This week, the BBC aired Stephen Fry And The Great American Oil Spill, a program in which Stephen Fry and zoologist Mark Carwardine investigate the progress of the clean-up of the recent oil spill disaster in the gulf of Mexico. It provides a fascinating and surprising insight into the lives of the people affected most by the spill and the efforts made by BP to minimize it’s destructive consequences.
From the beginning of the program, it is made clear that Fry and Carwardine do not necessarily completely agree about the intentions behind BP’s actions. While Fry is, at first, satsified with BP’s involvement in the clean up, their dedication to undo as much of the damage as they can, as quickly as they can – something which has cost them in the region of billions of pounds already – Carwardine is openly critical of the company … and with very good reason.
We are taken thorough several aspects of the clean-up operation, including the cleaning of birds caught in the oil, the examination of whales and the plankton on which they, and countless other organisms in the sea, feed and we see that there is indeed an additional layer to this story to everything we have been shown in the news – and general media coverage.
Carwardine informs an astonished Fry that spills of this magnitude have happened before, most notable off Alaska and the coast of Africa. It is known that Shell alone contributed to the tune of 4.5 million gallons of oil to the already insanely polluted waters of the Niger Delta in 2009 … and yet, the media coverage of this was, and remains minimal. And so, it seems that the efforts made by BP to clean up this latest disaster may actually be more of a PR operation than anything else.
Indeed, even the methods of their clean-up are not without criticism. They are using chemical dispersants which are as good as untested in ecological environments – while the chemicals may break up the oil, they may be doing just as much damage to the wildlife as the oil itself. In fact, the very dispersants used for this clean-up operation are banned in Europe, simply through lack of knowledge of their adverse effects.
The program really sheds light on the ongoing problem that has been pretty much forgotten – or at least considered as “solved” by much of the world … seemingly convinced by the massive PR efforts put forward by BP themselves. It is a great piece of investigative journalism as well as a well balanced, well structured documentary.
Another triumph for Stephen Fry and the BBC.
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