This article was originally published on August 7th, 2006 at americanchronicle.com
I used to smoke. In fact, I smoked quite a bit. I smoked two, sometimes three packs a day. For fifteen years I smoked. Experts might say I was addicted to cigarettes. Well, on the outside it certainly may appear that way. Even I have to admit the urge to smoke is powerful. But addicted? I don’t think I’ve ever been addicted to anything except food, water and breathing. Of course, that doesn’t mean others don’t suffer addictions.
I quit smoking ten years ago. I did it cold turkey. I think the key was that I really wanted to quit. At the time it was more a financial than a health issue, but ten years later I believe my lungs are grateful. Many people I know seemed quite impressed by this feat. In fact, some people had bet that I couldn’t quit. I was told it must have taken tremendous willpower. To me it was no big deal. I had decided to quit and by God I was going to do it.
I remember taking out a cigarette, staring it down, realizing it was only a weed wrapped in paper and it had no power over me, and saying out loud to it, “You’re not going to beat me. I don’t have to smoke you.” Ten years later I still haven’t taken another puff on a cigarette.
A few months back President Bush made the statement that America was “addicted” to oil. Addictions are not a good thing. They are horrendous wants that feel like needs. The body believes it needs something it does not, in fact, need. For myself, personally, convincing my body that I didn’t need something (such as nicotine or alcohol) is not that hard. I suppose, however, judging from what others have told me, that I am the exception rather than the rule. Society, as a whole, is having an extremely difficult time convincing itself it doesn’t really need oil. Since the time Mr. Bush made his declaration of oil addiction, exactly nothing has been done to help end the addiction and at times it may seem that we’ve actually fostered the addiction. It may be better for us to quit cold turkey, better for our economy, better for the environment. We need to collectively look at a barrel of oil and say, “You’re not going to beat us. We don’t need to burn you.” I doubt this is going to happen. I don’t think we as a society have the willpower to take such a drastic step.
I stated earlier that my decision to quit smoking was more a financial issue rather than a health issue. I decided I had better things to spend my money on. Golf, for instance. As the cost of gas increases and most people’s salaries remain the same, we start to ask ourselves is it worth giving all our money to the oil and fossil fuel companies to maintain an addiction? Remember, once we set up our homes with solar and/or wind power, we wouldn’t have to pay the electric companies for our power, or at least our bills would be greatly reduced. I don’t know about any of you, but for me that would save $150 monthly. If we begin using electric zero emission vehicles or hydrogen made from solar or wind power, then I could add to that the $250 per month (soon to be higher) I pay for gasoline. That's a savings of nearly $5,000 per year. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather give the $400 a month to companies that care about the environment and for the future of Mother Earth than to the oil and power companies who continue to pollute and exploit her.
Yet, are we really addicted to oil? I feel addicted is the wrong word. In our modern society, it would seem we genuinely need oil. Not true. What we do need in order to run our modern society is energy. Energy powers our vehicles. Energy heats and cools our homes and lights up our nights. Energy powers our entertainments. It operates our modern appliances and conveniences. Without energy, modern culture could not exist and we’d have to go back to living as we did in simpler times. Oil provides that energy, for now.
So, if we’re addicted to anything, we’re addicted to energy. And, since energy is necessary for the growth and survival of modern culture, I would compare it to food, a real need, more than to an addiction. The trick here is not to try to rid ourselves of an addiction that is not really an addiction, but rather to see if we can switch to a healthier diet.
Oil and other fossil fuels are like candy. They give us a quick energy fix that runs out quickly and forces us to consume more to maintain our energy level. When they finally run out once and for all we’ll be in for quite a crash. As we consume too much, we risk making the earth sick, much as we risk certain diseases in our own bodies as we consume too much candy. Solar, wind and other renewable energy sources can be compared to breads, fruits and vegetables. These energies will last a long, long time, as long as the sun and the earth last. They are also healthier for our bodies and our earth.
It has become more than clear that burning fossil fuels is quickly becoming an inefficient, expensive and dangerous habit. Even President Bush, an oil man, has stated as much, if not in so many words. The time for talk is over. We are already far too gluttonous and fat. We need to take action. We need to change our diet now. If we are all determined, if we all start spending our money on solar and wind systems, we can all start feeling better about ourselves, and the earth will feel better about us too. If we start moving toward that goal then maybe the future will start looking bright again. If we start now, in ten years we may all have grateful lungs.
Szandor Blestman welcomes email. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org