"Is Your Trip Necessary?": Oil spill image inspired by WWII-era posters


J.P. Townley sent me this image, which he based on World War II-era posters reminding people on the home front to conserve fuel for the war effort. At his website you can download a PDF of the modern version and see the historic piece that inspired it.

Now, all we need is a "When you ride alone, you ride with Tony Hayward!" poster.


  1. Linking the environmental movement with patriotism and good citizenship is an important step. I’d like to see more of these kinds of tactics which might resonate a little more with your average citizen.

  2. Pics of those animals covered in oil make my heart bleed.

    Maybe all the carcasses should be sent to Toy Hayward’s house.

  3. Highly approve of the concept — and the focus on the fact that our demand for oil is the ultimate driver behind these accidents.

    Unfortunately, the picture used here doesn’t “read” well at a glance or from a distance, especially when printed in B&W. Art might be more powerful than a photo, in this case.

    Alas, I don’t draw anywhere near enough to offer… if any of my scribbles turn into something useful I’ll pass them along, but I think we ought to find someone who actually knows what they’re doing.

    This needs to become a full-scale campaign — and to be strongly intertwined with the message that “saving energy saves me money”, and quite possibly with the effects our oil addiction has on foreign policy, to give folks every possible reason for making the effort to change their habits.

    It’s a pity Carter’s “moral equivalent of war” concept was derided as “MEOW.” That would be a really useful mindset right now, on several fronts.

    1. Hey everyone, I was off at my day job when my poster made it up on BB! Not even around to enjoy it!

      I knew the image was a little rezzy, and from the sound of it, some of you actually PRINTED it. Holy cow.

      I uploaded the Apple pages file as a zip, and exported doc and .rtfd files. I could have done it in some other ‘ware but this was the hammer I had.

      If anyone wants to remix it or just make it better, it’s all yours.




      As I said on the poster, the image is not mine, but is CC 2.0 licensed. If you do make art from it, be sure to credit Igor Golubenkov!

  4. I agree. I like the message, but at a distance the image is an inky blur. An illustration might be better.

  5. How about an anti-suv poster too?

    Take the 17mpg ‘standard’ suv off the road, you could put three smart cars on the road in its place without increasing the amount of fuel used. Or three motorbikes. Or a half dozen mopeds.

    Not using fossil fuels at all is the “best” solution, but unrealistic at this point. Responsible usage could actually happen today.. Americans may think they can’t live without their enormous car, but crank up the price per gallon to ten bucks, and they’d change their tune real fast.

  6. Instead of a poster, this question needs to be visible on the dashboard, maybe lit up when ignition key is inserted.

  7. I bike to work myself, but biking and mass transit aren’t viable for most people if they want to get there in a reasonable amount of time.

    Carpooling is hard to set up, inconvenient, and breeds resentment.

    Telecommuting is okay, but my company still prefers I be there in person.

    1. You make some valid points. This is why, as a long term solution, we should increase the population density of our urban areas, so people don’t have so far to travel. This goes hand-in-hand with making our urban areas livelier and more “walkable.”

  8. Silly. Should be “Before you fly to Geneva to discuss environmental policies over lobsters, ask yourself: Is your aggrandizement necessary?”

    Why the hating on SUV mpg? Ever check out sports cars? Why hate on lower class contractors but not yuppie middle managers?

  9. Hey Rayonic, those are obstacles to overcome, not reasons to give up, as you portray them. Attitudes can change VERY quickly when popular perception shifts, look at history.

  10. Guilt is not enough to get us out of this mess and isn’t liable to get people on your side. What we need is a collective approach to getting off oil. Individual consumer choices, like buying a prius, does not make your neighbor take the same choices. We need mass transit, and alternative energy, and restructured cities that require less distance from home to work to shopping. Guilt works for something over which you are personally responsible – if it would solve the oil crisis then it might make some sense. However, driving is a collective problem since roads and city planning are collective.

    1. Agreed. This is not an issue that any one person can just unilaterally fix. We need a way to retrofit the millions and millions of petroleum-powered transports to a new and cleaner technology. The demand for transport will be awfully hard to shrink as the population grows, so the play should be making it cleaner and more efficient.

