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Sitting in Protest of ‘Gross Negligence’


Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

On the day of the People’s Climate March members of the Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement (DANCE) and the London Quakers joined with theatrical protest group BP or Not to BP to create a giant circle of meditation. The two groups gathered to mark the four year anniversary of the Gulf oil spill and highlight the recent charge of ‘Gross Negligence’ against British Petroleum (BP). Their aim was to challenge BP’s sponsorship deal with the British Museum and to question the moral implications of big oil linked with art and culture. The action was one of many that took place in a day of Fossil Free climate actions across London and across the world.

Photo by Anna Branthwaite

Joining Buddhist practitioners from across the Triratna, Soto Zen and Insight traditions were teachers from Gaia House in Devon, including Rob Burbea, Yanai Postlenik, Kirsten Kratz, Catherine McGee and Chris Cullen, and Triratna teachers Sahajatara and Vidykaya. Approximately 70 Buddhist and Quaker activists created a meeting of worship/circle of meditation around the tableau performed by BP or not BP.

The scene conveyed the story behind the ‘gross negligence’ charge – the dying agony of animals and sea life affected by the spill, the local trades-people whose livelihoods were wiped out and the clean-up workers poisoned by the chemical dispersant which was used to sink the oil to the ocean floor and ‘hide’ the spill from public view. Laid out on the ground as a part of the performance was 11 white roses to mark each of the victims who were killed from the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig. Together the group then held silence for 11 minutes.

Andrew Dey, who was part of the London Quaker group said “Actions like this are a form of witness to the destruction caused by the fossil fuel industry, and also aim to highlight how companies who profit from climate chaos sponsor public institutions to improve their public relations.”

Catherine McGee, an Insight meditation teacher, said “We know that life support systems are being dangerously harmed through extraction and use of fossil fuels, and countless beings are suffering as a result. As Nelson Mandela says, when humans act together to challenge suffering there is a ‘multiplication of courage’ born of our commitment to each other on this planet. In this way, I believe, real power can emerge that can disrupt the power of the status quo.”

Photo by Anna Branthwaite

From the Triratna tradition, Sahajatara explained her reasons for coming,

True religion is about trying to save all beings from suffering, and climate change is going to cause unimaginable suffering – it already is – and affecting the most vulnerable in numerous places around the world. Now is a time for responding with bravery and action – not just sitting with our eyes closed trying to cultivate positive mental states.

Earlier this year, Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu called for action by people of faith and conscience against arts and sports programming sponsored by fossil-fuel companies, saying, “twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing or doing much about climate change. Today we have no excuse. Companies responsible for emitting carbon and accelerating climate change are not simply going to give up. They need persuasion from the likes of us and our cultural institutions to cut their ties to the fossil-fuel industry.” BP provides less than 1% of the British Museum’s annual income, and yet the company receives a large amount of high-profile branding in return, as well as the use of the largely publicly-funded Museum for its corporate events.

Watch a film of the ‘flash-spill’ here:

Gross Negligence from rikki on Vimeo

DANCE invites you to sign the petition for the British Museum to end their sponsorship deal with BP.

This article was excerpted from the DANCE website with their permission. To learn more about DANCE, visit their website. To get involved with a local DANCE group or learn about upcoming actions, contact .

Picture of Kristin Barker

Kristin Barker

Kristin is co-founder and director of One Earth Sangha whose mission is to cultivate a Buddhist response to ecological crises. She is a graduate of Spirit Rock's Community Dharma Leader program and now teaches with the Insight Meditation Community of Washington (DC). As a co-founder of White Awake, Kristin has been supporting white people since 2011 with a Dharma approach to uprooting racism in ourselves and in our world. With a background in software engineering as well as environmental management, she has worked at several international environmental organizations. She is a GreenFaith Fellow and serves on the advisory board of Project Inside Out. Kristin was born and raised in northern New Mexico and currently lives in Washington DC, traditional lands of the Piscataway peoples.
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