The BP oil disaster - and us.
Who was to blame for the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster?
BP was clearly guilty of taking risks and the US government must shoulder some responsibility for allowing such risks to be taken. But should we also ask ourselves why BP felt the need to put its people and the Gulf in such danger?
The reason is simple. Our civilisation, as it is presently constructed, needs oil to function and the world is near "peak oil" - the point at which oil will become harder and harder to find. If humanity does not wean itself off oil, oil companies will continue to take increasingly dangerous risks with our environment and the climate, as well as their shareholders' shares and dividends, in order to fulfil our need for oil.
So what should be our response to the Deep Horizon accident? As Christians how do we make sense of the suffering of all the creatures living within the Gulf ecosystem? - the out of work fishermen, the oil-covered turtles, and the sand and the sea? A suffering caused by our 'need' - or greed - for oil. If we believe in a compassionate and sustaining God how can we fulfil our mission, under God, to care for God's Earth?
We can campaign for greater environmental scrutiny of company strategies at www.fairpensions.org but we can also scrutinise our own lives. Living in a society so dependent on oil makes it impossible to give it up altogether, but we can all cut down. Oil of course fuels our transport, but is also used to make plastic and fertilisers. Cut right down on driving, flying and buying plastic and try to eat more local, organic and seasonal food.
The human and animal lives lost and blighted by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill will not have been in vain if the incident wakes us all up to the risks of oil exploration and the urgent necessity to move beyond petroleum.
Barbara Echlin and Ruth Jarman
See also this press release from ECCR- July 2010:
Following BP's Gulf of Mexico disaster, ECCR and many other human and environmental rights groups and civil society leaders have called for equivalent compensation to address the impact of oil spills in the Niger Delta.
BP has been grilled in Congress and rightly been forced to pledge billions of dollars in compensation to US communities, the international coalition says. But in the Niger Delta oil companies such as Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil have been largely responsible for decades of oil spills, destroying livelihoods and violating the human rights of local communities. Unlike victims in the US, villagers in Nigeria have had nowhere to turn for adequate remedies.
The coalition - which includes more than 40 Nigerian, UK, US and international organisations and individuals - is calling for Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan to oversee the establishment of an independent compensation body, funded by oil revenues, to address the impact of oil spills. It also advocates other measures such as early replacement of ageing pipelines and public reporting of all major spills, to halt and in time reverse environmental degradation in the Niger Delta.
ECCR joins civil society coalition urging action on oil spills in the Niger Delta