From a technical standpoint, BP has botched nearly every aspect of the Gulf oil spill — from malfunctioning equipment and lax operational protocols to undeployed booms, failed containment attempts, and banned dispersants. Even the act of simply cleaning up the oil was called into question when BP hired untrained fisherman, provided no safety gear and then asked them to sign liability waivers.
There are almost a hundred reasons to hate the oil giant. But it’s in the arena of corporate communications that BP has astonished with a list of epic foot-in-mouth insertions:
The company continues to misinform the public about the quantity of oil leaking into the Gulf; they said Americans are to blame for driving too much; they rejected help from scientists; they blocked journalists from documenting the spill; they made moronic statements like “the ocean can absorb a lot,” then colluded with local sheriff’s offices to threaten photographers with arrest documenting the oil — all textbook examples of how NOT to handle a corporate communications “situation” like the Gulf spill.
And then there are the repeated gaffes by BP CEO Tony Hayward — his jocularity at the initial Congressional hearings, out-of-touch sentiments like “I want my life back” and now a horrendously timed $50 million ad campaign aimed at making the soulless corporation appear caring (when it should be spending funds on immediate aid to a region in crisis).
It’s not surprising that an entire nation has been brought together in unified condemnation of BP, giving birth to a bipartisan, anti-BP movement that has many different expressions. Here are the top 10 protests — both online and real-world — that are gaining the quickest traction:
Shortly after the Gulf spill occurred, 350.org — a leading international climate advocacy group — started a Facebook page calling for a full moratorium on offshore drilling. They are growing steadily with 135,000 fans and counting.
Unquestionably the fastest-growing online movement, Boycott BP started as a Facebook group and is now expanding to multiple international websites. The ask is simple — boycott all BP stations including Castrol, Arco, Aral and AM/PM. Last week they had 350,000 followers, this week they’re at 450,000. (Photo: Johann Lammer, New York)
They say the fiercest weapon is a sharp wit and in this case, the satirical twitter feed @BPGlobalPR may be one of the best (and certainly the funniest) online protest against the evildoing oil giant. With tweets like: “Taking the day off to go fish fighting with the boys. Tony Hayward punched a dolphin so hard it puked!” how can you not feel at least a little vindicated?
On June 4, a coalition on nonprofit organizations including Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Energy Action Coalition, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 350.org and the Center for Biological Diversity gathered in D.C. to make a “citizen’s arrest” of an effigy of BP CEO Tony Hayward. They are now calling for a three-month boycott of BP.
June 12 will mark a worldwide protest of BP and the corporate irresponsibility they have come to represent. Also being organized on Facebook, the group now has commitments for a march in 33 cities. They have recently aligned with Boycott BP and will be endorsing the boycott.
You have to love the brave, nude and impassioned Code Pink Women for Peace. On May 21, they led a colorful and bawdy march at BP headquarters in Houston, Texas, and are calling for a boycott of BP and ARCO stations.
One small group of activists has gained international press attention for promoting the strongest (and most outlandish) demand — they want the U.S. government to seize all of BP’s assets and use them to pay back the damages from the oil spill. Not likely … but they make their point! Seize BP rallies are happening all week long.
Change.org is putting forth a less histrionic put infinitely more strategic call to action: push the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recommend a full "discretionary debarment" of BP, which means no more U.S. government contracts, no new leases in the U.S., and all existing leases cancelled. Due to BP’s lengthy criminal record, the EPA was already investigating the possibility for debarment and it is expected the agency will open the issue to public comment in the near future.
For some reason the big environmental nonprofits like NRDC, Nature Conservancy, WWF, even Al Gore’s well-funded Alliance for Climate Protection have been noticeably quiet about the oil spill for reasons that elude even the most astute political observers. Finally, the Sierra Club has issued a “wake-up call” — that it is time to get off oil now, before it is too late. Michael Brune, the new head of the Sierra Club, gives a firsthand account of his trip to the Gulf and what we can do to loosen Big Oil’s grip on American energy policy.
A simple idea dreamed up by a Florida resident several months before the Gulf oil spill, Hands Across the Sand is growing into a full-fledged movement of people from nearly every state who are sending a plea to President Obama and to Congress: it’s time for a full moratorium on offshore drilling with funding for safe, renewable alternatives. The poetic imagery of thousands holding hands in a protective embrace of our oceans will emerge on June 26, the national Hands Across the Sand day of protest.
I’m sure there are many more. If you find ones that I’ve missed, please include the links below.