[1971:] As the song took shape, it became, in Wally's words, "a plea that we should leave some part of our world the way God made it - for our children. Otherwise, they will have nothing. They will have highways, they will have oil slicks - thirty or forty miles wide - with the dirt and filth that seems to be part of our industrial society. No one admits to being responsible for halting this pollution of our rivers or our countryside - the filth- making continues and all everybody does is pass the buck". (Frank Kofsky, notes Wally Whyton, 'Leave Them A Flower')
[1975:] The song was triggered by a single line. A two hundred year old oak tree was cut down near me to build a house. As I walked past it, I mentally wrote, Trees lying toppled, roots finger the sky. The song was then built backwards and forwards. The verse was composed to the melody of The Streets of Laredo - so that the words might seem to be familiar, against a traditional tune. (Wally Whyton in a letter to his publishers, 27 Oct)
[1999:] Scientists studying the world's worst environmental catastrophes have discovered that oil spills cause a hundred times more damage than was previously thought. Studies of the Exxon Valdez disaster - which happened 10 years ago this month - have shown that oil pollution of less than one part per billion is sufficient to kill marine life. Salmon and herring with half-formed tails, twisted spines and grossly distended stomachs are still being caught in Alaska's Prince William Sound, scene of the Valdez spillage, say researchers. [...]
The discovery has serious implications for coastal regions affected by other major oil spills - such as the Shetland Isles, hit by the Braer disaster, and the beaches around Milford Haven polluted by the Sea Empress. However, the findings of the Alaska study suggest that the problems are more wide-ranging. 'It is not the local impact that is the real problem,' says [Dr Bruce Wright of the US National Maritime Fisheries Service in Alaska]. 'Our work indicates that even microscopic amounts of oil that get into any stream or bay are going to kill fish. This is a problem for the whole world.' [...] When the Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef and spilled more than 11 million gallons of crude oil over the pristine coastline of Prince William Sound at exactly five minutes after midnight on 24 March 1989, a precious eco-system that was home to otters, whales, seals, spawning fish and shore birds was coated in a choking black mass, triggering a massive clean-up operation - and an extensive environmental monitoring programme. It is this programme that has delivered its startling verdict on the danger that crude oil poses to our environment. (Robin McKie, Observer, 7 Mar)
[1999:] Valdez, wo der [Alaska] Highway und die Trans-Alaska-Pipeline enden: Von hier wird Alaskas wertvollster Bodenschatz in die USA verschifft - wenn nicht gerade der Kapitän besoffen ist. Am 24. März 1989 rammt der Tanker "Exxon Valdez" ein Riff im Prince William Sound. 40 Millionen Liter Öl verseuchen die malerische Bucht mit ihren unzähligen Fjorden und ihrer artenreichen Meeres-Fauna. Die verheerende Ölpest trifft die Natur an ihrer schönsten und empfindlichsten Stelle.
Zehn Jahre später ist von der Katastrophe nichts mehr zu sehen. Und die Fischer, die im "Pipeline Inn" in Valdez ihr Bier trinken, wollen davon nichts mehr hören. "Ist doch alles wieder o.k.", meint Barfrau Inge, die vor 26 Jahren aus Hünfeld bei Kassel eingewandert ist. Seemann Sven Larssen hält das für Augenwischerei. "Das Öl ist nur oberflächlich weg", sagt er. "Das Meer wird noch zwanzig Jahre brauchen, um mit dem Gift fertigzuwerden!" (Herbert Kistler, TV Hören und Sehen, 26. Juni)
Written for the European Conservation Year (1970?).
For statistics on oil leaks see (The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited)