Now comes news that President Obama is on the verge of opening the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans to petroleum drilling and unleashing coal mining – much of it on public lands – in the West.
I oppose both and am greatly disappointed and saddened in an administration I’ve come to support on many issues. On this hot-button item for me, I split with the President.
Sean Cockerham of McClatchy’s Washington bureau has surveyed the thinking of scientific minds and finds some consensus that these unsettling efforts, both of which contain potential for much environmental damage, reflect something less than an overall environmental policy but are instead a piecemeal approach.
Several things, from my admittedly biased perspective, are in play here.
One is absolute protection for the environment. Granted, we have made strides in fuel efficient transportation, etc., but societally we remain insatiable energy guzzlers and that needs to be slowed dramatically if not curbed.
Yet how the U.S. has (or has not) urban planned in no way reduces our auto-dependence. That we have divvied up enormous land parcels or encouraged sprawl in our cities has encouraged an infrastructure that is anything but eco-friendly or supportive of the European model of transportation (trains and and limited auto use); Americans are forced to drive. Hence the need for more, more, more fuel to underscore our claim of a divine right, in our ‘I’ll do what I damn well please’ hubris, to drive an undisciplined 20 miles for the next 20% off sale or hop in the car for a quick trip to the store for milk or a bag of chips. It is our Manifest Destiny run amok.
Population densities in developed nations paint a bleak picture of our ill-considered approaches to transportation and land use planning.
According to the World Bank, the United Kingdom has 267 inhabitants per square kilometer. In Germany, it’s 232. 349 in Japan and 121 in France.
In the U.S., it is 35. We want to spread our wings in the Wide Open Spaces, and we do. Little wonder our penchant for cars – and oil.
All of this is part and parcel of an energy dilemma that chokes us, our cities and our air and enslaves us to an oil-dependent status quo. So when we open portions of our waters and land to feed the great beast, we instead devour what little of the earth we have left. We will apparently continue to do so at our peril.