I read a Facebook post this morning by someone asking if people are still boycotting BP over the Gulf oil spill. I responded by asking the question, “boycotting BP in favor of what?” and – despite almost a dozen other people commenting – no one answered me. If driving a car was not destructive to the earth and every oil company was run by angels until these evil people at BP broke rules, then boycotting BP would put those evil-doers out of business, while increasing the sales of the angels who run the other companies. I have friends who hate Wal-Mart; no matter how much of a price break they get and no matter how broke they are, there is no way these people will ever shop at Wal-Mart. Instead, they take their hard earned money and go shop at Target or Sears- what’s the difference?
I am not saying that boycotting something to prove a point is worthless, because it isn’t. When black people in the South boycotted the bus system, the buses suffered greatly and were forced to give in to demands. When the boycott of South African items gained steam it was integral in forcing the rulers to back off apartheid. Refusing to buy products that are made in Israel or the occupied territories, if enough people sign on, could help bring that occupation to an end.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that where we choose to spend our money can make a difference. Sure, Wal-Mart is not going to go out of business because you spent $20 at a local store instead of $10 at their hell hole, but if enough people did it on a regular basis, it would make a huge difference. While this method works in many circumstances, boycotts shouldn’t be used to mask other issues. Maybe instead of patting ourselves on the back for filling our car up at Conoco instead of BP, we should think about our reliance on said car. Is someone who spends $10,000 a year in gas switching their allegiance from BP to Exxon going to have a more positive effect on the world than someone who fills up at BP, but drives once or twice a month?
I don’t know what the right answers are. When searching for shirts for my company I ran into this issue. Should we shop at the local store or the big chain store. The local store has shirts that are non-organic and made in China, but the money would be helping a longtime resident of Boulder who has roots in the community. The big chain store is sending most of its money out of state and underpays its employees, but they have shirts that are made from hemp and organic cotton, right here in the US of A. I can’t give advice as to which to pick, because I don’t know myself. I guess I just want people to stop patting themselves on their backs because they fill up their Humvee at a Shell station.
Other good stuffs: