The Meaning of Opportunity

Merriam-Webster defines opportunity as: a favorable juncture of circumstances; a good chance for advancement or progress.

Few things seem to be going right in the this country at the moment: the economy is still weak, the oil spill continues to devastate communities along the Gulf, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to drain our country’s resources without much progress, the social fabric of this country feels frayed and divided.  It would seem that our only shining bright moment was Landon Donovan’s goal in the World Cup yesterday.

It would seem that way if you simply focus on the headlines. Amidst the bad news is an underlying narrative that the current trajectory is not working.  And when something is not working, it is time for a change.

The pessimistic conventional wisdom would tell a story like this: Eventually the oil spill will be stopped, tighter safety regulation on the oil and coal industries may pass to appease public outrage, but we will continue to throw billions of dollars overseas each year for oil, we will continue to drill and mine and frack our communities for the energy beneath them, while energy companies continue to make record profits.   Superficial changes will be politically popular but will do little to change our dysfunctional energy system.  Then the next energy crisis will hit.

Here in Utah, it would seem that this story is playing out. In response to the Gulf oil catastrophe, Utah Governor Gary Herbert released an energy plan where he asked: “Why are we drilling in the middle of the ocean where there is extreme environmental risk when we could be meeting the demand for domestic production from on‐shore development in areas with minimal environmental risk such as Utah?”

Two days later, an oil spill in Salt Lake City dumped 33,000 gallons of oil into a creek that runs through neighborhoods, parks and eventually drains into the Great Salt Lake.

Further, Utah stands poised to adopt the injudicious honor of opening the first tar sands mine in the country.

But like the shining moment of Landon Donovan’s goal yesterday, our country has the opportunity to follow a different story. This year’s litany of coal mine disasters, natural gas explosions and oil spills are forcing Americans to face the question: how much longer are we willing to continue our dependence fossil fuels? As a result of these highly visible and truly unfortunate disasters, public opinion has shifted, recognizing that not only is offshore drilling unsafe but that we need to make the switch to cleaner, safer energy sources.

An opportunity is not a guarantee that change will happen.

Now is the time to call for bolder changes than we have before.  Now is the time to break the myth that drilling and mining and fracking are safe ways to get our energy.  Now is the time to stop the viral growth of tar sands extraction, here in Utah and around the country.  Now is the time to stop subsidizing these destructive industries and kickstart our economy again with investment in clean energy technologies.

As thousands gather on Saturday in Hands Across the Sand events across the country, it is critical that we not only call for an end to offshore drilling, but boldly tell the story of a country that can buck the corrupting stranglehold the fossil fuel industries hold on our nation and can build an economy that values innovation, community revitalization and a cleaner, brighter future.

We have an opportunity to redefine the narrative of this country.  Now is the time to do it.