Reining in Oil Companies

Cleaned up pelican from Gulf of Mexico, courtesy of GreenpeaceI have a complex relationship with oil companies. On the one hand, I purchase their products and use them. I drive my car less than the average U.S.er, but still do drive, and I ride in planes, and sometimes in busses. But I also despise these corporations’ behavior. I want them to stop despoiling the environment, manipulating people and causing harm to human beings with their product.

Just because I still drive doesn’t mean that I can’t tell them to change their ways. Actually, I’m pretty sure it means I *can* tell them to change their ways, because I’m a long-term customer. So, things I can do this week:

Tell Congress to stop even talking about giving BP a bailout.

Look at the True Cost of Chevron and send the message to Chevron that people want them to clean up their act — while they are in Houston this week for their annual shareholder meeting.

Do the right thing when I am using gas: stop idling, and remind the person pumping my gas to not top off. More about why/how these small changes will mean that I am using slightly less gas and giving gas station workers a break at HealthyAirOregon.org

The photo of the cleaned-up Gulf Coast pelican above is from the photostream that Greenpeace has up on Flickr. Thanks for all you’re doing over there, Greenpeace!

I Almost Bought the Story of Stuff at Powell’s Last Night

Story of Stuff Book CoverWhat a treat to see Annie Leonard at Powell’s last night talking about the new The Story of Stuff book. Powell’s ran out of copies for sale, so I left empty-handed even though I was all set to buy it. I’ll have to trot down there later for a copy.

Leonard’s approach to engaging people on this complicated issue — a straightforward animation that explains the problem of over-consumption — now has over 8 million views online around the world and has been translated into 12 languages. This is a great example of how effective communication is key to pushing for any deep change. The video keeps it simple and relevant to our daily lives. Watch the Story of Stuff if you haven’t already.

At Powell’s, she touched on so much, but the hour just flew by. Some highlights from her talk:

She opened by explaining why we should buy the Story of Stuff book for $8 more from Powell’s than from Amazon: local jobs, and an independent businesses that our community loves (she mentioned a fleeting fantasy about getting trapped in the store for weeks by an earthquake).

www.ban.org: the Basel Action Network. The Basel Ban is an international set of agreements to eliminate the trade in toxic waste. Left to our own devices, wealthy nations would just turn less-wealthy nations into our landfills. “No” says the Basel Agreement. But there’s a lot to do to stop our international toxic dumping.

March 22, 2010 was also World Water Day and the same day that The Story of Bottled Water was released. Another great animation explaining a deep idea. In this case, the idea of a “manufactured need.” Bottled water empires, beware! Soon you may have to start picking up after yourself.

GoodGuide.com, a guide to products that have been rating along different social responsibility scales including the environment, the supply chain and labor.

But what I love is that Leonard talks about taking individual action, and she pairs it up with a commitment to systemic change. It’s not enough for us to change our own individual shopping habits, we need to press for broader changes. This is apparently what she digs into in the book. The Story of Stuff video, after all, explains more about the problem of over-consumption than the solution. But the book has it all.

So, I’ve signed up for email from them, and fully expect to wind up engaged somehow with this project. Over-consumption is choking the world, and like many other U.S. exports, is harming the world and ultimately making us less safe. We need to figure out a solution — as individuals, communities, and as a part of a global community.

The Story of Stuff

You know, part of what pushes us to invade and attempt to control other countries like Iraq is our voracious appetite for stuff. What I think of as “our way of life” which is about freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom to protest is often overshadowed by our “freedom to buy.” And how has buying stuff become so centrally a part of our culture? Well, in part because at one point we made a conscious decision to let our economy depend on consuming stuff.

And look! Here’s a great video to spell it all out for you! Guaranteed to give you great stuff to talk about:

The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard