Friday, 28 May 2010

The big oily spill and responsibility

Being on holiday means I'm no where near following any news in any depth. The massive environmental disaster of the BP accident and subsequent oil spill is sidelines as are the floods in some parts of Germany and Poland. Yet my thoughts are revolving around the oil spill, without knowing much of the in and outs. I honestly don't know in how far BPs actions have worsened the situation or if anything could have been done by the company to avoid it or mitigate the effect. So firstly, I admit to being seriously ignorant in relation to the complexity of the situation.

However, I would still like to suggest to think again about the ease with which we are ready to blame one oil company and pass on all responsibility to them. As far as I can see, all oil companies are as bad as one another, they are in it for the big profit because at the end of the day, we are highly dependent on oil for our energy needs and food production as well as the production of throwaway tat and stuff. We wants it, readily available, at whatever cost. The oil companies and their behaviour is endorsed by our consumerism and dependency on oil. Shell destroyed great parts of Nigeria, specifically the Niger Delta - not just environmentally but also by changing the society, and taking away the traditional livelihoods without replacing them with anything sustainable. They created poverty, dependency and certainly didn't share the profit they made with the area they destroyed. Add to this cooperation with a military government who were happy to endulge in severe human rights abuses, backed with Shell money, and you have an unstable country at the heart of Africa.

So this time it's BP. And I find it hard to put blame on the company as I've done on Shell for the past 15 odd years (and the abuse is still going) because BP were just doing their job (while Shell could have really shown much better corporate responsibility), as any other oil producing company would. Somehow it seems that we are all to blame, because of our hunger for oil, for creating a monster we cannot control.

So who is responsible and who will and should deal with the consequences? Not an easy question and I don't claim to have an answer. It is important though to consider that this accident didn't happen in a vacuum but in a culture that endorses practices which have proven to have the potential for severe damage to our environment. We are all responsible for that culture - we the people who buy and use plastic, have our food mass produced and imported, have our cars and warm houses in cold climates. We share responsibility at the very least. Let's acknowledge this and consider how we as a global society take on that responsibility before we embark on the easy route of placing all responsibility and blame on BP.



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