the Shell utopianism

Some time ago I bought a special edition of the National Geographic, Cool It, published on the Paris Climate Talks 2015 occasion.


As some of you might already know, National Geographic has been collaborating with Shell for a few years now, in the form of a campaign The Great Energy Challenge.

shell ng

I, however, was under the impression that National Geographic is an independent, green title. What a surprise it was to see four consecutive full-page Shell ads in the very front of the magazine.

Even though it would explain the advertising, I was even more surprised to read that National Geographic is now owned by Rupert Murdoch in 73%. Centralisation of media power is hardly a new phenomenon, however it could be increasingly problematic. How can it be that one of the print bastions of the environmental movement is now controlled by someone who does not give a shit? Seems like capitalism, the father of climate change, is slowly overtaking spaces which we would think are immune.

It might not be as bad as it seems, though.

I don’t want to sound naive but there could be a bright side to this all. Apart from thinking ‘what are Shell ads doing here?’ I also thought ‘good, maybe they are actually learning a lesson’. And yes, I know all about Shell’s fishy practices – from plans to drill in the Arctic and Nigerian oil spillages denial to lobbying to scrap renewable subsidies in the EU. And even though their green-washing advertising is a widely used tactic to cover all of the above up, I still think that the company is starting to feel the pressure, not only thanks to clever campaigns like the one below.

As one of the articles in the unfortunate National Geographic I bought read, some of the coal companies in Germany are now dividing their funds and investing them into the renewable energy industry – they are preparing for the looming fossil fuel exodus. Some might say that it’s a hypocritical step and a mere attempt of CSR, but no matter the reason, it is a step forward. I think that oil companies are increasingly realising that fossil fuels are not a thing of the future and they need to change. It is the people, after all, who make consumer decisions – and the desire for a sustainable lifestyle is growing. The German trend of renewable energy investment will be repeated on the global level, if it isn’t already.

As for Shell and Murdoch – with all their misdoings, and whether they consciously intend to or not, National Geographic still advertises the need for energy innovation. You might call me an utopian but I believe that the fake link between Shell and the environmental concerns will not be the only thing that will last in the readers’ minds. I hope that what the readers will remember is the fact that even a company like Shell cares, meaning that it’s time to change – for everybody.

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