Quantcast

Shaking Oil's Grip

Energy

My new film, The Great Invisible, documents the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its aftermath. Why would I choose to take on the challenge of telling the story of the largest oil disaster in U.S. history, an event that killed 11 people, devastated wildlife, coated coastlines, sickened clean-up workers and brought local economies to a halt?

When I was fourteen, my mom drove my friend Tara and me to a Pixies/U2 concert in Baton Rouge. We'd waited months for this sold-out concert. I remember roaming the halls to gawk at all the other countercultural southerners … and finding a booth to sign up for Greenpeace and Amnesty International. At that age, I had no idea what “being political” meant, but helping political prisoners and the environment sounded exciting, so I signed up for both. So you could say art brought me to politics in both conscious and unconscious ways, and the two have been connected for me since.

Inevitably, after I screen The Great Invisible for an audience, someone fervently raises their hand and asks what they can do—what can anyone do—in the face of all this? To  see the connection between filling up your car and offshore drilling is overwhelming.

Perhaps it's because oil has such a tight grip on us that we simply try not to think about it. It's easier to grab a plastic water bottle when we're thirsty, to book a flight when we want to see someone and to buy a car based on comfort rather than fuel economy. Hell, I do it too. So what do I say to that person who's just watched my film and wants to know what they should do?

Here's what I tell them:

  • About 70 percent of the oil we use in this country is for transportation, so let’s start there: Walk, bike or take public transit whenever possible. Carpool to work or telecommute if you can. Right now I’m typing this from a bed—this could be you!

  • If you drive and can afford it, consider an electric vehicle. Even when you factor in the emissions from the electricity used to charge them, plug-in cars are much cleaner than conventional cars. If you aren't ready for an electric, you can still choose your next vehicle with fuel economy in mind. I just bought a VW diesel wagon when my Volvo from college became less dependable for film shoots. In addition to being perfect for hauling my camera and equipment around, it gets great mileage.

  • What we can accomplish collectively is just as important. Get involved—organize, march, write to your legislators, donate time and money to community action groups, divest from fossil fuel companies, pressure Congress to work on behalf of the people. We need a rethink! The recent People's Climate March in New York City  was the most visible manifestation yet of a growing populist movement for climate action and clean energy—two things that inevitably will end Big Oil's monopoly on our transportation system.

  • Demand the same legal protections to offshore oil platform workers that onshore workers have. It's unacceptable that workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig knew it was unsafe but were afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs.  Congress needs to overhaul an industry whose “get er done” mindset gets in the way of safety.

  • Make connections and ask questions. Why were we drilling offshore in deep water and without proper safety measures in the first place? What does this say about our culture of immediacy and consumption? Why are we turning to more dangerous and destructive types of oil extraction such as tar sands in Canada, fracking with undisclosed chemicals, deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic and elsewhere?

As an artist, I want people to respond to my film as a film, and not a political screed. But I also hope my film will inspire viewers the way I was once inspired and spur conversations about our oil consumption, extreme oil extraction methods and their impacts on our planet, public health and our democracy.

Find The Great Invisible at a theater near you here.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Fracking Approved in Largest National Forest in Eastern U.S.

Activist/Author Generates $300,000+ in Fight Against TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline

Is Extreme Weather a Sign of the Apocalypse?

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

In this view from an airplane rivers of meltwater carve into the Greenland ice sheet near Sermeq Avangnardleq glacier on Aug. 4 near Ilulissat, Greenland. Climate change is having a profound effect in Greenland, where over the last several decades summers have become longer and the rate that glaciers and the Greenland ice cap are retreating has accelerated. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

The rate that Greenland's ice sheet is melting surpassed scientists' expectations and has raised concerns that their worst-case scenario predictions are coming true, Business Insider reported.

Read More Show Less
An Alagoas curassow in captivity. Luís Fábio Silveira / Agência Alagoas / Mongabay

By Pedro Biondi

Extinct in its habitat for at least three decades, the Alagoas curassow (Pauxi mitu) is now back in the jungle and facing a test of survival, thanks to the joint efforts of more than a dozen institutions to pull this pheasant-like bird back from the brink.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Elizabeth Warren's Blue New Deal aims to expand offshore renewable energy projects, like the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island. Luke H. Gordon / Flickr

By Julia Conley

Sen. Elizabeth Warren expanded her vision for combating the climate crisis on Tuesday with the release of her Blue New Deal — a new component of the Green New Deal focusing on protecting and restoring the world's oceans after decades of pollution and industry-caused warming.

Read More Show Less
Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson leaves the courthouse after testifying in the Exxon Mobil trial on Oct. 30, 2019 in New York. DON EMMERT / AFP via Getty Images

A judge in New York's Supreme Court sided with Exxon in a case that accused the fossil fuel giant of lying to investors about the true cost of the climate crisis. The judge did not absolve Exxon from its contribution to the climate crisis, but insisted that New York State failed to prove that the company intentionally defrauded investors, as NPR reported.

Read More Show Less

By Sharon Elber

You may have heard that giving a pet for Christmas is just a bad idea. Although many people believe this myth, according to the ASPCA, 86 percent of adopted pets given as gifts stay in their new homes. These success rates are actually slightly higher than average adoption/rehoming rates. So, if done well, giving an adopted pet as a Christmas gift can work out.

Read More Show Less