A common train of thought I hear from people who support the Line 3 Replacement Project and large oil corporations is, “We all need oil; if you don’t like it, then don’t use oil.” In a way, this is accurate. Oil makes our cars run. It is used to make warm synthetic fabrics. And it’s used in omnipresent plastic packaging. We don’t have much choice but to be dependent on oil.
I believe something else is implied with this kind of statement: that simply because our economy and lifestyles are dependent on oil now, we should continue using oil indefinitely. How hopeless a worldview that must be, that we are so stuck in our (very recently acquired) habits and wasteful lifestyles that there is no use even hoping that we can make a change. We are like alcoholics — addicted to oil. Unfortunately, this comparison is all too apt.
Many people believe there is hope for an oil-free future, that it is possible to break free from this unhealthy and unsustainable addiction to oil. Yet these proponents of oil seem to believe they are fated to guzzle oil for the rest of their lives. They are apparently unable to see past their addiction to a better future.
Our addiction to oil has harmed the natural world that sustains us. It has harmed our relationship with our indigenous neighbors, those living in the Global South, and even our bodies. Yet some people still do not see their behavior as a problem.
So the next time you are tempted to say something like this, ask yourself: Am I saying this to further the discussion on public policy, renewable energy, and the human impact on the environment? Or am I saying it to shut down discussion and justify my addiction to oil?