(This commentary is posted by Susan Stark, a guest here who crashes on Ted’s virtual couch now and then. I haven’t been here in a while, so I thought I’d stop by again.)
Whenever a disaster strikes as a result of corporate malfeasance, there is particular argument that well-meaning people make that annoys me, mainly because it’s not completely true. Take this New York Times letter to the editor:
In “BP’s Responsibility” (editorial, June 12), you say that while a possible total bill of $40 billion for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is breathtaking, the “destruction BP has wrought is even more so.” Like so much commentary on the disaster, this focuses blame wholly on the oil company.
Undoubtedly BP is responsible, but so are all of us who drive cars, travel by plane or consume goods produced and shipped with oil. If we didn’t use it, BP wouldn’t drill for it. Until we recognize that demand for oil is as much the problem as supply, and start to change the way we live to reduce it, environmental destruction is inevitable.
We are all BP.
I beg to differ. This type of argument is something that actually works in the favor of corporations like BP, because it essentially lets them off the hook for what they do. It allows them to say, essentially, that “We are just giving the people what they want, don’t blame us for the result”.
But even if it’s true that we are responsible because we consume oil, we are not all equally responsible. Someone who drives an SUV or any other gas-guzzler is more responsible than someone who takes public transportation. A person who jacks up the thermostat in winter is more responsible than someone who wears extra layers of clothing. If you use air-conditioner rather than a fan, then you are more responsible for these types of disasters than if you chose the fan.
But the people who are the most responsible are the members of the corporate “personhood” of BP. They made the decision to cut safety procedures in order maximize profit. They made the decision to forgo obtaining a kill switch which would have prevented the disaster, merely because it would’ve cost them five hundred grand (which is a drop in the bucket for a multinational oil company like BP).
So yes, we are all responsible, but not equally. BP is the most responsible, and needs to pay for what they did.