New Internationalist

Why I told BP to disclose its interplanetary spaceship

I decided to stay dead and let security carry me out of the hall, while others in the group were dragged, escorted, or explained that they’d be happy to move of their own free will as soon as BP pulled out of the tar sands.

I tried cheerfully explaining to shareholders as I passed that numerous studies have shown that it would be perfectly possible for everyone on the planet to have a good quality of life without the use of fossil fuels. I’m not sure if their grins were in response to this statement, the stunt we’d just pulled, or the fact that one of our group was still loudly refusing to move until he got his ticket for the space pod.

We’re so used to having to deal with corporations as though they’re huge, formless beasts. The Annual General Meeting is one of the rare opportunities we get to put some human faces on the corporate monster, and look them in the eyes. Before our sudden attack of climate death, representatives from Gulf Coast communities had stood up in the meeting and delivered powerful testimony to the Board, explaining that BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster had not been cleaned up: oil and dead wildlife were still washing up on the beaches, people’s health and livelihoods were still wrecked, and BP’s supposed compensation fund simply wasn’t reaching the people who need it most.

Their statements were followed by a challenge from Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Indigenous Environmental Network, who pointed out that a legal challenge over treaty rights by the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in Canada was threatening to render all of BP’s tar sands leases illegal; did the company have a contingency plan for this? In response, the Board just reeled out some prepared statements that completely ignored the questions.

The combination of all of this led to blanket press coverage the next day, from The Guardian to The New York Times to The Financial Times and even The Sun. Add this to the hilarious anti-BP Olympics website hijack from the previous day, and the ‘Greenwash Gold’ event on 16 April where BP has been nominated for an award for worst Olympic sponsor, and it all equals a very bad media week for one of the planet’s biggest and most destructive corporations. Expect more of this sort of thing as the Olympics get closer…

The BP AGM action was coordinated by the UK Tar Sands Network. We’ll be doing it all again for the Shell AGM on 22 May, which is happening simultaneously in London and the Hague. Why not join us? Contact us for more information and to get involved.

Photos: top- Abode of Chaos under a CC Licence; middle- Carl-Henric Svanberg and Torben Grael under a CC Licence; bottom- by the UK Tar Sands Network.

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About the author

Danny Chivers is a climate change researcher, activist and performance poet. He is the author of the New Internationalist's The No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change: The science, the solutions, the way forward.

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