Posts Tagged ‘BP’

Revisiting the Gulf

After several months away, I had a last-minute opportunity to revisit the Gulf Coast this week. I’ve been reconnecting with the region and talking with people from the Navarre Beach, Florida area for the past couple of days.  We were not able to visit this part of the Gulf on our expedition in August 2010, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to spend some time down here now.

Tomorrow, I’ll be revisiting some of the people in the areas that were part of our original expedition.  Members of the original team have been discussing a return trip to do some follow-up documentary work, and although this particular trip was not a planned visit, I am happy to be able to include some Spirit follow-up now.

In the few conversations I have had here thus far with locals, it seems that there is a sense of eager anticipation for the winter to hurry up and pass so that the tourism season can (hopefully) bring the people back to the region just like they did before the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Sunrise on Navarre Beach, Florida
I spoke with a couple of ladies on the beach yesterday morning that suggested that the media did more to harm the Florida coast than BP did.  This sentiment was echoed by a friend of mine that I had lunch with today, although he conceded that although he didn’t see any visual impact himself, it could be because cleanup crews have been known to patrol the beaches to remove signs of oil and tar balls so that casual observers often don’t see the evidence of the spill.  He also mentioned that he didn’t trust the safety of the seafood and had avoided it almost entirely over the last 9 months.

One of the local restaurants I visited was quite sparsely scattered with patrons, despite the outstanding food and great service they provided.  When I asked the server how the spill had impacted the business, he told me that business was still way down, and there is ongoing struggle to keep people coming in.  It doesn’t help that this week has brought some of the lowest temperatures on record for this area.  Yet, the restaurant that I dined in tonight was packed and is experiencing year over year growth.  The owner informed me that he didn’t cater to the tourist crowd, and the locals have been very supportive.  It was great to hear that some local businesses are doing well despite the spill.

Navarre Beach Pier
Another recurring theme that feels like a continuation of what we heard on the original expedition is that the claims process is complicated and seemingly unfair.  According to the stories I’ve heard, some people are having trouble getting paid.  On the other hand, some are taking the one-time $25,000 payout and praying they made the right decision. It might be a good decision for some, but nobody really knows if the economic impact of the disaster will exceed that amount for individuals living and working along the coast.  It’s a chance that many people along the coast are essentially forced to take.  For some, there is no other option.  If they want to survive, they have to take what they can get from BP now.

In the morning, I head out to visit Coden, Alabama and Pearlington, Mississippi to reconnect with the families we met in August.  We’ve stayed in touch over the last few months, and I look forward to seeing how they are doing so I can share more of their stories here. On this weekend that we are called to service, I’m happy to have the opportunity to serve and support this area that has struggled so much.


01 2011

Mixed Messages

The news that has been coming out of the Gulf region the past few days has been a mix of concern, caution, and optimism.  On Thursday September 2, there was an explosion on an oil platform off the Louisiana coast, which caused a brief flare-up of activity and attention in the media.  When I heard the news, I immediately thought about the people we met along the coast and how they were processing this latest incident.  Thankfully, there was no loss of life or oil spilled into the water this time around, but I can’t help but wonder how coastal residents perceive the risks to their livelihood in light of ongoing mis-steps by the industry that is responsible for so much economic activity in their communities.

Decontamination Area at Portersville Bay, AL

The same day as the Mariner platform fire, Jerry Cope posted an alarming account of human toxic exposure while in the Gulf region over at Huffington Post.  As I read his account of what his team experienced while in the area, I heard Lori’s words echoing in my head from our conversation with her near Dauphin Island, Alabama 2 weeks ago.  She described changes in the air and water, including anecdotal evidence of adverse effects of the dispersants at her home and in her community.  Jerry’s findings are hardly surprising, given the fact that Corexit (the dispersant used in the BP oil spill cleanup) is a hazardous substance, and in the manufacturer’s own product safety sheet it clearly states ‘Do not contaminate surface water.’

