Gull dripping in oil is a call for end of abusive relationship

Thursday, June 10, 2010

From a column by Margaret Krome in The Capital Times:

A lot of writers are talking about our addiction to oil and saying the obvious -- that it's time to stop it. But the very nature of addictions is that they don't change easily. I once asked my friend Susan to explain to me how, despite her intentions to not smoke, she could walk by a convenience store and ask me to wait while she went in to buy cigarettes. What happened in her brain to silence her intention to stop the habit and instead empower her amble into the store? Basically, she said, the overwhelming imperative to satisfy the addiction screamed louder than her judgment.

Another way to think about our relationship with petroleum is as an abusive relationship. I know from such a relationship with a person 30 years ago that people don't leave abusive partners easily. We see the best, not the worst, in our partners, and we fear the loss of attachment more than the emotional manipulations of the present. We get sentimental about the unique culture of our relationships.

Our nation's relationship to oil, especially to automobile transportation, is like that. We love the sense of freedom from cars more than the dangers of road travel. We love the power, and increasingly in a world built around cars, we love the convenience more than we dislike the cost of gas. When our daughter got her driver's license two weeks ago, I was even reminded of how learning to drive is a token of maturation.

In the meantime, we've ignored the deep dysfunction of our relationship -- communities split by interstate highways, auto casualties, air pollution and environmental damage from oil drilling and from processing oil sands and oil shale. Many of us have ignored the relationship between our dependence on oil from unstable countries and our nation's military operations.