Beyond Belief…Joining the Blame Game

I have resisted writing about BP and the Gulf because, even though it makes me ill to see it, hear about it and think about it, this blog, was meant to be about creating awareness about how to live in Atlanta, or any other city where you think you can’t, without a car. And yes, there were others reasons I went AWOC – like my complete aversion to negotiating with the car sales person! But mainly, I was focused on the trials, tribulations and techniques and tools needed to live without a car.

And then, as all my inner voices began to shout at me, (yes, I have ‘friends’ in my head-haven’t you figured that out by now?’) I went to the gulf. I saw the dump trucks lined up 15-20  deep, ready to go to war against the oil attacking their shores. I stood there, deep, deep, sadness washing over me and tears trickling down my face. And then I thought I wanted to write about it but without a holier than thou,  ‘in your face get out of your car now ‘ kinda attitude.

But, I can’t.

So I decided to write about it just like that. I’ll get  in your face, and maybe you’ll get out of your car.

What else needs to happen before conservation and reducing our country’s dependency starts for you? How much closer to home does this need to get for you? How will you be a part of the solution? No, you don’t have to give up your car totally, although that would be terrific, but you can wean yourself.  Make a plan, set a measurable goal and start something, anything that reduces your usage.  And stop thinking boycotting a BP station is the answer. All gas is BP. Start thinking about how you, just you, can reduce. It’s time to pick a team. Are you part of the solution or problem?

And before you go all that on me, remember, I began reducing in 2008 when I gave up my car for one day a week.

Yesterday, I read the commentary of Thomas Freidman’s in the NY Times. The accountability and apology resonated with me so deeply that I have to send it forward in case you didn’t read it. It was the first thing I have read in all that has been written that deeply resonated. I have almost quit reading about the ‘Worst Environmental Disaster in America’s History’, not because I am anesthetized to it, or want to ignore it, but because I don’t think there is any more editorializing that needs to be written or said. It seems we have expressed it all. The sadness, the anger, the futility, the frustration, the accountability, the ‘kick their ass’, the lies, the deceit, ‘we’ll make it right’, the betrayal-what new points are there to pontificate upon?  However, this caught my attention. I hope it gets yours.

Thomas Friedman wrote:

“My friend, Mark Mykleby, who works in the Pentagon, shared with me this personal letter to the editor he got published last week in his hometown paper, The Beaufort Gazette in South Carolina. It is the best reaction I’ve seen to the BP oil spill — and also the best advice to President Obama on exactly whom to kick you know where. “I’d like to join in on the blame game that has come to define our national approach to the ongoing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This isn’t BP’s or Transocean’s fault. It’s not the government’s fault. It’s my fault. I’m the one to blame and I’m sorry. It’s my fault because I haven’t digested the world’s in-your-face hints that maybe I ought to think about the future and change the unsustainable way I live my life. If the geopolitical, economic, and technological shifts of the 1990s didn’t do it; if the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 didn’t do it; if the current economic crisis didn’t do it; perhaps this oil spill will be the catalyst for me, as a citizen, to wean myself off of my petroleum-based lifestyle. ‘Citizen’ is the key word. It’s what we do as individuals that count. For those on the left, government regulation will not solve this problem. Government’s role should be to create an environment of opportunity that taps into the innovation and entrepreneurialism that define us as Americans. For those on the right, if you want less government and taxes, then decide what you’ll give up and what you’ll contribute. Here’s the bottom line: If we want to end our oil addiction, we, as citizens, need to pony up: bike to work, plant a garden, do something. So again, the oil spill is my fault. I’m sorry. I haven’t done my part. Now I have to convince my wife to give up her S.U.V. Mark Mykleby.”

I think Mykleby’s letter gets at something very important: We cannot fix what ails America unless we look honestly at our own roles in creating our own problems. We — both parties — created an awful set of incentives that encouraged our best students to go to Wall Street to create crazy financial instruments instead of to Silicon Valley to create new products that improve people’s lives. We — both parties — created massive tax incentives and cheap money to make home mortgages available to people who really didn’t have the means to sustain them. And we — both parties — sent BP out in the gulf to get us as much oil as possible at the cheapest price. (Of course, we expected them to take care, but when you’re drilling for oil beneath 5,000 feet of water, stuff happens.)

As Pogo would say, we have met the enemy and he is us.

But that means we’re also the solution — if we’re serious. Look, we managed to survive 9/11 without letting it destroy our open society or rule of law. We managed to survive the Wall Street crash without letting it destroy our economy. Hopefully, we will survive the BP oil spill without it destroying our coastal ecosystems. But we dare not press our luck.

We have to use this window of opportunity to insulate ourselves as much as possible against all the bad things we cannot control and get serious about fixing the problems that we can control. We need to make our whole country more sustainable. So let’s pass an energy-climate bill that really reduces our dependence on Middle East oil. Let’s pass a financial regulatory reform bill that really reduces the odds of another banking crisis. Let’s get our fiscal house in order, as the economy recovers. And let’s pass an immigration bill that will enable us to attract the world’s top talent and remain the world’s leader in innovation.

We need all the cushions we can get right now, because we are living in a world of cascading and intertwined threats that have the potential to turn our country upside down at any moment. We do not know when the next Times Square bomber might get lucky. We don’t know how long the U.S. and Israel will tolerate Iran’s nuclear program. We don’t know if Pakistan will hold together and what might happen to its nukes. We don’t know when North Korea will go nuts. We don’t know if the European Union can keep financing the debts of Greece, Hungary and Spain — and what financial contagion might be set off if it can’t.

“It is not your imagination,” says corporate strategy consultant Peter Schwartz — there is a lot more scary stuff hanging over the world today. Since the end of the cold war and the rise of the Internet, we’ve lost the walls and the superpowers that together kept the world’s problems more contained. Today, smaller and smaller units can reek larger and larger havoc — and whatever havoc is wreaked now gets spread faster and farther than ever before.

That is why we have to solve the big problems in our control, not postpone them or pretend that more lobby-driven, lowest-common-denominator solutions are still satisfactory. A crisis is a terrible thing to waste, but a reprieve and a breathing spell — which is what we’re having right now — is a really terrible thing to waste. We don’t want to look back on this moment and say: How could we have gone back to business as usual and petty political gridlocks with all those black swans circling around us? Then we will really kick ourselves.” – Thank you, Thomas Friedman, NY Times, June 13.

At the EXPO, we have a mantra, “MONDAY MORNING, 9 AM.” In other words, what will you do differently when you return to the office?

Well, it’s Monday morning, 9 am. Which team will it be? Team Solution or Team Problem? It’s your choice. Today.

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