At last yearâ€™s TEDxOilSpill conference in Washington, D.C., Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless tackled the 10 biggest myths he hears about offshore drilling. His presentation is especially poignant this week considering the government's decision on Friday to re-open the Western Gulf of Mexico for new oil and gas exploration for the first time since the spill.
Check it out and pass it on!
Like many of the messages at Monday's TEDxOilSpill conference, John Francisâ€™s was one of hope. Francis, who hasn't used a motorized vehicle since the 1970s and undertook a 17-year vow of silence, gave one of the funniest and most moving talks of the day, underscoring the crucial role that listening plays in activism.
In the early 1970s, Francis stopped riding in vehicles after witnessing an oil spill in San Francisco Bay. He later decided to take a vow of silence, initially for just one day, "because," he said, "I was talking too much." It was more than 6,000 days later before he spoke again. During that time he went on a pilgrimage by foot across America on behalf of the environment and world peace.
Francis finally spoke at the Washington, DC celebration of the 20th anniversary of Earth Day in 1990 to â€śspeak for the environmentâ€ť and to thank the audience for their participation at the event.
At Monday's conference, he urged the audience to not just listen, but act. â€śWeâ€™re going to have to do something," he said. "This is our moment. We are going to have to change our lives. Iâ€™m inviting us to change our lifestyle. We have such responsibility and such power that we can really make a big difference.â€ť
Here's a short video I took of Francis (he played banjo briefly before he spoke), and to learn more, you can watch his full TED talk from 2008.
At yesterdayâ€™s TedxOilSpill, I spoke to the crowd about the questions I hear most from people who donâ€™t see eye to eye with me on why the disaster in the Gulf is our call to action.
Here are my responses to the naysayers -- feel free to use these with any clean energy skeptic you come across.
1) Isn't the Deepwater drilling disaster just like an airplane crash? We don't shut down aviation when a plane crashes.
No. In an airplane crash, most of the victims are those who were on the airplane. In this case, most of the victims are the millions of people living in the Gulf. This is more like the guy who built a campfire in the dry season, against regulations, and burned down the national forest and all the towns and cities alongside it. That's why we have regulations against building campfires during the dry season: Not because every camper burns down his campsite, but because all we need is one. We have laws against dry season campfires, and we should have laws against ocean oil drilling.
2) There are 3600 drilling platforms in the gulf. Are you going to shut them all down?
We're not calling for a shutdown of the platforms, just of drilling. Once the wells are drilled, the risks go down. The pumping can continue, but the drilling has to stop.
3) So then isn't this just a deep-water problem? Can't we continue in the shallow water?
Ocean drilling in shallow water is also very risky. One of the top three oil drilling disasters of all time, Ixtoc 1, was in 160 feet of water. And last August, the Montara rig blow-out near Australia, which took 11 weeks to control, was in just 250 feet of water.
After watching and reading news reports and blog posts about the Gulf oil spill for more than two months, I was wondering if anything new could be said about the catastrophe.
As I found out at yesterdayâ€™s TEDxOilSpill conference, the answer is a resounding yes. Scientists, entrepreneurs, anthropologists, activists, musicians and writers came together to vent, and to try and wrap their heads around how this could have happened, and to bat around solutions, immediate and long-term.
Over and over, I heard riffs on a theme: this is an unprecedented disaster, and we are still in the thick of it. We donâ€™t know how bad it will get, or what the long-term effects will be. And now is our moment to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless fired off a list of ten myths about the oil spill and offshore drilling, and Oceana campaign director Jackie Savitz told the crowd that â€śit is time to tell the pusher (Big Oil) that weâ€™re going clean.â€ť
It was an intellectually and emotionally exhausting day â€“ several presenters were brought to tears during their presentations.
TED conferences â€śbring together the world's leading thinkers and doers for a series of talks, presentations and performances.â€ť So it was only a matter of time until TED tackled the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Topics will include: mitigation of the spill and the impending cleanup efforts; energy alternatives; policy and economics; and new technology that can help us build a self-reliant culture.
The presenters will include the following experts: