BP headquarters in Dyce are shiny clean. There are instructions for visitors on how to be safe in the office. The days since the last injury at work are recorded on the wall. It’s a gulf away from the gulf of Mexico. It’s the oiless immaculate conception of a very messy industry.
So is this deliberate posturing? Or do these things always work in binary? BP would have to take safety seriously here. In July 1988 the Piper Alpha rig on the north sea Piper oil field suffered a tectonic gas explosion. 167 people died. Aberdeen remembers this, BP should do too.
And what the Gulf of Mexico leak had happened here? I am sat by the river Don in Dyce, all rushes and grasses and shades of green. What if these crooked herons and delicate terns were coated in the sludge and slurry of the earth’s underground stores? What if that particular slick, that forever changes our climate when burnt, was spilt here and came up this river? Queeny’s swans would turn into thick cartoons of slimy soup. (At least Donald Trump would leave this coast alone).
Baby martins, swallows and swifts snatch at the wind and the river is in a state of hushaby. The mewing from the buzzards never ceases in this peaceful place, a million miles away from American waters.
The big birds chop over too now and then: helicopters flying bodies out to the oil fields. At Glastonbury festival I saw an RAF chopper refashioned into a comical monster – all tooth and crooked legs, it’s skin blistered. That was the work of the Mutoid Waste Company; sculptors of the huge, remakers of the machine. BP headquarters could do with one of those creations in their sterile, squeak-clean foyer.
I see a water vole crossing my path, just ambling contentedly along sniffing the river bank. On the radio they tell me that these voles could become victims of spending cuts when conservation budgets are ripped up. The interviewee is one of those never-angry scientists that they get on the Today programme: ‘Once the vole is extinct here, it’s gone forever. We can never get it back.’
‘But can we really afford to save this creature?’ asks the reporter repeatedly. ‘A million pounds is quite a lot of money.’ The here and now and immediate is more important to this economics-obsessed journalist. For the one-day-turnover media, saving a million for the humans today seems more pressing than saving a precious part of our wild world forever. I want the conservationist to shout and rage agianst this. To scream and be passionate. But I don’t get my wish.