“…it is a very beautiful river. I love it above everything. I have often listened to it, gazed at it, and I have always learned something from it. One can learn much from a river.” -The ferryman from Sidhartha by Hermann Hesse
I am an insomniac which means that I can be found in the painfully silent nights of my unrest trying to intentionally tire myself out past the point of exhaustion that I am already at, so that I can somehow drift off to sleep. I am not alone. So at 4:30 am this morning when I reached for a book to make my eyes weary, I know that somewhere else in the world someone else was doing the same thing, though maybe using a different technique besides reading to bring about a remedy. The book I read this morning was Sidhartha. By the time I had turned a few pages, a steady rain began to fall, comforting me with sounds of soft water splashing into my window pane, door, the sidewalk and streets, the grass, and bushes outside of my apartment. When I read the passage that I quoted at the beginning of this post, I instantaneously thought about the Yellowstone River. (Last week it was reported that an Exxon Mobil pipe running underneath the Yellowstone River broke, spilling up to 1,000 barrels of oil into the water.)
Every time I fill up the gas tank of my car I consciously know that I am supporting the oil industry. I know that I have virtually no choice but to do it because, like everyone else, I have to get to work. I could take public transportation…but at a cost of being restricted by bus schedules and routes. I could car pool and on occasion I do use this strategy, mostly with family, but that too is a limited option. The reality is that there’s hardly a way around using a vehicle in this society and as it stands now, these vehicles run on gasoline; gasoline refined and distributed by companies like BP, Exxon Mobil and others who have been responsible for environmental disasters over the years. However, I cannot totally shift the blame. Why? Because I also play a part by spending my dollar with these companies. And this pains me, because I don’t want to have anything to do with oil spills.
We are gradually moving to a new era of mass producing energy efficient vehicles, hybrid vehicles, and electric vehicles. I can only hope that this rate of manufacturing speeds up in time to offset what we as an oil dependent world have done to damage our planet.
If the ferryman of Sidhartha is right, that we can learn much from a river, how much can we learn likewise from this latest oil spill? And more importantly, what will we do with what we’ve learned?