One day last week (the afternoons can be a blur) I picked up T. from school, and took the kids to run an errand during the narrow margin of time we have before swim team practice. I realized that the van’s gas light was on. Maybe it had been on for some time, I didn’t know. It definitely was ON, though, in that insistent way that doesn’t bode well. But we were approaching our neighborhood and there are only two gas stations on the way to our house—both on opposite sides of the road, and both BP stations.
“How am I going to get gas? I wondered out loud.
“There’s a gas station!” T. pointed out helpfully, as we drove past the BP on our side of the road.
“We can’t stop there,” I said. “It’s a BP station.”
Then I had to explain, of course, why I didn’t feel right filling up at BP. I told the kids about the oil spill, and the clean-up, and the wide-spread devastating effects this would have for so many, many years to come.
L. listened thoughtfully. “BP should be drawn and quartered,” he said, melodramatically.
We talked some more about responsibility—both collective and individual. Then L. asked, “Mama, are we boycotting BP?”
I wasn’t sure how to answer. Were we? I was curious: was anyone else out there avoiding BP gas stations? Was this a helpful choice for families and individuals to make, or could it create more harm than good?
Curious about this, I did a little research online when we got home. The perspective on this, it seems, is divided neatly into two sides, as it often is in these situations. Many people out there argue that boycotts on the street level do no good. They argue, too, that boycotting BP could harm efforts to subsidize clean-up and to enable BP to compensate those harmed by the oil spill. Others argue that a boycott harms the franchise owners—the small businesspeople who are not directly connected with the oil company. Many franchise owners pay for the right to use the logo, but don’t even sell BP petroleum (of course you could argue that BP still receives some financial perks from this arrangement). But many out there are boycotting BP, in their own personal ways—maybe not because they feel this will result in a direct effect, but because they feel better—more responsible—by doing this.
I’m still not sure how I feel about this. But I know I will keep on bypassing BP stations while I sort it out—this just seems right to me. When thinking about what good—if any—can come from the BP spill, I fall on the side of those who urge us to use this tragic disaster as a way to think more about our choices when it comes to the environment, and nature conservancy. Maybe not buying BP gas won’t change a thing, but it’s a way to begin discussions with our children about the power of choice, and the importance of us all bearing collective responsibility for what we do to this earth.
What do you think? Are you still buying BP gas? How have you used this disaster as a "teaching moment" with your own children?