It is hard to believe it needs stating, but it does. The oil industry is not your friend. Whatever it might say about its ethical credentials, while it continues to invest in fossil fuels, it accelerates climate breakdown and the death of the habitable planet. You would think this point was obvious to everyone. But over the past few weeks, I have spoken to dozens of environmentalists who appear to believe that Shell is on their side. I’ve come to the bizarre conclusion that there is more awareness of the oil industry’s agenda within the arts than there is among conservation groups.
Last week, the actor Mark Rylance brilliantly articulated his reasons for resigning from the Royal Shakespeare Company over its sponsorship by BP. The oil company had been subsidising cheap tickets for young people. It might be trashing the world these young people will inherit, but they can watch some great shows. This is bread and circuses – without the bread.
“Surely,” Rylance asked, “the RSC wants to be on the side of the world-changing kids, not the world-killing companies?” To judge by its responses to his complaints across the years, apparently not. But, thanks to campaigning groups such as Platform, Art Not Oil, BP or not BP? and Culture Unstained, theatre companies, museums and art galleries are at least aware that there’s a conflict.