Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Trump's Golf Course in Aberdeen

Well, it's been a busy week. Plenty of things happening on all fronts. I feel no need to report on the obvious, and it will probably just lead to overall glee soon doused by anger at a certain populous west coast state, which inevitably leads to me ranting as anyone who has come in contact with me since Wednesday can attest. I'll just stop myself there before it starts.

Anyway, with so much real news going on, you may have missed the news that, after months of setbacks from such silly things as environmentalists and laws, Donald Trump has won the right to build an enormous golf course and resort on (what was until recently, apparently) environmentally protected land in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The deal is that Donald Trump got it into his mind that he wanted to build a golf course in Scotland, in tribute to his dear Scottish mother. A designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) was soon declared a Site of Special Trump Empire-Building Interest (SSTEBI). That it was a rare shifting sand dune habitat didn't matter; no compromise to his plans would be acceptable. What's great is that back in June, Trump called himself an "environmentalist in the true sense of the word." What kind of messed up dictionary is he using? (California's constitution?--Ooo, sorry, couldn't help it.) Trump claims that building his golf course on the dunes will actually be good for the environment, since it will stabilize the sand dunes. The rare, shifting sand dunes. Right. Come to think about it, those darn waves are making the Great Barrier Reef all kinds of unstable. Why don't we freeze the water to make sure it doesn't go anywhere?

Why do I even hear about this kind of news? It's neither real news nor entertainment news, but I guess it's because Donald Trump has a lousy reality TV show (apologies for the redundancy there), which puts him on the radar for the WENN news I read on IMDb. But unlike most stories concerning people of reality TV fame which I just skip over, this story caught my eye. It is of interest to me not only because I both care about the environment and enjoy laughing at people with too much money who say and do ridiculous things, but also because I happen to know an environmental scientist in Aberdeen. He has been in Scotland for a while but is originally from the Basque country (I'd say he's from Spain, but boy would he hate that); note that Spanish accent + Scottish accent = furrrrious rrrrrolling of rrrrs. Anyway, I have corresponded with him on the issue (I thought I'd ask him for his take, since I know he enjoys a good rant). He can explain the issue better than I can, so I'll share with you his explanation (and take note that he uses parentheticals perhaps more than I do). Here's what he said back in June:

Regarding the Trump "proposal" (well, he is not "proposing" anything - more like "imposing"), where shall I start? A golf course on an official Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), as
an excuse to build a whole heap of luxury houses and a huge luxury hotel (as if we needed yet another golf course in the area). Of course, he won't alter his plans by an inch (must be something to do with saving those dunes from blowing away, as you say), even though just beyond the dunes it is all farmland where he could build anything he wanted. On top of his environmental concerns, he is doing it for the memory of his mother, who was Scottish (from the western isles, just a few hundred miles away but I guess it's near enough for him) and to create jobs (well, someone has to mow the grass and clean the toilets) and bring money into the local economy (not sure who that "local economy" is supposed to be). For a long time, I hadn't met anyone in favour of the proposal (after all, us scientists are a bunch of tree-hugging weirdos) but apparently most of the local population are in favour (I guess they feel part of the "local economy" or fancy cleaning toilets for a living). The local press, chamber of commerce, etc. are all totally biased in favour, and as to the Council ... they have bent every one of their own rules to pass the development (I don't know if you have read the specifics of this but it is a very long and shocking story). They even moved a proposed offshore windfarm planned not to spoil the horizon from the resort, they moved a proposed Aberdeen road bypass so that it is near enough to the resort (you'll be able to go from the airport there without having to come across any locals) but not too near to spoil it, etc. When the Council rejected the plans (thanks to the vote of the Chair of the Infrastructures Committee, who showed some guts when he played by the rules and was sacked and vilified for that), they had no mechanism to reverse the decision so the Scottish Government took the process out of local authority control and will decide instead. They just rejected a huge windfarm in Lewis on environmental grounds so it will be interesting to see what they do but I would be shocked if they rejected this one, even though the official government agency (Scottish Natural Heritage) in charge of the SSSI has objected to the proposal. Anyway, we can just wait and see (funny that Trump said he would not accept any delays but so far he has said nothing about the few months this is taking already). If there are any developments, I'll keep you posted.

Months passed. On Monday, Trump finally won permission to go ahead and build his golf course and resort. On Tuesday, when I heard the news, I emailed my friend in Aberdeen to apologize on behalf of all Americans for the antics of Donald Trump. I apologized because Trump represents the ignorant, self-interested, inconsiderate, bullish person that people around the world think of when they hear the word "American". Well, thought of, at least. I don't expect a reputation to reverse overnight, but it seems we have taken a step in the right direction, away from that negative image. On Wednesday, "American" sounds a lot better. Hopefully, some day soon, I won't need to apologize.

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