Unless you have been living under a rock or on an outer space adventure the past few weeks, you have undoubtedly heard about the tragic oil spill off of the Gulf of Mexico. 200,000 gallons of oil continue to flow into the sea as efforts to quell the flow of oil have been unsuccessful thus far.

In addition to the tragedy of the eleven men who lost their lives as the drill rig Deepwater Horizon sank into the Gulf on April 22nd,  worries continue to multiply about the long term negative effects this immense spill will have on the environment and its many inhabitants for weeks, months and years to come.

While history has taught us that oil spills such as this one come with dire consequences for the ecosystems surrounding the area of the spill, the long term damage created by this most recent spill remains to be seen. Immediate effects are beginning to become more crystallized, as Reuters is reporting that seven dolphins and over a hundred sea turtles have washed onto shore dead as what officials are assuming is a result of the oil spill.

Environmentalist, such as Aaron Viles of the Gulf Restoration Network, are quick to criticize the lack of information being offered about the damage being done to the environment as a result of this catastrophic spill.

Viles  states, “There’s a lot of concern now about the marine impact and we’re not getting a truly transparent response from NOAA(the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Resulting criticism concerning this disaster are not limited to NOAA or other groups one likely has never heard of before, but are  also being directed at President Barack Obama and his Administration, who in recent months announced plans to expand offshore drilling efforts in the United States.

The President,  after resolving  to temporarily suspend the development of  new offshore drilling locations pending  a government safety review of the drilling process,  asserted, “Let me be clear, I continue to believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall strategy for energy security.” Even though this tragic oil spill highlights American unsustainable dependence on oil, it is not quite enough to move the administration to focus on weaning the country away from gas and petroleum based products.

Funnily enough -not so much in a “haha, this Garfield comic is a hoot!“ kind of way,  but in a more “Hmmm, that is an interesting coincidence” type  of way- on April 28th,  just days after the devastating Gulf spill,  the development of  the first wind farm offshore of the U.S was announced by Government officials.

This is not  to declare a massive, multi-tiered conspiracy is taking place.  The creation of this wind farm is a step in the right direction for the energy future of this country. Regardless of whether or not the timing of the announcement had anything to do with a skillful PR move in order to throw environmentalists a bone during this hugely criticized oil crisis, it still was a plan years in the making, so it is likely a happy coincidence. (She says as she reaches for the tinfoil to wrap around her over sized noggin’. I kid, I kid…or do I? DUN, DUN, DUN!)

Conspiracy theories aside, this wind farm alone will only act as a band aid on a gunshot wound, or a huge oil spill as it were. Halting offshore drilling until the oil slick clears is not enough.This tragic occurrence should not be swept under the table or downplayed.  This sinking oil rig may as well have been a huge blaring alarm clock- one that screeches endlessly and comes with a dangerous snooze button.

We can not afford any more snoozing;  putting off radical changes to the way we as a society treat the energy crisis for another 10 or 15 years because we are too lazy to think about it in the here and now. This is not a time to sleep in or to do what is easiest when we know what is right.

It is time to wake up and take action! We must roll out of bed and painfully pull ourselves into our reality. No matter what you think of driving or plastic bags, the truth is the planet simply does not contain enough oil to sustain the current culture’s lifestyle. We have to make some serious global changes in our energy, transportation, manufacturing and everyday lives. There is just no way around it and this oil spill is like a hotel wake up call to make these changes.

Sadly, like my affinity for stone-washed  jean chaps, the public at large does not appear to share in my opinion on the permanent halting of  the expansion  of offshore drilling efforts.  A recent telephone poll conducted by the Associated Press finds that American adults are unmoved by this latest tragedy in terms of their opinion of offshore drilling. A shocking 50 percent of those polled report still favoring offshore drilling, opposed to the 38 percent who disapprove.

I will be damned if I can not drive the three blocks to 7-11 for a Big Gulp, but it ain’t no skin off my back if a bunch of weirdo fish die.” – Some thirsty guy  driving a Hummer to 7-11. *(Quote may or may not be fictional.)

*It is.

Weaning ourselves off oil will not be an easy task. As a people we will need to learn to conserve energy- walk to 7-11 when that Big Gulp thirst hits you.  Heck, you can even roller blade- which, may I add, would look even cooler , if you sported some jean chaps on your stems while you bladed. Just sayin’.