      Improving mass transit, alternative energy, and municipal layout are, as you say, absolutely vital to the future.

      Since I can’t change any of those things on my own, guilt just pisses me off–especially since I totaled my 30 MPG Nissan Sentra and had to replace it with the only vehicle I could afford–a 22 MPG Saturn Vue.

    2. I am a Geography teacher who has spent many hours reading and thinking about this, and I have arrived at the exact same conclusions.
      Interestingly, our provincial curriculum calls for us to emphasize personal choice (especially consumer choice), but what about collective action through the political process? We need to agree to some rules and limits, just as we did in WWII, to deal with the challenges ahead.
      WWII is actually a wonderful historical precedent. The interesting thing to me is that, despite the fact that this was a time of considerable sacrifice, those who lived through it remember these times with great fondness. A future with less consumption and lower GDP could result in a happier and healthier society. Too bad there is so much fear out there which prevents us from making badly needed changes.

  11. This self-serving poster does nothing to address drilling safety. If the entire world were riding bikes all the time as of tomorrow (unlikely for those of us who commute in winter snowstorms) we would still need oil. What we need is stricter enforcement of real safety procedures, and harsh penalties for ignoring them (as BP did, repeatedly).

    1. Exactly. As boingboing has already documented, this spill is the result of criminal negligence by a company that was widely recognized even in its own industry for being out of control. If you address that problem, drilling isn’t a problem, and if you don’t address that problem, reducing the number of rigs by some fraction won’t prevent spills.

      Not to mention that reducing consumption will not reduce the amount of drilling. The oil will still be pumped, it will just go to the developing world, which has long wanted to consume as much as we do. It won’t save a single bird, but some kid will have nicer shoes, or be able to afford a video game.

      Probably wouldn’t make as good a poster though.

    2. Anon, You’re right! This poster did nothing to talk about safe drilling. It’s all about personal action. Rather than putting blame on the consumer, I advocate a mindful, considered approach on how we buy, use and get rid of our stuff.

      It’s a jumping off point for discussion, not the only answer. It’s also based on a propaganda poster, so I tried to tuck that tone into it.

      Self serving? Possibly. I’m really happy to have my name on BB. But I know it’s fleeting. I’m not hoping to be Shepherd Fairey.

  12. Laudable, but unworkable. People value convenience above most things, so the way to go would be not to try to convince them that they don’t need to make that trip, but to allow them to make that trip with the minimum environmental cost.

  13. Your heart’s in the right place and it’s never bad to reduce consumption but this will not solve the problem. Until it is no longer profitable to drill ANY oil, they will drill ALL of the oil.

  14. “Is My trip Necessary?” How about is this blog necessary? Is my computer necessary? Is my bike necessary? Is my Latte necessary? Does anyone have a clue on how much oil is integrated into every aspect of our lives? I didn’t think so.

  15. Finds it interesting that many people who cry over animals harmed in the oilspill eat meat on a regular basis.

    1. Eating meat can be helpful – many animals eat it, too. Drowning birds in oil benefits nobody, not even the oil extractors.

  16. I’ll play devil’s advocate. Not all oil companies are polluters. People who drive their cars a lot are *all* polluters. Even if you drive a Prius.

    There’s a strong case to be made that drilling should never have been done in 5000 feet of water. But, the government gave out the permits, so it occurred.

    1. Well, oil companies must use oil to get oil, right? for boats and trucks and stuff? I used the word ‘polluters’ to be emphatic, a rhetorical trick, much like the poster that inspired it. Sure it’s propaganda, but it’s propaganda just the way I like it!

  17. Moving! This poster hit me hard. It helps connect the dots with oil usage and it’s impact on the environment. Like it or not the stuff is being carted, drilled and moved all over the globe. Accidents/careless acts are bound to happen. This is the price we pay. Use less.

  18. I always wanted a slight variation of that on my tombstone:

    “Was this trip really necessary?”

    Not really.

  19. Biking? How about *walking*? Since I moved to Southern California I’ve never quite understood the mentality that a mile is “too far” to walk that is so common here.

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