Archive for June, 2010

Am I Obsessed with the BP Oil Spill?

I admit, I am a bit obsessed, perhaps more than a bit obsessed, with the oil spill.  So much so that I burned the sweet potato in the oven while writing this– to a crisp. Absolutely true. I’m obsessed.

There are other things I might obsess about as a parent. The disruption of our family routines as we end the school year and start summer. Sun block– which one doesn’t have parabens in it? What’s a safe, nontoxic way to deter pesky mosquitos? Is peanut butter really something that might cause cancer in my kids?  Bullying in the park.  I could go on…

Here’s the reason why I’m so preoccupied with the oil spill.  It’s the school bus that we’ve wrapped around the tree while in a haze of addiction to oil. Our kids are on that bus.

I’ve worked in the addictions treatment field for two decades. I know from addiction.

You’ll note that I haven’t mentioned BP– until now. It’s really clear that BP has pulled some horrible stunts– from blatant disregard for the safety of their workers, for the ecosystems in which they operate, for the turtles and birds, for the people who make their livings off tourism and fishing, to outrageous minimization of the scope and impact of the spill.

There are two reasons why I’m not really training my sites on BP– though I think they need to be held to account for their actions and inactions.

One is that it has now become abundantly clear, in hearings held just today, that BP’s practices are the norm in the industry.  They just got unlucky.

Appalling, isn’t it?

But there’s another reason: In addiction, the blame game is a hallmark addictive behavior. It serves to deflect attention from the addict– to the tyrannical boss, to the stress at home, whatever. BP and all the other oil companies drill that oil in increasingly risky ways to provide us the oil we demand– to heat our homes, to fill our gas tanks, to make our ubiquitous plastic water bottles, to line our soup cans, to make plastic toys for our kids.  We need to look ourselves in the mirror.

Beyond looking in the mirror, what do we need to do? Conserve oil? Of course. Feed our kids organic food?– Yes, not just because it’s healthier but because it takes way less energy to grow organics.  But that’s not enough– because policies are where the real impact lies.

When Candy Lightner, the founder of MADD, lost her daughter to a drunk driver, she didn’t just say, “Let’s prosecute the driver.” She said, in effect,  “Let’s organize ourselves into a movement of parents who want to change the policies to make our roads safer.” She did, and they did, because they spoke out to our elected officials.  And our roads are safer, for us and for our children.

What we really need to do to tackle our profound, late stage addiction to oil is get out of denial and into the action of recovery by using our voices and our votes to support the shift to a clean energy economy. This is not an armchair issue. And organic cotton diapers, great though they are, won’t help us get where we need to go.

I used to buy BP gas because I thought they were less-bad. Now, I can’t bring myself as a matter of conscience to buy BP gas, even when I’m running on fumes. But is there a better oil company? I doubt it.

What really matters is not so much whose gas we buy, but that phone call, that letter (yes, snail mail is better than email!) to our Senators, to support the energy bill, now called the American Power Act.

To make it easy for you, here’s the link to find your Senator’s contact info:

Invite your friends and relatives– even those in others states– to discover the power of their voices, too! 

How about a letter or a picture from your kids? Kids’ voices have a really big impact. And it empowers them to participate in our democracy.

I was nervous the first time I wrote, the first time I met with an elected official, but I knew I needed to speak from the heart for my children’s future.

What I now understand, having become an engaged voter, is that using my voice is really empowering.

Want to learn more about how I became an “unlikely environmentalist” and the rewards I’ve reaped? Download chapters of my forthcoming book, Fierce Love — and post a comment please! This will help me show publishers I have an engaged audience!

If I can do it, you can too. Won’t you join me? We have exactly enough time, starting now.

June 16, 2010 at 7:55 am

We Used Our Voices– We Saved Clean Air, Defeated Oil… Empowered Ourselves and Our Children

Yesterday’s narrow defeat of Sen. Murkowski’s “Dirty Air” ammendment to the Clean Air Act reminds us that even in the face of really big oil interests, our “little” voices all add up — our voices count.

It’s easy to think that our voices and our votes don’t matter. How can we possibly go up against huge global corporations with massive lobbying budgets?

The thing is our elected officials expect to hear from big oil, and they expect to hear from environmental organizations.

Our elected officials are pleasantly surprised to  hear from us ordinary citizens when we speak out. We don’t have to understand the nuances of complex bills — we  just have to speak from our hearts about the issues that concern us– like the kind of world we’re leaving our children.

I was never an engaged voter until I realized that our addiction to oil threatened my children’s health and wellbeing, now and in the future. Things like rising asthma and cancer rates, longer cold and flu seasons.

Once I realized that the scale and urgency of the problem required massive policy change, I started to get informed, and to use my voice.

I’ve attended workshops on how to talk to elected officials– and learned that it only takes about 5-7 of us to get our elected officials’ attend. That’s all– a handful of our friends and family!

In fact, using our voices to protect that natural world on which we depend– for air the air, for the food we eat, the water we drink, for beauty– is the single most important gift we can give our children. 

We empower ourselves, and we show our children how to empower themselves to solve problems. My boys have not just seen me use my voice and be rewarded by being heard– they’ve also drawn pictures and sent letters to elected officials. They know their voices count. And I’m pretty sure this ability to be effective will transfer to other challenges in life.

So yesterday’s vote is a powerful reminder that when we use our voices, we can make a difference– for our addiction to oil, for our children’s future.

Learn more about the vote here:

The effort to tackle our addiction to oil will be ongoing, because I can say as addictions specialist, recovery is a process.

If you want to learn more ways to make a difference and combat our addiction to oil, here’s what you can do:

1. Follow me on Twitter @drsarahwarren

2. Suscribe to get informed and inspired

3. Download chapters of my book at —  and please post a comment!

Because we have exactly enough time, starting now.

June 11, 2010 at 11:50 pm

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