Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pensacola Beach: BP Going Green

We spent much of yesterday traipsing down the beach to Ft. Pickens and stopping along the way from time to time to talk with clean-up workers.

Some workers are more loquacious these days than formerly. Perhaps it's because they have fewer tarballs to pick up. More likely, it's because withering criticism has forced BP to relax what Mac McClelland called its "gag order" on clean-up workers.

Green for Clean

Yesterday, one thing stood out for us: clean-up worker uniforms are going green. BP green, in many instances.

Going "clean for Gene" even today is a phrase that denotes a remarkable turn-around in American history, public opinion, and politics. Cutting off that long hair in 1968 to work for Eugene McCarthy elevated anti-war activism to a politically acceptable level and brought down a war president.

As Prof. Joshua I. Miller has argued at some length, "Fashion affects citizens’ perceptions of one another, and therefore influences their political bonds." [Miller, "Fashion and Democratic Relationships," 37 Polity 3, 5 (January, 2005).] It's as true today as it was forty-two years ago.

Time was when BP's clean-up crews dressed like work release prisoners, as in the snapshot we took in the bad old days of early June at Navarre Beach (above left).

A month or so later, blazing orange vests predominated. Orange is a color that fairly shouts "Look out! Danger! Emergency!" It fascinates herons, apparently (below), but it's a definite turn-off for beach visitors looking to relax by the sea.


Over the past few weeks, however, a sartorial transition in BP clean-up crews seems to have been gaining momentum. For one thing, new T-shirts are coming off the looms, proudly emblazoned with the words, "Qualified Community Responder" (below).

It seems not everyone gets one, however. We'd like to think that's because they can be worn only by those who have received superior training so as to qualify for such a snazzy T-shirt. But a reliable source tells us it's because there is presently a severe shortage of the new uniforms.

"They're making them as fast as they can," one supervisor told us confidentially. "We expect a new shipment any time."

As a result, at least for awhile longer we're likely to see scenes like this one, below, with one worker decked out in BP's dernier cri and another still saddled with last month's out-dated duds.


The Psychology of Green


It's all a PR stunt, of course. The purpose is to put the minds of beach-goers at ease; or, preferably, completely asleep.

Business consultants consider green to be a "calming color... that's very pleasing to the senses."
Dark forest green is associated with terms like conservative, masculine and wealth. Hospitals use light green rooms because they too are found to be calming to patients. It is also the color associated with envy, good luck, generosity and fertility. It is the traditional color of peace, harmony, comfortable nurturing, support and well paced energy.
British Petroleum undoubtedly hopes that something in between dark and light green -- we'll call it "BP green" -- is the best color to make you soporific and insensible to any disaster that is transpiring around you.

Someone, somewhere at BP is battling back against the hilarious, mocking caricatures of BP's logo, such as those here.... and here... and here, among dozens of others sites. When the entire art world burlesques your logo, your corporate image is in mortal danger. Or, so we imagine the PR types suppose who focus on superficialities.

BP Fashion Accessories

On the beach this week we saw signs that BP's PR department is counter-punching with more than just green T-shirts. Everything is turning green.

Clean up crews increasingly accessorize with green clean-up crew dune buggies....

Beach scrapers are becoming green...

More clean-up crew road graders are transitioning from last month's Caterpillar yellow (insert, below) to John Deere green...


Even green porta-potties, increasingly, stand sentry where once they were yellow, tan, and blue...

The endless stream of white vans is still visible, as it was two months ago:

But we have no doubt that John Deere can help BP with that, too. If not, then soon enough we'll probably be seeing fleets of Japanese-built green Scions taking their place.

It's also a good bet that somewhere in London an army of lawyers is hard at work trying to figure out if there's some way to get worldwide trademark protection on BP's particular shade of green. With that, they just might be able to put the entire world to sleep even as the Gulf of Mexico dies, the Earth grows warmer, and our dependence on carbon-based fossil fuels renders the planet completely uninhabitable.

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