025, where will this leave us? Does it simply mean we’ll need to discover and refine more oil? Is that the solution? Does it mean we’ll have to give up chocolate double-fudge ice cream? I certainly hope not. I clearly need that to survive! It is fairly common knowledge that, right here at home, good ol’ Canada is sitting on the largest oil reserve in the world (one province over, in Alberta). A reserve that will fuel our growth and economy for decades to come. But one question remains, the ultimate question that we need to ask ourselves. What is the true cost of mining, drilling, upgrading, refining, and using this oil, and where will this oil, ultimately, take us?
Some people immediately blame the big oil companies for raking us over the coals at the pumps. But there, I just said, “at the pumps”. Who’s at the pumps? We are. You can say what you want about the oil companies, and believe me, I’m not shy about expressing my opinion. But at the end of the day, you, me, your spouse, your parents, your kids, your co-workers, everyone you meet, all need to take a serious look in the mirror and realize that we’re, in fact, the problem. What gives us the right to be so frustrated at fuel prices when we’re the ones demanding the fuel? Simply put, the only reason the oil companies are making record profits is because we’re demanding what they’re selling. It’s no more complicated than that. For instance, why did Blockbuster Canada recently close their Canadian stores? Because people no longer wanted what they were selling. Unfortunately, for oil, it’s not that simple, or is it? Is the human race (self-defined as the smartest and most intelligent species on the Earth), not capable of making choices that will decrease our addiction to oil? I fully believe we are. But first, we need to do the most through self-examination of every choice we make every day. Start asking yourself, why? Why do I drive and sit in traffic every day? Does that make me happy? Is there another way? A way that might actually be enjoyable and healthy?
Every day, each and every one of us casts thousands of ballots. We vote, through our choices, for what we deem to be important in our lives. Challenge yourself. Take one day this week, and try to think about every decision you make throughout the course of the day. You might surprise yourself. What did you eat for breakfast, and where did it come from? What’s in your coffee and where did it come from? Did you need to take that long of a shower? Did you need to use that much toilet paper? What clothes are you wearing, and where did they come from? How are you getting to work? Will you buy something you don’t need on your way to work? Through our choices, we vote for what we think is important—every single day. The bottom line is this: grumbling and complaining about something that you’re demanding, will not get you anywhere. Perhaps it’s time to make a change, for the better. I urge you to become an active and present participant in your own life, and be accountable for the daily decisions you make. Our addiction to oil is deep, deeper than any of us truly know, including me. But what I do know is this. We can minimize this addiction through our choices, and slowly move away from our own dependence. If we’re the smartest and most intelligent species on Earth, then let’s start acting like it.
Rowan Anderson is a freelance journalist with a special interest in the environment and its preservation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.