BP: Taking Us “Beyond Petroleum”?

Ethical Markets Poetry by Hazel Henderson

A Practical Visionary Perspective

© 2010 by Corinne McLaughlin

When BP changed its name from “British Petroleum” to “Beyond Petroleum” some years ago to promote its new division for renewable energy, did the company have any idea about the dramatic role it would later play? Did BP realize what it would mean today when its earlier ads said, “We bring oil to American shores”? It literally has! But thankfully, BP has now catalyzed an urgent demand across the nation to truly go “beyond petroleum” for our future energy needs and end the era of fossil fuel dependency.

But will we also recognize BP’s karmic role in linking the Gulf War (which is really about oil) — to the Gulf Oil spill—through the “coincidence” of their names? We need to look at the symbolism of names, as it often reveals deeper connections and meaning. We need a more visionary approach to both Gulf oil crises that would ask deeper questions and engage in a whole systems, spiritual dialogue.

The BP oil spill has made the downside of our overdependence on oil more obvious– through the tragedies caused in both Gulfs—the destruction of human life and economies in the Middle East Gulf and the destruction of wildlife and economies in the U.S. Gulf. BP is providing us with an opportunity for major re-evaluation and transformation if we become more visionary.

A practical visionary approach to cleaning the oil spill would include innovative, organic solutions, such as bio-remediation using mats made of hair and fungal mycelia (oyster mushrooms) which catch and break down the oil, as shown in the San Francisco Bay oil spill two years ago. The EPA is studying the work of Paul Stamets using this mycelia approach, and other researchers are using eco-friendly approaches such as biodegradable beeswax and soy wax. The question is whether there is enough of these organic materials available to address such a huge spill.

A practical visionary approach to the oil spill would be more pro-active in preventing future spills through better regulatory laws, effective government monitoring of corporate behavior, and real enforcement of laws—as well as nurturing more ethical corporate behavior through consumer power.

But a visionary approach would also address long term solutions to wean us off oil addiction by mandating energy efficiency and supporting more renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, hydrothermal, tidal wave, and bio-fuels made from garbage and algae (rather than ethanol). The socially responsible investment movement has been key in supporting these new industries and evolving us towards a more sustainable economy.

A practical visionary approach would research the best methods for restoring the damaged eco-systems in the Gulf area, and for rebuilding local economies destroyed by the oil spill, such as fishing and tourism. It would involve citizens in reshaping their towns, as Chattanooga, TN did a decade ago when it was transformed from the most polluted urban center in America to a model of environmental sustainability.

Chattanooga held a series of community-wide multi-stakeholder dialogues facilitated by a professional team to envision what citizens wanted for the future. More than 5,000 ideas were generated, put into a computer and categorized to show the patterns and relationships between the ideas. People then worked together to create a consensus on strategic goals, and signed up for working on goals that matched their priorities.

The excitement of creating a community-wide consensus inspired everyone, including government, business and philanthropic leaders, who helped make the visions a reality. Chattanooga attracted more than $800 million of investments in 223 projects, which created 1,500 new jobs and 7,000 temporary jobs, and it won an award from the President’s Council on Sustainable Development (which I was working for at the time). Towns in the Gulf region could also use this approach. Human beings are incredibly resourceful when challenged to contribute and find solutions.

And most importantly, a visionary approach would call on all available resources to remedy the crisis, including non-physical resources such as prayer, meditation, and setting clear intentions. We as humanity have the power to co-create with the spiritual dimensions and the forces of nature, to heal our oceans, wildlife and eco-systems. Many spiritual groups are organizing on-line meditations and conference calls to address the Gulf oil spill crisis, for example. Along with over 10,000 people around the world, I joined a Gulf Call to Sacred Action call on July 6 with many spiritual leaders leading prayers and meditations to end the spill and create effective cleanup and habitat restoration.

With all the escalating crises today, we need to become practical visionaries, with our eyes on the horizon, our feet on the ground, and our hearts on fire—to turn crises into opportunities for co-creating a new world.

Corinne McLaughlin is co-author of Spiritual Politics and the newly released The Practical Visionary: A New World Guide to Spiritual Growth and Social Change, and is director of The Center for Visionary Leadership. She formerly directed a national task force for President Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development. (www.visionarylead.org; www.thepracticalvisionary.org). Send comments to:
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