BP Oil Disaster: What The Hell Do We Do?

June 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

I want to destroy BP.

(But before you close this page thinking I’m some kind of nut, I want to take down the entire dirty energy system – so it’s nothing personal.)

For me, it’s not the constant plume of oil being thrust into the ocean, nor the sight of a dying pelican unable to lift it’s own beak out of the oil, nor even the death of eleven hardworking men that really makes me mad. Each of these are tragic, but sadly not unusual in our global energy supply chain. (Though if you haven’t, take a moment and read the names of the men who died. Two of them were my age.)

What makes me so upset and angry about this, is that BP is breaking the law – and getting away with it. They’re bullies, pure and simple.

Others have listed the endless cases of flagrant disregard BP has for legalities, and the absurd amounts of money it continues to make. This exposé in Rolling Stone magazine demonstrates particularly well BP’s criminal record in cutting corners on safety and breaking environmental regulations. Keith Harrington has gone so far as to write a piece describing how BP can be classified as a psychopath. Nice.

We get it, they’ve broken the rules and they’ve hurt people. But it’s nastier than that.

While breaking the law, they project an image which made even me warm to them. The endless ‘beyond petroleum’ farce, the greenwash about clean energy, the sponsorship of artistic events and donations to conservation organisations – despite our better judgement, it works. And continues. When BP writes that, ‘the response to this incident is our top priority‘, that’s simply not true. Their top priority – legally – is to make as much money as possible. Sure, right now it’s in their interest to be seen to be doing everything they can to stop the oil gushing into the ocean, but can we seriously expect for their ‘top priority’ to remain the local communities, wildlife and ocean when the media has moved on? Right.

So what the hell do we do?

The US government is going to take them to court (how’s that for a $3.5 million campaign donation thank-you present?), as are scores of other groups and individuals. We’ve seen a mini-moratorium on offshore-drilling (big whoop), there’s also much discussion in the CSR and PR world on ‘how to handle this type of crisis’ (even bigger whoop). We’ve seen hundreds of candle-lit vigils and more local actions to come, and some great advocacy work by NGOs and pressure groups. But in the face of getting our global economy off fossil fuels, the enormity of what needs to be done can crush any hope this gives us.

Maybe that’s why the @BPGlobalPR twitter account has been so successful. We’re able to laugh at the bully – from a safe distance. We can humiliate them, which makes us feel powerful, when in reality, we’re not.

For something so damaging, that is destroying so much – we need to be able to blame someone to make sense of it. Does that mean we can demonise the individuals involved at the top level of BP? They certainly didn’t want this to happen. As Tony Hayward, BP CEO, indicated, ‘I’d like my life back.’ But if we can’t blame them – who the hell takes responsibility? And not just a Tiger-Woods-style-I’m-sorry-and-I-won’t-be-taking-questions kind of apology. Who is going to pay? Who is going to jail?

This is the central problem with the current corporate structure. Shareholders and top-level employees can reap the reward of financial success, but when the shit hits the fan?


Ultimately, BP is just one company at the center of our failed energy system. This disaster is just one disaster. Toxic substances flowing into rivers that should provide clean water, are not ‘disasters’ in the Niger Delta or the Albertan Athabasca river – that’s business as usual. And Chevron, Shell, BP, StatOil and just about every other oil company is part of that.

So I’ve reached a point where I don’t see how we can stop this type of shit happening, without overhauling the corporate system and changing the rules.

And part of that is to stop seeing BP as a company – but as a collection of individuals.

So you know what, BP people – this is personal. How could it not be?

And yeah, I still want to destroy your business.

Perfect Friday Afternoon Music

June 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

The perfect sound for the end of the week. Sun, good people, good times.

Loving The Enemy

June 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Crossposted from the Futerra blog.

The world is always easier when there is a binary choice. ‘You’re either with us, or your against us.’ It’s the same with climate change, where we often look for the simple division between believers and deniers.

I’ve spent the last couple of hours reading a series of climate-sceptic blogs, and it’s been quite insightful. Perhaps unlike most environmentally conscious individuals, I am confident in my own knowledge of climate systems, feedback effects, and the science of climate-hotspots like the Arctic. I know how difficult it is to predict the effects of scientific findings fifty years into the future, and I accept that the IPCC made some stupid mistakes this last year. But I went into my blog exploration full in the confidence that these people were nuts.

Naturally, most of what I read I disagreed with. I found it factually incorrect, full of bias, and some smatterings of personality-driven nastiness. But I didn’t expect that I would end up liking most of the authors.

Seriously, I’m not kidding.

The people who dedicate their time to advocate for something they passionately believe in are interesting – and interested. They’re funny, articulate, and will sometimes have a really sensible point. (How about this one for starters – want to have a look at who took more money from BP over the last 5 years, environmental organisations and projects, or pro-oil lobbyists..?)

Sure, the design is often lacking some clarity, and there’s a lot of ‘the whole world is against us’, but there’s plenty of that amongst environmental advocates too! (Not looking at anyone in particular.)

I know I’m not going to convince these people that building a clean energy economy will be good for us all in the end, and I’m perfectly fine for them to think of me as some crazed hippie, but I feel I’ve got a little closer to understanding why some people in my life struggle to embrace our climate message. And that can only be a good thing.

Go on, have a read of No Frakking Consensus, Watts Up With That and Climate Depot. I challenge you to see if you don’t end up wanting to invite them round for a cup of tea.

Meet Leeroy Stick, The Man Behind @BPGlobalPR

June 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

@BPGlobalPR has become addictive reading in the last couple of weeks. Both entertaining and full of emotion, the unknown author has passed the 100,000 followers mark and is destroying BP’s media narrative.

After a couple of PR people started discussing how to ‘handle’ him, he wrote this masterpiece. The entire thing is quotable, you really should read it in it’s entirity, but here’s a taster.

‘Do you want to know what BP should do about me?  Do you want to know what their PR strategy should be?  They should fire everyone in their joke of a PR department, starting with all-star Anne Womack-Kolto and focus on actually fixing the problems at hand.  Honestly, Cheney’s publicist?  That’s too easy.’


June 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

My colleague at Futerra Sustainability Communications, the fabulous Natalya Sverjensky, runs the funniest and most insightful blogs on corporate responsibility.

Her site, Eco-Gems, will make you laugh out loud. And never want to write a CSR report again.

Where Am I?

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