Would oil off our coast cause us to change our ways?

oilspillstoppedIn the early days of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, some local media reported the Gulf Coast’s loss could be the Atlantic Coast’s gain, in the form of tourists reconfiguring their summer vacation destinations. These stories usually included mandatory expressions of sympathy for the region dealing with the environmental catastrophe. Still, the disaster was down there. The major consequence for us would be more difficulty finding space to plant our chairs and umbrellas on the more crowded beaches of Tybee Island, right? Interviews were conducted just to make sure we were in the clear. But now the story may be changing. Yesterday, the New York Times’ Dot Earth blog published a horrifying animation that illustrates where the oil might eventually go if the damaged well continues to flow.

Oil AnimationWill the realization that it could come here lead to any action besides the emotionally satisfying, but ultimately useless, railing against BP and the government that has been our only response to the spill? Will the possibility of oil slicks from Miami to Maine cause us to comprehend our role in this cataclysm? Will it help us to finally understand that it’s our unrelenting demand for cheap oil that made deep water drilling a viable business proposition? Will it prompt us to take a hard look at how we have built our communities and the way we choose to travel in our daily lives?

Here’s an excellent list of 10 ways cities and towns can kick the offshore-oil habit. How many of these are we doing locally? Aside from the wonderful expansion of on-street bicycle parking, spearheaded by Sean Brandon of the City of Savannah’s Parking and Mobility Services department, the sad answer is not much. In fact, some of the ideas mentioned in the list, including increased density and reduced automobile parking, are fighting words around here! Having been shown the consequences of our oil dependency via television coverage from the Gulf of Mexico, can we now talk seriously about our problems and begin to make responsible decisions about how to make our communities sustainable and livable? Or will it take oil drifting into Wassaw Sound to get our attention?

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