Essay: Environmental disaster – BP Oil spill

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  • Subject area(s): Environmental studies essays
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  • Published on: January 28, 2019
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  • Environmental disaster - BP Oil spill
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Deep ecology goes beyond a limited shallow approach to environmental issues. It offers a comprehensive philosophical framework that argues the core values of social work and its conventional ecological models must be extended to support the new realities of the environmental crises (Besthorn, 2012). Deep ecology is the ‘cultivation of ecological consciousness’ (McLaughlin, 1987, p.2), the belief that there is no ontological divide in the field of existence and no separation in reality between the human and non-human realm (Fox, 1984).
In the immediate aftermath of the oil-spill, BP was quick to blame Transocean – the owners of the drilling rig that caught fire and exploded. The company’s attempt to reduce forthcoming repercussions by passing on the blame highlights how BPs primary concern remained their reputation and profitability, rather than prioritizing the environment in an instance as detrimental as this. Beyond BP’s half-hearted approach taken to mitigate the spill, it was discovered BP had compromised numerous safety procedures during the excavation of the well found to be responsible for the 2010 oil spill. By leaving a test valve on the blowout preventer and turning it upside down, BP avoided having to withdraw the pipe for testing – saving $260,000 with each test (Cherry & Sneirson, 2010). If BP had followed correct procedures and not cut-corners for the sake of profit maximization – excavation procedures would have been carried out correctly and prevented the spill from ever occurring. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was not an isolated incident however, as demonstrated by the company’s appalling track record of safety violations [Appendix 1].

Through BP’s attempt to pass the blame, a lacklustre approach to remedy the spill and numerous other environmental disasters the company was already held accountable for, it’s apparent that BP had a complete disregard for the environment. Seemingly, environmentally destructive corporations like BP pose as friends of the environment solely in an attempt to preserve and expand their markets (Bruno & Karlinger, 2002). This reflects how BP’s benevolence was limited to areas that would be profitable for the firm’s shareholders and did not engage in CSR beyond that level (Cherry & Sneirson, 2010). This shallow ecological approach to environmental matters is a reflection of humanity’s instrumentalist view of nature. The mainstream shallow worldview tries to ensure business as usual through the advocation of green marketing, where the central objective remains the benefit and affluence of humans (Naess, 2001).

BP’s reaction to the oil spill relates to the idea of anthropocentrism – the idea that humans have dominance over nature. The lack of urgency exhibited highlights the concept that humans see nature to be at our disposal – to be exploited for mankind’s benefit. We see ourselves as separate and disconnected from our embodied experiences in the natural world (Baard, 2015). It is this egocentric perspective that is fundamentally to blame for environmental disasters. Transnational corporations do not have any recognition of the intrinsic value of all life forms – where the richness and diversity of life should be protected for its own sake, regardless of instrumental value (Baard, 2015). It is as a result of this worldview that the economic imperialism of large transnational corporations is driving the loss of global biodiversity (Besthorn, 2012). For as long as this extrinsic, egocentric worldview persists, shallow scientific environmentalism will remain insufficient and continue to fail at the task of meaningful, long-term social change. As such, TNCs need to move away from this extrinsic viewpoint and see nature beyond its monetary value – to see nature for its own regard.

Moving to an ecocentric worldview where the biosphere becomes the main focus of concern would replace the fragmentary view with the idea that everything is interdependent (Madsen, 2016). Only with an ideological shift from an extrinsic to intrinsic viewpoint will oil companies such as BP refrain from ‘cutting-corners’ at the environments expense.

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