Here's a guest post from one of our partners, the Northwest Earth Institute. Deb McNamara is the Director of Community and Business Partnerships for the Northwest Earth Institute, an Oregon-based non-profit offering a series of ten sustainability education and action guides. Visit to learn more or email Deb at [email protected]

Oil and Our Lifestyles:  Responding to the Call of Last Year’s Oil Spill

sites/all/files/2010-05-28-grandisleneveragain_web2.jpgYou might be thinking “oil spill, what oil spill? Wasn’t that last year’s news?”

Yes, the spill is over, but next month on April 20th marks the year anniversary of the largest environmental disaster in US history.  After the 1969 oil spill off the coast of California citizens rose up to initiate the first Earth Day in April, 1970.  As founder Bill McKibben says, “It was a real moment” in our history.  It is a good time to ask ourselves how we have responded or failed to respond to last year’s oil spill disaster. Have we responded to the call to live differently with less dependence on difficult to access, dwindling fossil fuels?   Have we worked hard enough to enact more responsible policies and regulations? 

In an ever-accelerating world of rapidly shifting news cycles hammering one disaster after the next, it is a natural defense mechanism to tune out or shut down.  Many of us absorb bad news and then move on to the next thing.  The problem is that business as usual continues on both the personal and macro levels.

This is why the Northwest Earth Institute ( has responded by dedicating its newest one-session discussion guide, Just Below the Surface:  Perspectives on the Gulf Coast Oil Spill, to reflection and action around last year’s oil spill.  In an effort to join the growing global movement to solve the climate crisis, we’re hosting a month of intentional action where we can each consider more deeply our parts in the often destructive oil dependent systems at hand and consider opportunities for radical change.   Next month, Oil and Our Lifestyles:  A Month of Action, is an opportunity to gather together with your co-workers, family, neighbors, friends, and others in the community to take part in this one session discussion course on the spill and to together consider next steps to address the environmental challenges we face.

I recently received an email reminding me that “individual lifestyle choices alone won’t solve our problems.  Driving less won’t solve our problems.” It is true.  Of course a larger, more coordinated and systemic effort is needed to radically shift our cultural dependence on fossil fuels.  However, it is individuals like each of us who populate businesses, organizations and other institutions that all have the potential to respond with innovative solutions that map a new and unchartered way ahead. 

Change begins with individuals.  The question is, do each of us respond to the calling, offering up solutions and examples of change in our own circles of influence?  For some of us driving less may be what we can do as a gesture of response.  For others, we can actively participate in initiatives, we can join a green team dedicated to taking action, create a new sustainability council, convene a neighborhood meeting to find local solutions, pressure congress, or demand more responsibility from the oil companies we support with our dollars.

We all have response-ability.  As Anthony Robbins says,“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.” Here’s to deepened reflection, dialogue and action in service of Earth and life.