More than 20 million gallons of oil have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico in the six weeks since the Deepwater Horizon oilrig exploded and sank. The oil leak, which is more like a geyser, is shaping up to be the biggest man-made disaster of all time in the U.S. — only the Gulf War and the Ixtox-1 spill in Mexico are greater.

The area being destroyed in Louisiana is one of the largest breeding grounds for wildlife on the Gulf coast.

This disaster, like its Exxon Valdez predecessor, is the result of humans viewing the Earth’s resources as an open door candy store, where the drive for economic growth and gluttony overrules any other consideration.

Ignorant

Sure there are the oil barons with their corporations and investors large and small.

But it is us, the sometimes willfully ignorant consumers, who buy and use and often prematurely throw away everything from plastic bags and toys to oversized vehicles and vessels.

It is we who make the oil industry possible, even necessary.

We in Bermuda are a small part of the planet but our appetites are bloated.

Our leaders thrive on and cater to conspicuous consumption. Our material success hides our stewardship failures.

We are driven to seek quantity of life, even at the expense of quality of life.

In so many ways we are not much different from the pigeons whose waste fouls their own nests, providing a breeding ground for the pests that weaken and kill them.

We are far more intelligent, by most measures, but our collective mindset says we are not much different. We in Bermuda did not pay much beyond spectator attention when the oilrig first caught fire, exploded and sank.

We found it easy to believe British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward when he said: “The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean.

“The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.”

When satellite photos showed the lagoon of oil-infected water to be spreading hundreds of miles toward the Florida Keys, we marvelled but were still sure we would not be affected.

Our thoughts of ocean currents ferrying a plume of oil-laden liquid out into the even larger Atlantic were moderated — first with the now disproven argument about any ocean being too big, and second with a sense of security that the Gulf Stream would shield our shores from harm.

We know now — some of us have always known — that while we are isolated, we are not invulnerable. We will be affected. Although the effect on Bermuda may be minute compared with that on the Gulf and surrounding land areas, we are going to feel the pinch.

Prices for oil and oil products will undoubtedly rise.

Prices for shrimp and other seafood products will rise.

Insurance and reinsurance liabilities borne by local and related companies will likely increase, although, in the perverse dynamics of the insurance economy, new oil-drilling related products will likely boost premiums.

The lesson for Bermuda is the same as for the rest of the world — we humans are capable of causing more damage than we know how to fix.

As smart as we are, we remain woefully oblivious to the destruction being waged on the earth by the ever-growing number of people and their ever-growing appetites.

This is where education has failed — and failed most here in Bermuda.

We have the good fortune to reside in one of the most beautiful places on the planet yet we seem unable to resist more — bigger and faster cars, bikes and trucks, greater consumption and waste production, more asphalt and concrete and fewer trees.

It is the same mentality that led to the oil spill. How many mirrors will we have to look into before we finally see ourselves?