Getting out of Shell
That's it, I'm out. It took me longer to find the exit than I would have liked, but such is life. I'm actually sad to be leaving some of the people there, but I'm afraid I'll be wrestling with the moral quandary that is my contribution to Shell's bottom line for the rest of my life.
When I started working at Limejump, I honestly believed that I was doing the Right thing: using Shell's oil money to build a green future. I know now how naïve that was.
Once we were TUPE-transfered into the parent company, it became clear to me how Shell really works, and perhaps more alarmingly, how so many working there perform appalling mental gymnastics to convince themselves that they're doing good things for the world.
From the Orwellian "Respect for Nature" scrawled on the walls of the office, to the contemptible climate denialism you hear from staff at all levels, it's clear that too many of the people working there truly believe that they're somehow making the world better even when confronted with the evidence.
There are of course some great people still there, attempting to "change the company from within", but it's a fool's errand if you ask me. Shell has known about the climate crisis for decades and every new generation of management since has worked to support and expand fossil fuel extraction. This latest crop is no different. Their performance at Shell's latest AGM where they straight up denied that their plans violate our Paris obligations in the face of clear evidence should divorce anyone of the illusion that Shell is on the right side of history. So long as it's profitable to burn the world, Shell will continue to provide the fuel.
What's more, even if Shell were interested in achieving a carbon free world (its actions say otherwise of course), I don't think it's capable.
Shell is a Very Large Company that's spent more than a century doing one thing: digging stuff out of the ground and setting it on fire. They're heavily invested in this pattern, with infrastructure all over the planet and tens of thousands of employees dedicated to it. They've got armies of lobbyists working to preserve that model in every country that matters and mountains of amoral investor cash lined up to support it too.
Combine this with the reality that big corporations can't pivot because of the black hole of inertia all of the above represents, and you get what happened to Limejump: a small renewables start-up, bought by a Big Corporate Fossil Fuel Company, after which it's swallowed and dismantled -- its goal of a renewable energy future lost.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of working there was the way staff and management would attempt to separate their actions from the ethical implications: "Don't blame us, the world demands energy. We're simply supplying it."
This is a convenient lie Shell employees tell themselves, crafted to obfuscate the fact that Shell has leveraged substantial lobbying efforts on all sides of the political arena to ensure a fossil future. They lobby (or fund 3rd parties to lobby) government and the public to crush green legislation and expand support for fossil fuels, all while repeating "net zero by 2050" as if merely saying it is sufficient.
These are not the actions of a company looking to embrace a carbon-free future. They're not even those of a company hoping to expand their portfolio to include renewables. This is a concentrated effort by the one arm of the company to crush the business of the other arm, a tactic that only makes sense if the renewable side exists exclusively to greenwash the fossil one.
Maybe this is obvious to you, but 2½ years ago, I really couldn't see it, so I'm sharing what I've learnt now.
To future generations: I'm sorry. I never contributed to Shell's fossil fuel business, but I did build systems that Shell used to distract the public from what they're really doing. I honestly believed I was helping, but for over two years I was part of the problem.
To my brilliant Limejumper colleagues that I've left behind: I'll miss you all and hope that one day soon you come to the same realisation as I have: that your skills are valuable, that Shell is using them to burn down the planet, and that you can do better.
Image credit: Rosemary Mosco