AB: How long have you been involved in the anti-oil campaign?
MF: Bit of an odd story. I graduated university with a degree in marine biology right into the recession. I’ve had seasonal or grant jobs here and there, but it’s been hard to find work in a field that’s been suffering from budget cuts and threats of research defunding. In March of last year, out of fears that I was becoming unfamiliar with the current events in my field, I created a blog that aggregated news articles from various places around the web with topics like marine conservation, fisheries and endangered marine species. Not even a month later, the Deepwater Horizon blowout occurred. The news was flooded with articles about the Gulf of Mexico, the marine species that would be affected by the spill, the fisheries in the area and the impacts on the marine environment. It became the topic that I wrote about the most, and through researching the articles I came across events like Hands Across the Sand.
AB: Did you take part in the last Hands Across The Sand?
MF: Yes. Last year the event received a lot of attention after Deepwater Horizon. I actually heard about Hands Across The Sand from a former university classmate of mine back in the United States, and I was very pleased to find that there was an event happening here in London as well, which I'm helping to organise.
AB: Was that organised in response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster or is it something that was in the wind long before that?
MF: Hands Across The Sand originated in Florida before Deepwater Horizon as a movement against the efforts of the Florida Legislature and the US Congress to lift the ban on near and offshore oil drilling along Florida’s coast. Deepwater Horizon drew considerable attention to the problems of offshore oil drilling, and the event took off nationally and globally from there. Last year, events took place in all 50 states and in 43 countries worldwide.
AB: What do you hope to achieved by this...protest is not the right word, but I hate to call it a publicity stunt. Action?
MF: I would call it a demonstration. My main goal is to spread awareness of the issue of offshore oil drilling and dirty fossil fuel use versus clean energy sources such as wind and solar power. Personally, I think the environmental movement has sort of a bad reputation at the moment. Oftentimes when I mention an environmental topic I’m interested in or that I’m writing about, people assume I’m some kind of “tree-hugging hippie” or a PETA member who throws blood on people. I feel like these are the two stereotypes thought of when someone thinks “environmentalist.” But really this event is just to show that normal people care about the environment too. I believe most people want to do the right thing; it’s just a matter of bringing the issue to everyone’s attention. We all want clean air, clean water, safe food resources and to pass on a good future to those who come after us. The continued use of fossil fuels and dirty energy is jeopardizing that. This demonstration is a simple way people can come together to say it’s time to move towards a cleaner energy future.
AB: Are you opposed to all drilling for oil, just drilling in the sea, or deep sea drilling?
MF: I’m not a fan of any drilling – or any activity for that matter – that degrades the environment. I am particularly opposed to drilling in the sea or in coastal areas due to the potential magnitude of a spill event. Water will carry oil to places we might not even be able to find…And then how are we to fix it? I know we can’t all stop using oil tomorrow and switch entirely to more environmentally-friendly energy sources, but I do think it’s way past time to be taking a closer look at alternative energy and investing more time and money into its research and development.
AB: What do you think are the alternatives to oil: how can we reduce consumption of oil, etc? MF: The easy answer is to use public transport and to drive less, but there’s so much more than that. Plastic production is a huge consumer of oil, so minimizing the plastic products you purchase is a great step. This includes the obvious such as bottled water and plastic shopping bags, but also things like kitchen gadgets, child’s toys and certain types of clothing. I’m not saying you can’t buy these things, but consider the materials the products you buy are made of, and perhaps move towards items made from recycled glass, sustainably sourced wood or organic cotton. Another thing is to lower your “food miles”. London has some wonderful farmers’ markets, so consider buying your groceries locally instead of at Sainsbury’s, where many products are flown in from other countries. You can also try to eat lower on the food chain – that is, eat less meat and animal products. It takes far more resources to produce a pound of beef than it does to produce a pound of veg. Why not start with introducing one or two “vegetarian days” into your week? Perhaps most importantly, take a moment to write your representatives in the government and tell them how you feel about your country’s oil usage and that it’s time for a change.
AB: What is your view of synthetic oil and other alternatives?
MF: At the moment I don’t know very much about this, but it is a topic I’m looking in to. I know there is currently a debate about biofuels like corn oil because it’s taking food resources that hungry people could benefit from and using them to power luxury items like cars.
AB: How do you feel about a totally fare-free public transport system and similar measures to reduce oil consumption?
MF: I have to say, as an American from a small town where everyone has cars coming to a big city like London with multiple public transport systems…I love it! Everything is so easy to get to, and there’s never any traffic. On top of that, I’m a fan of public transport because it lessens the number of cars on the road. If you know a bus or train is already going to your desired destination, why not just hop on and save yourself the frustration of traffic and tolls? Making it fare-free would just sweeten the deal.