Vets and Greens v. Oil and Shameless Consumerism: Brawl of the Week

This morning, the Seattle Times led the front page with a photo of a pelican struggling in the oily muck formerly known as the Gulf of Mexico. With the BP spill hitting the coast of Florida, members of the Sierra Club and two veterans gathered at Gasworks Parks to insist that the city, county and state do more to improve public transportation (yes, that's partly a dig at the tunnel). They also called on Congress to pass laws capping carbon emissions, forcing businesses and individuals to be more energy efficient and burn less fossil fuel.

Environmentalists and vets don't traditionally see eye-to-eye, but with regard to our dependence on oil they have common cause. The Sierra Club wants a greener environment; the vets don't want to keep guarding derricks in the Middle East. So they've joined forces to fight the likes of big oil and our addiction to the stuff.

Here are each sides' best punches:

Vets and Greens:

* Horrifying imagery. In keeping with the theme of paralleling the gulf oil spill and the wars in that other gulf, former Navy SEAL James Marvin said he sees the pelican on the front page of the Times as a metaphor. "The pelican covered in oil, maybe it's your friend with a hole in his stomach the size of a basketball," he said. Everyone who drove to Gasworks felt immediate remorse for doing so.

* Don't support the terrorists. Following Marvin's lead, Dorsol Plants, a former city council candidate and veteran of two tours in Iraq, described getting ambushed on one of his tours only to discover that the enemy firing on him used U.S.-made weapons. He suspects the guns were purchased with money coming into the country from oil sales. Every time you fill your tank, he said, you're financially supporting enemy combatants "that are killing your sons and daughters."

Oil and Shameless Consumerism:

* But oil lets us do things that are so awesome! While Marvin was speaking, a seaplane took off, forcing him to stop for a minute. Sierra Club staffer Doug Howell pointed to it. "Fueled by oil," he said. But be honest, how many of us don't wish we were on a seaplane bound for the San Juans or some other gorgeous, remote locale?

The Odds-on Favorite:

It's almost certain that we'll eventually have cleaner transportation in the form of both more efficient cars and more expansive public transit. And visions of dead pelicans and soldiers are certainly going to push us there faster. But the likelihood we'll dramatically cut back our consumption of black gold in the near future is 5 - 1 against, unless someone invents economically practical solar-powered seaplanes.

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