As for the government, they need to take this alarm clock blaring in their ears as more than just a minor inconvenience that causes them to temporarily shelf foolish plans to expand offshore drilling  and make a real commitment to renewable energies that does not include amplifying our already gargantuan dependence on oil.

If real changes are not made the next alarm may start sounding on your shore and no amount of snooze buttons or delays are going to halt the reality that awaits us.

-Meghan Hurley


President Obama’s recent announcement of his administration’s intention  to broaden offshore drilling to  waters in the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and the North coast of Alaska may have been more eloquent than the Republican’s favored sentiment, “Drill, baby, drill”, but the core message seemed to be eerily similar.

President Obama also preemptively addressed his critics in his speech, stating, “There will be those who strongly disagree with this decision, including those who say we should not open any new areas to drilling. But what I want to emphasize is that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy.

Obama say what?

He further attempted to cushion the blow of this polarizing announcement by reminding the public of the positive things he and his administration have done for the environment and intend to do in the future, noting, Already, we’ve made the largest investment in clean energy in our nation’s history.

The President’s justifications have not been met with the understanding that he may have been hoping for, in fact, it seems as though his tooting of his own horn and his “the end justifies the means” defense is falling on a sea of deaf ears.

Critics have also been quick to identify this as a calculated move on his behalf in order to earn favor with Republicans. Ben Feller of the Huffington Post explains, “Inside politically conscious Washington, Obama’s announcement was viewed, too, as a play to win Republican support for a comprehensive climate change bill.”  While the intent of the President’s decision remains to be seen, it seems to be another rationalization for the expansion offshore drilling- if appeasing Republicans by giving them the offshore drilling that they love to enthusiastically chant for means that a bill that will be a positive step for the environment gets passed as a result, then is it really so bad?

Intentions aside, environmentalists are taking this surprise move by the President as a slap in the face. Among the offended, The Executive Director of Greenpeace, Phil Radford, offers “Expanding offshore drilling in areas that have been protected for decades threatens our oceans and the coastal communities that depend on them with devastating oil spills, more pollution and climate change.

Regardless of the reason or reasons President Obama made this decision, the reality is that offshore drilling comes with huge risks to the environment and to our nation‘s reputation worldwide. This decision gives the appearance that the President giving a huge thumbs up to the indulgent, gas guzzling habits prevalent in the United States today. Does President Obama really believe that offshore drilling is the methadone this junkie nation needs to finally kick the oil habit?

Supporting  the development and the implementation of cleaner energies would be a more proactive, long-term way to achieve energy independence. Compromises that include risky endeavors of seeking out more oil seem  not only senseless, but downright dangerous. Offshore drilling- no matter how much you dress it up or how many pretty bows you stick on it -comes with huge risks to the environment. Oil spills are dire events that have long-lasting negative repercussions for all types of life.

If you disagree with the President’s intention to extend offshore drilling, please, we urge you, to let your opinion be heard. Contact the President or sign this petition on Moveon.org. Also, remember to do your part and consume less energy.

Together, with a little effort and innovation-and perhaps a twelve step program-we can evolve into a nation that is free at last of our nasty oil habit.

-Meghan Hurley

Beyond all the other let downs, failures and disappointments of the most recent recession, the collapsing Automotive Industry has been the poster child of the weakening U.S economy.

As American as apple pie or overeating, the automobile has served as an emblem of success to the U.S citizens for generations. As the industry imploded in on itself, encompassing with it all the lowlights of this so-called Great Recession outsourced jobs, lay-offs, people buying foreign products all culminating with the big wigs of the industry demanding bailout money from the cockpit of their personal jets- one could not ignore that America as we knew it might be changing permanently.

When the government announced its Cash for Clunkers program, a stimulus bill that encourages the purchase of new, more fuel-efficient vehicles by offering cash vouchers (up to $4,500) to consumers when they trade in their less fuel-efficient automobiles, it sounded like a win-win situation for everyone involved. People who may not normally be able to afford a new vehicle would have the resources to make purchases that would stimulate the automotive industry and a number of gas chugging vehicles would be taken off the road.

