Small repercussions of the Gulf oil spill


Though we spend much of our time on more or less eco-related activities, my huband and I don’t actually have a lot of discussions about environmental issues. We know we agree on a lot of stuff—climate change is real, composting is good, cheap plastic products are bad. The Gulf oil spill, though, has entered our conversations simply because it’s so distressing. We’re both really horrified by what’s happening down there, and we both see larger ramifications beyond this event. Our whole energy system is implicated.

Meanwhile, daily life goes on. We’re working on refinishing the floor in one of our bedrooms, and we have choices about what product to put down on the newly sanded pine. Our two main contenders are Waterlox and pure tung oil. The former is somewhat less expensive, it’ll go down in a snap, and it will be waterproof. It’s based in tung oil, but it contains petroleum-derived mineral spirits. The alternative, pure tung oil, is straight from the Chinese tung tree. It will be a royal pain in the arse to apply, and the finish could be water-damaged even after it cures. But it’s totally free of VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

So, as usual, we weigh our options. Will the petroleum products contained in one gallon of Waterlox determine the fate of the oil industry or the planet? The answer to that question is beside the point. As my husband put it, if we’re going to talk about how we’re disgusted by fossil fuels, then we should use and support the alternatives where we can. None of this is simple (consider, for example, the fuel used in transporting either of these products). But his formulation feels right to me.