Petrosabbath

Posted on Friday, April 21st, 2006 at 8:07 am by JTE

I ran into Tim Matson last night in Hanover and we talked briefly about my recent posting on the pros and cons of boycotting ExxonMobil. He mentioned an alternative boycott proposal he heard about while in upstate New York, the idea being to have one day a week (or a month, or whatever) during which we all aim to boycott all purchases of gasoline. (Diesel too, presumably.) (Except maybe biodiesel should be excepted? Nah… we don’t want to undermine solidarity.)

So we didn’t talk long about it, but the idea does sound good, and much more likely to have some kind of meaningful effect. After all, the forces of global warming (please excuse me for anthropomorphizing a little) could care less if the oil we burn carries one corporate logo or another. To paraphrase the first president Clinton, “it’s the CO2, stupid!” More burnt petroleum, more atmospheric CO2, more climate change.

But the short term economics are important too, and any sufficiently Intelligent Designer knows that the brains at petroleum HQ have intelligent designs on your wallet.

A selective boycott of one company won’t help with either case. Both are driven (would you think less of me if the pun were intended?) by the overall volume of consumption demand; and both problems can be alleviated by reducing consumption.

And so, for the first time (on this blog), and with thanks to Tim for the notion, I’d like to announce the Petrosabbath: once a week, we all take a rest from petroleum. Would it be possible to combine it with the traditional religious sabbath? For the Christians among us (Seventh Day Adventists, excepted), that’d make for Saturday, whoops, I mean Sunday (curses! my secret Jewish identity revealed!). It might be hard to do that way since so many churchgoers live beyond walking distance from their house of worship. So then maybe that does mean Saturday after all. Orthodox Jews are already on board with this one.

(I’d like to take a moment to mention that the reason frum Jews don’t drive on the sabbath is not, as the urban legends suggest, because a car is metaphorically like a work animal, which according to the rules you are not supposed to make work during the day of rest, but because you are not supposed to make a fire during the day of rest and there’s fire in the car’s engine.)

I’m focusing on the weekend options because at this point in time there’s just no way that any significant fraction of the population is going to be able to take a petrosabbath during the regular work week. A heck of a lot of us won’t be able to do it on the weekend either, since our increasingly low-wage economy has got so many people by the throat.

The beauty of this is that it also works hand in hand with the movement to simplify and slow down our overly hectic mega-modern lives.

That’s it. Spread the word. Petrosabbath: every Saturday from now on, no mopeds, cars, motorcycles, gas lawn mowers, gas weed wackers, gas snow blowers, buses, trains, power boats, or airplanes. If you think of others, add them to the list. Seriously, someone should print up some stickers or something, t-shirts, stuff like that. Like this

or this

Organize some petrosabbath Meetups, like maybe neighborhood meetups on the petrosabbath itself, whatever strikes your fancy. Keep at it until it works. Ideas welcome.

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