It Is Possible to Work in Oil and Gas and Not Carry Deep Guilt that You Are a Part of Stuffing Up the World

But you need to be honest with yourself above all else

I think it is only natural that people want to believe that they are good contributors to humanity. But what to do when humanity appears to ‘turn on you’, once working for an employer and/or doing a role which you perceived many around you in society valued, now feeling almost like a pariah?

In such cases people often argue the case for their employer, increasingly erratically as the writing is on the wall – after all, as a lay person, how can you even begin to argue against human induced climate change when 99.9% of the human beings on Earth who chose to specialise and spend their life understanding and researching the relevant science are united against those views?

We human beings are wonderful at seeing what we want to see, and not seeing what we don’t, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

That is exactly why scientific practice incorporates processes to eliminate biases, overriding impulses we typically submit to in our normal lives.

I can understand that there is a desire amongst those who work in oil and gas companies to believe that they are so safety conscious that they would not continue to engage in activities that put the whole of the world at risk. From many I have heard examples of the extreme lengths that such companies go to to report and manage safety issues. 

But those who are prepared to be honest to themselves will realise very significant contradictions. 

In one such office that on occasions went to extremes on safety and wellbeing, like instructing adults on how to travel to work safely, there was a woman who was made extremely unwell by the misogynist, racist and prejudiced character of the workplace culture, and senior executives – even the CEO of this multinational company – knew of her challenges, which were reported through official grievance channels, but NOTHING was done to address the issue, prevent her condition from worsening, or assist the woman to regain her health.

Others suggest that perhaps climate change observations are really only now being detected because of this western, cautious mindset, and that these changes (like increased incidences of climatic events such as severe cyclones and droughts) might not have been otherwise detected.

Yet these are hardly subtle or minor events, and the science is damning.

The point is that even in apparently sophisticated businesses, people will only see what they want to see, and the culture within the business will have a large impact on what its people actually want to see.

Oil and gas absolutely remain necessary for human society, but for ours and future generations to be healthy and happy or content we know we must significantly decrease its usage and quickly.

If you work in the oil and gas industry, and your workplace culture is one of compassion and inclusiveness, and you have confidence that your business is working towards an energy transition, then you can hold your head high knowing you are serving humanity well.

If after honest reflection you know it to not be the case, then you need to consider your actions e.g. you can influence from within or depart for greener pastures.

A high income cannot extinguish a guilty conscience…

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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2023

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