The British Museum is one of the world’s few encyclopaedic museums: it tells the story of how civilisation was built; it boasts seven million visitors a year and is committed to free entry; it holds a unique place of authority in the nation’s – perhaps the world’s – consciousness. A few days ago I resigned from its Board of Trustees.
My resignation was not in protest at a single issue; it was a cumulative response to the museum’s immovability on issues of critical concern to the people who should be its core constituency: the young and the less privileged.
The Obama administration has agreed to let BP resume dipping its beak in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The prospect is called Kaskida, situated a few hundred miles off the coast of Louisiana, at a depth of 6034 feet. In the event of another Macondo-style blowout, BP has a contract with the Marine Well Containment Company, a joint nonprofit established by BP’s competitors ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. MWCC say they can quickly staunch the flow of oil with a 100-ton capping stack. They say this containment system can handle spills of up to 100,000 barrels per day at a maximum depth of 10,000 feet.
Since the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, a stream of evidence has emerged suggesting that BP's attitude to risk may have contributed to the disaster. At Tony Hayward's congressional inquisition on 17 June, the CEO of BP was accused of choosing risky procedures in order to reduce costs and save time, and Anadarko Petroleum Corp, BP's former partner which owns a quarter of the blown-out well, went even further, accusing BP of 'behaviour and actions [that] likely represent gross negligence or wilful misconduct'. BP denies all charges.