June 22, 2010; Source: Washington Post | Should charity and philanthropy pitch in to help address the impacts of the BP oil catastrophe? Unlike Hurricane Katrina, the explosion of BP’s deep water oil rig is a completely man-made phenomenon. (Although the response to Katrina, on the other hand was surely man-made.) BP as the corporate culprit in charge ought to pay, right?
But the money from BP isn’t going to flow quickly, and who knows how much of it will deal with all of the consequences of its negligence? Charitable money is starting to flow, though not quite at a level comparable to the $6 billion donated for Katrina relief. With the help of Larry King, Robert Redford, Cameron Diaz, Sting, and Justin Bieber, CNN raised $1.8 million in a telethon. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that a total of $4 million has been raised since the disaster.
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The natural response to disasters like this one (or the Exxon Valdez in Alaska) is to make a charitable contribution. But in this case, given President Obama’s commitment to exact a $20 billion fund from BP for recovery activities, not including other penalties and fees that BP will have to pay by law, philanthropy might be well served by funding environmental and community advocates and watchdogs. Because we can all be assured about one guaranteed outcome—BP will try to get out of as many of their responsibilities as they can, and the government, given political contributions to local and national politicians, may turn a somewhat blind eye to the insufficiencies of BP’s response.—Rick Cohen