The Gulf Spill and Big Oil's Legacy of Corporate Unaccountability

By Julie Clawson 5-10-2010

So the latest Nick & Josh Podcast is up and it's a round table discussion about the oil spill with Joshua Case, Ben Lowe, Tom Sine, and myself. The four of us discussed the (lack of a) Christian response to the oil spill in the gulf of Mexico as well as other issues facing American Christianity's move toward more actively caring for creation.

As I say in the podcast, I truly hope this oil spill serves as a wake-up call for the U.S. While I fear it may be a news blip that captures our attention for a moment and then the real clean-up gets left to the handful of people who really care, I still have a bit of hope that it will force us to open our eyes to the need to rely less on oil. We all use oil, we all are to blame for demanding cheap oil in this country. We have a responsibility in this incident that we should own up to. I hope as responsible human beings we will be willing to make the sacrifices and changes necessary to turn away from environmentally hazardous sources of energy.

I hope too that Americans will use our outrage and voice to ensure BP is held accountable to clean up the mess they created as well. When incidents like this have occurred in other areas of the world, the major oil companies have often evaded any responsibility for their destruction of local environments and economies. I mention in Everyday Justice how ChevronTexaco has destroyed the Niger River Delta through similar oil spills and toxic fallout from their refineries. When local women there could no longer make a living fishing (as they had for generations) because of the pollution, they protested and asked Chevron to clean up the mess they had made. Chevron hired local mercenaries to deal with the protest who ended up killing some of the women and burning their boats. Courts later decided that Chevron was not responsible for the actions of the mercenaries they hired. While these multinational companies have so far gotten away with pollution and atrocities in third world nations, perhaps the tide will shift now that the U.S. is affected. Granted, poor fishermen and Louisiana natives are not high on our country's priority list (as seen by the response to Katrina), but at least there might be slightly stricter legal pressure to hold BP accountable in this situation. Or, at least, one can always hope.

So if you're interested in exploring these topics further, download the podcast and join in on the conversation.

Julie Clawson is the author of Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices (IVP 2009). She blogs at and

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