One of the awesome things I learned in Costa Rica is that there is plenty of oil there . . . yet they banned oil drilling. Why? Because the oil is beneath National Parks, and those are protected, and they intend on keeping them that way. More than 25 percent of the country is protected area, and that’s a good thing considering it is bountifully blessed with about 5 percent of the whole world’s known biodiversity. And the country considers its economic success dependent on protecting these assets, which are so vital to their tourism and agriculture. It is a poor country, yes, and gas and energy prices are high right now. But they are smart enough to treat exploring renewable energy (the cheapest energy) for the long run, not drilling for cheap oil now (risky), as a priority. But it’s not just about money – it’s about having a connection to the Earth and being responsible for protecting it however we humans can.
I’ve camped near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara and it’s a beautiful place. It’s now been destroyed by a spill of over 100,000 gallons of oil from Plains All American Pipeline. It’s already spreading down to Isla Vista and the Naples Marine Protected Area – over nine miles of coastline. The first thing individuals can do to help is to call professionals at (877) 823-6926 if we see any oiled wildlife (we should not try to take matters in our own hands no matter how tempting it is to be a hero). Heal the Bay is asking Californians to help pass the California Coastal Protection Act of 2015, which would close a loophole that allows drilling from federal lands into state waters. And of course, we can strive to make lifestyle changes that lessen the demand for petroleum in an effort to discourage offshore drilling. Carpooling, utilizing public transit, and avoiding plastics (which require lots of petroleum to produce) and plastic waste are relatively easy ways to make a positive impact.
280 million metric tons of plastic per year goes to waste, and about 4-12 million metric tons of it ends up in the ocean.
I’m not an accredited environmentalist or politician, like most of you reading this, but I think we can draw some inspiration from the Costa Rican government. Just last year they renewed their ban on petroleum extraction until 2021, citing “Costa Ricans’ constitutional right to a healthy environment,” according to the Tico Times. How cool is that?