• Ian Sutton

Shakespeare and BP

Updated: Mar 21


People are quick to blame the oil companies for the pollution and waste associated with the extraction, refining and processing of crude oil. But the oil companies are merely agents — they would not be processing oil if we did not demand the products that they make for us. It is true that some of the oil company tactics to do with suppressing climate change information have been less than commendable. But the people who protest BP and the oil industry need to face up to the fact that we — all of us — are “to blame”. Oil  and natural gas are being extracted, refined, burned and turned into thousands of “essential” products because that is what we want and need in order to maintain our current lifestyle.


Here’s an example. Recently, the Royal Shakespeare Company decided to reject financial sponsorship from the oil giant BP, which had been providing tickets for young people at a deeply discounted priced of £5 (about $6). Do those who rejected the offer not recognize that a small, island nation cannot support 55-60 million people without an abundant supply of fossil fuels? The population of the British Isles during Shakespeare’s time was in the region of 5 million. Is it our goal to return to that population level? If so, how?


When I look at the picture of the inside of the theater I see floodlights powered by fossil fuel energy and I see people wearing clothes made of artificial fabrics derived from fossil fuels. Rather than protest BP, would it not be more effective to forbid the use of artificial light and to insist that the audience members wear only homespun clothes?

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