Dear ExxonMobil,

(apparently you are a person, now. otherwise i would open this letter with “to whom it may concern,” or address a real person, such as rex tillerson.)

i’m from florida. that’s what it comes down to. the only place i associate with home has been sold as a paradise for decades. wildlands disappear under get-rich-quick and unnecessary housing developments, which in turn disappear under the limbs of trees that hurricanes have brought down, which get shredded by tornados, and which uncontrollable fires have consumed. of the 10 most deadly cities for pedestrians (real people using their real feet on real streets), 4 of them are in florida. one of those is my home town. car culture kills people. climate change kills people.

my parents raised me to be connected to a place, through the environment of that place. they are conservative republicans. the first thing my mother did when they purchased the house i call home, was to plant mandarin orange trees. i was born in the month of ripe tangerines, november, and i have never known a christmas or new year’s without them. we always had such abundance that even after gifting everyone we knew with at least 20 pounds of fruit, we would take another 50 pounds to a homeless shelter. my father volunteered with ducks unlimited for so long, and did so well, that he recently served as president of the international organization. on our ride through louisiana, i was delighted every time i saw egrets, woodstorks, great blue herons, ibis, roseate spoonbills, hawks, and anhingas. from my parents i learned the importance of a stable ecosystem, and the real meaning of conservation.

i come from a fine arts background. i spent half my life in art school. seven of those years were spent training my eyes to see exactly what was before me, and training my hands to recreate that reality. my peers and my professors helped me to hone the skills of perception for a third of my life. i attended lavilla school of the arts, douglas anderson school of the arts, and currently am pursuing a dual degree at the school of the art institute of chicago, one of the top 3 art schools in this country. i have a very well-trained eye, and i will not paint over the ugly parts for you. i came here for real talk. i came here to speak truth to power.

the business you are in kills people. not just the people alive, today, but the people who will be alive 500 years from now. not just the people who live three blocks from your benzene-leaking plant in baton rouge, but the people who live on the opposite side of the globe. the business you are in is destroying the ecosystems that make life on earth possible, and it is hijacking the atmospheric patterns that have kept all life on earth stable for centuries. you—actual person reading or hearing this—may have the mindset of my climate change-denying father, which is that it doesn’t matter to you since you’ll be dead before the worst of it happens. i will not tolerate that. you are waging war on current and future generations. i know how you sleep at night, and it is because we let you. that peace is a precious gift from my generation, but it is a limited resource. because the business that you are in kills people, and you are not yourself without risk.

you must accept this as a reality. that is all that i am asking of you. without acknowledging that, i will not believe in the sincerity of your actions henceforth. rebranding failed for bp. go beyond rebranding, because no matter what, the truth will out. watchdogs are not an endangered species. while you may enjoy your record profits, your beneficiaries and your grandchildren will choke on the air your profits polluted. your golden parachute will land you in the flooded ruins of your island getaway. you are not exempt from this catastrophe. prepare to be held accountable.

but you must first acknowledge one thing: the business you are in kills people. you have more economic power than any other corporation or government, really, to change that. what stops you?

kelly pope.


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