Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Protesting Oil Drilling in Kayaks Made of Plastic - Ironic?

There's a kayak and paddleboard-based protest happening in my hometown of Seattle, Washington. The protest is a blockade of a giant Shell Oil drilling rig that is in the harbor being readied to start drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean. A conservative political group called CFACT has started passing a picture around on social media calling out the irony of the fact that the anti-oil-drilling protestors are in plastic kayaks, and plastic is made from oil.

They came in automobiles fueled by oil, wearing clothing made from oil, to protest oil, in kayaks made from oil. Then they tweeted their photos on phones made from oil and drove home.Share the irony.

Posted by CFACT on Monday, May 18, 2015

Is the irony real? Yes. There is no denying that kayaks are made of plastic, and plastic is made of oil. HOWEVER, that does not mean the protestors are stupid, and it definitely does not mean that it's a good idea to drill in the Arctic Ocean. Here's why I SUPPORT THE PROTESTORS:

1. Although plastic is made from oil, only about 2% of the total oil that we drill is used to make plastic. Most of the rest is used for fuel or burned to generate electricity. If we cut down on the amount of oil used for fuel and electricity, which we can do through conservation, energy efficiency, and shifting to renewable energy sources like solar and wind, we will have plenty of oil left to supply the relatively small amount needed for making plastic stuff. No need to drill in the Arctic.

2. We're already extracting and burning way too much fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal) for the planet to handle. The concentration of the main atmospheric pollutant from burning fossil fuel, carbon dioxide, has gone from 280 ppm up to 400+ ppm since we started burning fossil fuels during the industrial revolution about 150 years ago. The high concentration of carbon dioxide is causing global warming and ocean acidification.

3. The Arctic is a really bad place to drill for oil because rough waters, icebergs, and rocks make it easy for oil spills to happen. Also, if/when oil spills do happen, they will have terrible consequences because of all the vulnerable endangered species that only live in the Arctic- species such as polar bears, narwhals, beluga whales, bowhead whales, walruses, etc.

4. Although it is somewhat hypocritical to do nature-loving activities on a plastic-based toy like a kayak, sup, or windsurf, the overall benefits of getting out and engaging with nature are worth the slight environmental cost if they help the watercraft users to be more environmental in their overall life choices and actions. I wrote an article about this kind of thing a couple years ago for some windsurfing magazines. It was called, "Green Windsurfing." I'm not sure if the article is available online anywhere. Can anyone find it?

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