The Dernogalizer

June 3, 2010

Opinion Column “Conservation: Putting away childish things”

I have an opinion column out today in the University of Maryland newspaper “The Diamondback” about what the ongoing offshore drilling disaster means to us, and a call for the passage of clean energy and climate legislation.  Enjoy!

Conservation: Putting away childish things

By Matt Dernoga

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

When I was a kid, I was under the impression that sheer willpower and a mandate from the universe would allow me to succeed at everything I attempted. Sure, I grew out of it once I became a teenager and the world gave me a reality check, but even in high school, I didn’t always put forth the necessary effort for schoolwork, athletics or other endeavors because of a gut feeling that circumstances would work out for me regardless of my actions. It sounds so silly looking back a few more reality checks later, but I guess that’s called growing up.

What has been scary to me is that our collective approach and attitude toward environmental and energy policy has been equally as childish. We have this illusion that technology will solve all of our abuses to this planet and its ecosystems that sustain us, regardless of their magnitude or scope. But today as we helplessly watch the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, we can all acutely feel what I learned in my younger years.

It’s that sense that nothing and no one is bulletproof, not even us. Everything has limits and everything has a breaking point. The technological capacity of our government and the private sector to solve this crisis before the entire Gulf of Mexico is a dead zone just isn’t there, and that’s more than devastating to the entire gulf region. It shakes our psyche to the core. What if we can’t fix it? What if there’s no going back?

This goes far behind the offshore drilling disaster in the Gulf.  It’s estimated that human activity is contributing to 27,000 species extinctions per year, versus the natural rate of 10 to 100. They aren’t coming back. We’re rapidly depleting our coal and oil resources and we can’t explore new reserves forever, unless you think the technology of the energy companies is infallible. Looking at the gulf, we certainly can’t explore safely. Given that we’re in the process of taking all the carbon stored in the Earth’s crust and releasing it into the atmosphere, I’m afraid we can’t fix our climate once it descends into chaos.

But this doesn’t have to be a downtrodden march toward the cliff before we jump. Doing nothing will take us to a place we don’t want to go. Taking ownership over our mistakes and making bold, tough moves to correct them can put us in charge of the endgame. Yes, personal change is important, but right now the best thing we as Americans can do is make clear to our elected officials that we’re ready to change course.

The House of Representatives has already passed clean energy and climate legislation that would begin a shift away from fossil fuels. The Senate is currently considering whether to take up similar legislation called the American Power Act. Both need to be stronger.

There are a lot of problems out there, and time is limited until the midterms. After the Memorial Day recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama are going to lift their fingers in the air and gauge whether this is the year we do it. They need to hear us tell them the truth that’s bursting from underneath the gulf and settling in our national conscience.

This gulf disaster is our reality check. It’s time to grow up.

Matt Dernoga graduated in May with a degree in government and politics. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com.



  1. […] from The Dernogalizer Share and […]

    Pingback by Opinion Column “Conservation: Putting away childish things” | CCAN Blog — June 3, 2010 @ 11:53 am | Reply

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by UMD for Clean Energy, Matt Dernoga. Matt Dernoga said: My Op-Ed on the #oilspill #oilpocalypse and how we need to pass a #climatebill now to make this #ourdecade […]

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