Do You Believe Oil Is Lighter Than Love?

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has engineers scrambling, environmentalists screaming through their tears, biologists getting their rubber gloves and cleaning supplies ready, the military finally being put to some good use, BP stockholders selling, fisherman learning how to be oil skimmers instead of shrimpers, and—over at Religion Dispatches, Peter Laarman asking, in “Our Lethal Lust for Money,” “Do we really even like the way we’re living?” It’s a Buddha-killing question. His inquiry inspired a few of my own.

What do you believe in? Do you believe that everything comes at a cost? How much are you willing to pay for a pound of shrimp? What about a gallon of gas? Two dollars? Five dollars? Ten dollars? Would you pay a bit more if you knew the goddamn safety valve would work to cap an underwater well in the unlikely event of an accident? Do you believe in rescue efforts, oil daubed from the wings of birds? Do you believe in science, the ability to sit upon the undulating waves and use remote controls to send robots a mile down with the goal of capping a well releasing thousands of barrels of crude oil per day? Do you think the rays of the sun can save us? Do you believe that Don Quixote really believed his windmills were anything but windmills? Do you believe that a broken soul can heal? A broken bayou? A broken planet? Do you think the planet is broken? Do you think it matters if humans as a species survive forever? If daughters no longer become mothers? Do you believe in wishes made with a coin toss? Do you believe in God? Who do you think is in control? Do you think anyone’s in control? Do you agree that we all have blood on our hands? Do you believe gravity is just another law that The Man invented to keep us down? Do you believe that blood is thicker than water? Oil lighter than love?

Meera Subramanian is an editor of Killing the Buddha and writes about the environment and culture for Nature, InsideClimate News, Virginia Quarterly Review, Orion, and others. Her first book is A River Runs Again: A Natural History of India from the Barren Cliffs of Rajasthan to the Farmlands of Karnataka (PublicAffairs, 2015). Visit her at