Act, Don't React
Don't boycott BP: It's not worth the energy
Does your soul scream in agony when you glimpse the green and white sunburst of that gas station on your daily commute?
Does your mind swirl with superlatives to better elaborate upon the BP acronym? With, oh, you know, such gems as "Big Problem," "Boneheaded People," "Brown Pelicans," or "Broken Pipe," for starters?
Does the arrangement of the alphabet's second letter next to the sixteenth letter keep you driving in search of a fuel stop bearing the Shell, Chevron, or, hell, even the Exxon logo, for criminy sakes?
If you've answered a booming, "YES!" to any of these questions, we have one request to make of you.
Our hearts are bleeding oil, too, you know. That murky body of Gulf water is our city's bread and butter. We'd do anything not to be inundated with such graphic images daily. We'd love to wake up to NPR reporting on something other than the wrecked careers of fishermen.
We'd even welcomea return of Bieber fever on Twitter (and that's saying quite a bit). Anything to replace the omnipresent oil spill in the otherwise jovial mix of banter about the vuvuzela, '80s movies made new, and ridiculous Internet memes.
A disaster of this magnitude and length is so out of place, so unnatural in our generally sheltered American existence. As a result, our reaction is an urgent and immediate desire to do something. Anything. We want it fixed by anyone, any way, any how.
But boycotting BP is not the answer to this grave problem.
They're all bad guys
So what if you've already adopted a staunch "No BP or bust!" campaign? Luckily, you have your choice of quite a few oil companies. This is America, after all.
Why, you could ease on up to Exxon. Well, wait one second. Newsweek reminds us of that little Exxon Valdez disaster, claiming, "The Valdez fisherman and other victims have still not been made whole."
What about sidling up to Shell? Shucks, sorry; there's those pesky human rights violations in Nigeria.
How about tackling Texaco? Tsk, it contaminates groundwater in Ecuador.
Chevron? It owns Texaco.
Hmmph. Looks like you're out of options. Why? Because no oil company emerges the patron saint of drill behavior, when you boil it down.
According to Mother Jones, avoiding BP doesn't necessarily mean you've avoided BP, either. "Fuel from other gas stations that don't bear the BP logo may well be coming from BP wholesalers and refineries," author Kate Sheppard writes. "And most of the BP-branded stations are owned by independent franchisees. That means I'm most likely hurting a small-time business person rather than the oil giant."
Living well is the best revenge
So when will BP get what it deserves? Gavan Fitzsimons, Duke University professor of marketing and psychology, told Mother Jones that the real impact is down the line.
Fitzsimons said that what matters is whether, in 20 years, people still feel queasy when they think about BP. What the children of the '80s loosely refer to as "The Exxon Effect," more or less. By that point, BP should really be feeling the wrath, whether you bought its gas in 2010 or not.
"The real change," Sheppard continued, "Happens when consumers talk to others about why they're rejecting BP and spread the sentiment more widely, and when people shape their decisions in the long-term."
Ah, the future. That elusive point in time that we can't see, we can't touch, and we aren't even sure if it's certain. But the point is sound — we must focus on what's next.
Whatever damage BP caused has tragically already been done (and continues to be done). Until we're cured of our oil addiction or are driving garbage-fueled DeLoreans, we, unfortunately, still need petroleum to power the primary forms of transportation in this country.
But that doesn't mean we ought to give BP the benefit of the doubt. Not by any means. We can, however, rally for a swift cessation to the endless gushing, push for tougher standards for offshore drilling, and sever our dependence on oil by developing alternative fuel options.
In short, we can make sure this never, ever happens again. We must make sure this never, ever happens again.
Passive anger and misdirected outrage aren't going to accomplish these goals. But guess what? Action will. And a little faith in what goes around comes around will, too.