While on the surface this bill appears to be an environmentalists dream, upon further inspection, the facade of eco-friendliness begins to crack. While the Cash for Clunkers program has been declared by its supporters as a raging success, both as an economic stimulus program and as a green initiative, a recent AP story reveals that a majority of trade ins involved a pick up truck being exchanged for a marginally more fuel-efficient pick up truck. Opponents of this initiative now argue that this is like trading in poisoned apples for slightly less poisoned oranges.

“So what! Less is still more when it comes to gas consumption! The environment is giving this two thumbs up, why can’t you?”, you are likely shouting at your computer screen right now. And you’d be kind of right, until you consider the perplexing fuel-efficiency paradox, which explains that increased fuel efficiency does not translate into decreased oil demands. This is because when people are faced with a bargain at the pumps the simply respond by driving more.

Perhaps dear old Cash for Clunkers and its inventors had their hearts in the right place, hoping to alleviate the toll the recession was taking on the automotive industry, while simultaneously helping out the battered environment and did not intentionally green wash this bill in an effort to appease Economists and Environmentalist alike. Some may even argue that the immediate needs of the economy outweigh the long-term needs of the environment, while others could counter that the benefits or disadvantages of this program will remain to be seen for some time to come.

What is undeniable by parties on both sides of this debate is that there is nothing more American than consuming more than you need, and until we address this inclination to overindulge programs like this, our economy and the environment will continue to suffer.

-Meghan Hurley

Fair Trade the White HouseSeveral months ago we reported on an earlier idea to bring Fair Trade to the White House. Well now there is a legitimate and growing non partisan, non profit organization that is rallying to make the White House truly Fair Trade. Fair Trade companies, other non profits, individuals, and consumers who have banded together to try and promote true progress to our new Presidential family. The Fair Trade the White House Campaign hopes to especially introduce Michelle Obama to the idea of Fair Trade. On top of that we are all wishing she would implement Fair Trade practices at the White House. This would lead to exceptional changes, as many mainstream Americans would get a chance to not only hear the words Fair Trade but be introduced to the idea. 

white house Photo By dcJohnThere are plenty of companies that have banded together in their support for this cause, including Autonomie Project. We are very happy and inspired to be involved! You can check out all the supporting companies and retail shops as well as individuals and other non profits who are backing the movement. One way to show your support is to use your purchasing power at any of the vendors and retail outlets listed above. Fair Trade the White House!The campaign even offers coupons to some of these great companies including Fair Trade Sports and Global Fayre. But you can also get directly involved by adding your signature to the personal invite addressed to Michelle Obama, urging her to declare the White House Fair Trade. And if you are feeling up to being a street team member or just want to hang a poster declaring your support, they have some great materials to print off and distribute. 

This is a HUGE opportunity for the Fair Trade movement and we are positive this can happen! Think of all the attention Fair Trade would receive if the First Lady decided to switch over the White House to Fair Trade. So please if you have a few moments, check out the Fair Trade the White House campaign and help promote the movement!

Van Jones at Green Festival Photo by EarthwormA couple weeks ago, the White House announced that long time Green advocate, Van Jones will be joining them on the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). He will have the title of special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. This comes as great news to environmentalists! Many see this as an opportunity to really bring green job creation to the forefront. And if anyone deserves this honor, it certainly is Van Jones. 

Van Jones has a long history of being involved with the Green movement, long before it was accepted by mainstream America. He helped found great organizations such as Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Green For All. He has been pivotal in his Green message and promoting movements like Green Jobs Now. His tireless efforts to help end poverty and cut pollution have not gone unnoticed. Especially after he published his groundbreaking and popular book The Green Collar Economy this past October. Now after decades of work on both the environment and inner city poverty, Van Jones will  have a chance to put his ideas to work!

Group Photo - Green For All @ Power Shift Photo By greenforall.orgIts safe to say Van Jones has laid the groundwork for a eco-social steps towards a realistic solution. Let’s just hope the next few years, we will all see the fruits of his labor. We are proud that such an amazing activist was chosen to serve with the Obama administration! He is certainly a very qualified leader and environmentalist who has a chance to really overhaul our workforce and help save our failing economy. So we feel incredibly confident Van Jones can help bring real green job development to the nation and look forward to watching the next few years play out!

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