When we break down the average North American’s oil consumption, we find that the results are shocking. People are using oil in greater volumes today than they did any other time in history. Whether it is for a long road trip to another part of the country, or a trip to the store that is several blocks from home, North Americans are tied tightly to their personal vehicles and have not wanted to listen to the opinions of those who recommend reducing their use of them. This is tragic and ironic, considering that the health of the entire planet and every creature living on it is hanging in the balance.
In the United States, Americans consume more than 15 million barrels of oil per day, which comprises more than 20-percent of the entire world’s oil consumption. The oil use per capita in Canada is comparable to that of the United States, but applies to a much smaller population. It would be the socially and environmentally conscious thing for Americans to do to reduce their oil consumption and turn instead to alternative fuel sources. The destruction caused by the overuse of oil has long been known and shared in the media, but collectively, North America has done very little about it.
The fact of the matter is, continuing to use oil at the rate we are using it is completely unsustainable. Oil is a fossil fuel, and therefore nonrenewable. Once it is gone, it is gone forever, and the composition of the earth’s crust will not be the same. As we burn fossil fuels in automobiles and in other machinery, they give off carbon and other greenhouse gases which are steadily increasing the temperature of earth’s atmosphere. As temperature’s rise, glaciers and polar ice caps are melting at alarming rates, ocean currents are changing and, in general, the delicate balance of earth’s ecosystem is compromised. We must change the way we think about oil consumption immediately or face disastrous consequences.
There are a number of nations and regions that are rising rapidly in power, but North America is still the seat of most of the world’s wealth. One expression of North America’s privilege is its oil consumption. Particularly in the United States, more barrels of oil are consumed daily than in most other countries combined. That is partly due to the size of its population, but has more to do with the culture of excess that Americans have come to expect. Americans and Canadians alike do not like to venture out of their comfort zone, and in the current cultural climate, excessive oil use is part of their creature comforts.
North Americans feel entitled to owning one car per person of legal driving age. They use their vehicles for long and short commutes alike, even when it is more logical to walk. A majority of United States residents have been exposed to information about the carbon footprint that their oil consumption leaves behind, but still, they are too immersed in their greed to adjust their thinking. The truth is, if able bodied people cut out their vehicle use for the commutes that are under a mile, a large percentage of carbon emissions would be eradicated. Turning to electrically charged cars such as hybrids helps also, although electricity use creates carbon emissions as well, at a smaller level.
In order to reverse as much planetary damage as is possible at this point, North Americans need to achieve more of a collective consciousness when it comes to oil consumption. Biodiversity and the environment are at stake if North Americans and other countries cannot follow through with a plan to reduce their oil consumption. We need to turn to more sustainable energy sources for our daily needs, such as solar panels, vegetable oil fueled vehicles and other environmentally conscious technologies. If everyone does their part, we can bring the excessive oil consumption epidemic under control.