More Bark than Bite


“A weak man, to escape from his own mental fears, will whistle to himself in the dark.” Swami Chinmayananda

At an individual level the quote above resonates deeply with me. When I know I have made a mistake I tend to desperately seek the guidance of others and feel the need to chatter on about my problems, usually to avoid confronting myself and seeking answers from within. Upon more reflection I think this is true of many companies and indeed countries when it comes to their environmental agendas.

British Petroleum (BP) is a classic example. How an oil company can use the slogan “beyond petroleum” is beyond me. While it is true that BP has committed to invest $8 billion in alternative energy by 2015, this seems miniscule for a company who has made $85 billion in profit predominantly from oil extraction and production over the last 5 years. Furthermore it is investing far larger amounts in the exploration of oil. In 2011, when memories from the spill in the Gulf of Mexico were still raw, BP announced a potential multi billion dollar deal to explore for oil in the arctic with Russia’s Rosneft, but the deal collapsed. Since then, it has also announced that it will be investing £4bn to develop one of the North Sea’s largest oilfields off Shetland. This hardly seems like they are going “beyond petroleum” in any serious manner.

Similarly, many industrialised countries like the US, have been demonising China and India for their apparent lack of environmental standards, even though their own standards are slack. In the US, on average, 20 metric tonnes of CO2 per capita is released into the atmosphere annually, China by comparison has per capita emissions closer to 5 metric tonnes and India’s population emits 1.5 tonnes per capita. However it was their neighbour Canada who withdrew from the Kyoto protocol in Durban and they themselves who continue to refuse to ratify it. Additionally China is amongst the world’s largest investors in renewable energy, leading the way in solar and wind power.

Reporting on a company’s environmental credentials and also highlighting failures of companies and indeed nations, is undoubtedly important. It can be used as a tool to educate consumers about their consumption habits and inspire other companies to follow suit. Similarly publicising inadequacies in national environmental legislations of countries can put pressure on governments to clean up their act. However, something that I am starting to learn more and more is that we must be weary of those companies and countries who shout loudest about their investments or point blame at others since these are usually the ones who have more bark than bite when it comes their own environmental commitments.


One response to “More Bark than Bite

  1. For the most part, i would agree with the direction of your argument. However…without presenting the other side (if only to compare-and-contrast) you open yourself up to accusations of bias. Take a look at the progress that HAS been made, if only to humour me 🙂

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