I set out this July 4th to write a celebratory letter to America about watermelon and sweet corn and fireworks. For inspiration I took time to read the Declaration of Independence and surfed the sites of other favorite bloggers. I read a post at Spirit Lights the Way that focused on these words from the Declaration: He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
The “He” in the original document was King George. Nancy chose to draw the parallel of a Declaration against the British with a declaration against British Petroleum. The words and the analogy work but as one who once left to explore my Anglican origin, I want to leave off the British part. I remember too fondly stumbling home from the Green Man, dousing my chips in malt vinegar and altering the course of my language to include words such as loo and lift. Just as I contemplate American refusal to give up the word “soccer” while the rest of the world is yelling “futbol”, Nancy’s analogy causes me to think about our refusal to give up our dependence on oil.
I’m not different. In a couple of days, I”ll board a jumbo jet to burn my way back to the Southwest where the air conditioning will blast until October. And according to researchers at the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture, I will burn an average of at least seven calories of fossil fuel for every calorie of food consumed in my kitchen. This means that in the typical American 2,000 calories per day, each of us will, in effect, “consume” 14,000 calories of fossil-fuel energy.
So, how can we do better? First, find out how far your food travels. The further it travels, the more petroleum consumed. And you’re not off the hook by buying organic. Whether conventionally-grown or organic, produce is shipped, packed,
and chilled the same way. Get close to the source.
Then think about the processing that goes into it. Fresh fruits and vegetables are not processed. The more processed the food, the more oil. Next consider how food is packaged and try to reduce it. Buy fresh vegetables instead of canned, and buy bulk goods when you’re able. Avoid those roadside stops that give “free” cheap plastic sh*t with the meals and have the audacity to claim it’s “happy”. Read the label on that plastic water bottle and discover that it’s from a municipal source just like the stuff that runs out of the tap but without the oil. Last, dare I say, eat less? Remember, I’m at the beach this week and no volume of PX90 sales will convince me that the majority of us can’t do with less.
No America, I’m afraid that I can’t declare independence from petroleum today but I can declare intentions to do better. You deserve that. Last night we left the windows open to hear your waves crashing against the beach. You’re the most amazing country I’ve ever celebrated. We couldn’t love another better.