Hard Candy: Hands Across a Sham

I know, I know. I can hear it as I type these words: how dare I call last Saturday’s event a sham. Those who attended will tell you it was a beautiful demonstration of … well, something. I’m not sure what. I know that everyone there seemed pretty passionate about stopping drilling off Florida’s coast. And, hey, I’m all for that. Let’s stop it right now. But the reality is, there’s too much hypocrisy surrounding even events like these for that to happen.
Look, I applaud passion; I am passion’s biggest fan. And I’m not trying to belittle your grand gesture Saturday, but I do hope you understand that Saturday’s event was only that: a gesture.
People drove to the event. The event organizers handed out plastic bottles of water. Someone hired a banner plane to fly up and down the beaches, towing an anti-offshore-drilling banner. All these things require oil by the truckload, which, funny enough, needs oil to ship the oil. As far as I can tell, BP and other oil companies directly benefited financially from this international event.
Let’s put it into one of those math problems we all hated in junior high: If 12,000 Floridians drove an average of two miles to participate in Hands Across the Sand, and each protestor consumed one bottle of water during the event, how many gallons of oil would BP have to pump out of the Gulf to power the protestors’ cars and produce the plastic water bottles?
Don’t bother doing the math.
I wouldn’t have a problem with this if the protest stopped the practice, but I think we’ve gotten confused somewhere along the way. Government can’t even stop tobacco farmers from growing tobacco, and far fewer Americans smoke than drive. What on earth makes you think the government is going to stop oil exploration? There’s too much money changing hands; couple that with the potential for lawsuits for lost revenue and you and I both know that the federal and state governments aren’t about to staunch the flow.
I know my attitude might upset you. Politicians promised us, you may start to say, but before you finish that sentence, stop. Oh, sure, Saturday saw plenty of political posturing and promises. What a down-home opportunity for grandstanding. I believe our city officials when they say they won’t vote for drilling; I even might believe county commissioners. Here’s the thing, though: all the people who spoke to our city Saturday? The school board candidates, county commissioner Barbara Sheen Todd, Gulfport’s own very fine mayor Mike Yakes? They don’t actually get to vote on oil exploration. So, you know, good for them for taking a stand, but it won’t stop the oil from suffocating Apalachicola oysters or painting its carbon footprint over anhinga, dolphin, and mackerel. It won’t keep the panhandle fishermen in business, and it won’t wash the beaches clean.
Right about now I’m sure most of you are calling me a hopeless misanthrope, a hateful cynic who lacks compassion for the human condition. I beg to differ. I used to be like you, ready to march on Washington, sign a petition protesting genetic research on mollusks, or stage a sit-in for dolphin-safe energy. But somewhere along the way I started seeing all these causes as what they were: shams that detracted from the business of, as so many people like to call it, “saving” the planet.
BP acts in the best interest of its bottom line. I won’t address criminal concerns or whether it was morally or ethically right for them to do what they did, because that- unfortunately- doesn’t matter. What matters is economics: supply and demand and profit and loss. The minute oil production becomes something that doesn’t bring a profit, I promise you BP- and every other oil company- will stop drilling. No government agency will revoke permits, no groups will circulate a petition, and no protests occur: they will just pull up stakes and go home. Take away the profit and you take away the problem.
If you want to hit BP where it hurts, don’t bother holding hands on the beach. They’ll just scoff at our ineffective methods as we fuel our cars before heading out to the beach. Instead, stop using their product.
Is it possible? Yes, but not practical. Strive instead to reduce consumption. Eat local. Think about how things are made. Of course, there’s the biggie: drive less. And don’t kid yourself with an electric car: where do you think electricity comes from? Progress Energy has three coal and oil plants in Florida: Crystal River, Anclote, and Suwanee.
So try carpooling, or bicycling, or trading in that SUV for a snappy little Miata. Many scooters get well over 100 miles per gallon. Buy locally grown food, and stop drinking water sold in those convenient little plastic bottles.
Overwhelming, isn’t it? It takes much less work to attend the occasional protest or sign a petition. But you won’t change a damn thing that way. If you want to change things, really change things, forget about government. They won’t help you. Administrations change, and policies shift with the tides. Government should keep us safe from crime, provide strong schools and protect us from foreign invasions. Despite what we’d like to think, our Constitution has no verbiage about marine ecosystems or environmental high grounds. That part’s up to us, and we can’t have it both ways.
Instead, put your money where your heart is. Change the world? Not likely, despite what we’d so dearly love to believe. Change your carbon footprint? That’s the first step. You can’t drive your Ford Explorer to the oil protest and think you’re making a difference, and you can’t enjoy French wine, German cheese, and Iowa steaks and think that your signature on a petition matters.
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com. Find more details about determining your carbon footprint at Nature.org/initiatives/climatechange/calculator, or click the link on The Gabber Newspaper’s Facebook Page.

Published by


I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.

2 thoughts on “Hard Candy: Hands Across a Sham”

  1. Thank you Cathy. I didnt attend the hands across the sand because I would have had to drive to the beach. I agree with almost everything you said. People can make a huge difference with only a little bit of cutting back.

Comments are closed.