On the other hand, this week reports came out that describe microbes eating the oil but not causing oxygen depletion of the water as was feared by some initially.  This was described as the ‘best possible scenario’ by Government Scientists in the AP report, yet we still don’t know the effects that the dispersants have had on the ecosystem and what the long-term implications will be on marine life.  It seems premature to celebrate given the magnitude of what has taken place in the Gulf of Mexico this year.

Spirit of the Gulf Coast

On a note of optimism that characterizes the spirit that we encountered on our trip, Van Jones posted a moving article called The Gulf Will Be Beautiful Again about his vision for the future of the region. He portrays a new paradigm emerging that is both beneficial to the ecology and economy, an important balance that must be struck in order for meaningful progress to be made.  Is it possible that we are at a turning point and are ready to take steps in a new direction for the Gulf Coast?  I definitely would like to believe that’s the case.  I share in the optimism that Van Jones puts forth – it is what drove me to organize this initiative in the first place.

Photos by Terrell Clark


09 2010

“When I Die, This is Where I Want to Be”

While in Grand Isle, we met a local fisherman named Frank who we had the pleasure of talking to for a few minutes. Frank was charming, friendly and talked openly about the values he was raised with and some of the changes he saw in this community since BP had been there.

What resonated with me the most about what Frank and many others shared, was the real connection they have with the water. Frank’s declaration of wanting to be cremated and spread over the water just drives home a love for the coast. It seems he sees the rhythm of his own life as working in tandem with ocean’s flow, and I wonder how much of this was taken into consideration when plans were made for the clean up.  BP’s clean-up efforts are complex and could probably not have been done in a way that would have made everyone happy, but I think coastal communities  really wanted to be more active in restoring the nature they depend on and ultimately see themselves a part of. When the oilspill happened I remember feeling anxious for it to end. I wanted BP to do everything it could to just stop oil from spewing into the gulf and clean it up as soon as possible.  But after listening to various people in the gulf,  I think it was just as important to consider HOW to clean up the oil. It is important to ensure that the cleanup didn’t turn into a “rescue” by BP, but is a commitment by the people and the company to work together to bring their coast to the health and beauty that they love.

Since our return, the team has been mentally digesting what all these narratives have showed us. We’ll continue to share and hope that you’ll continue to listen!



08 2010


We arrived back in Atlanta Monday night at 11pm exhausted, but inspired.  It has been a process of reflecting for us, and I think we are each processing what we have just experienced in our own way.  There is a ton of content to sort through and post, and over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting stories that we have uncovered along the way, including more in-depth stories from our time with those who we have mentioned already.

In the meantime, here is a quick pictorial of our journey.  Check our Flickr page for more stunning images, with many more to come.

We filled the tank with B100 Biodiesel at SA White Oil in Marietta, Ga. on the way out.  Special thanks to Travis for the fill-up!

Biodiesel Fill-up in Marietta, Ga.

After a full day of driving, we were crossing the bridge over Lake Pontchartrain in the late afternoon

Lake Pontchartrain

We stopped to take several pictures down in the delta on the way to Grand Isle, La.

Sprit of the Gulf Coast Team

Sunset over the Louisiana Delta

I was glad to be at camp after a long day of travel

Brandon at Camp on Grand Isle

I didn’t know Terrell had it in him

Terrell Clark at Camp on Grand Isle

Saturday morning, the sunrise over Grand Isle was incredibly beautiful

Grand Isle Sunrise

Grand Isle Sunrise

Terrell captures some incredible images on the Gulf Stream Marina

Man Fishing on Grand Isle - Terrell Clark Photography

Terrell at work

Terrell Clark on the Gulf Stream Marina

Provocative installation on Grand Isle

Grand Isle BP Oil Spill Demonstration

Grand Isle Oil Spill Demonstration

We stopped for lunch before our boat charter and talked with some locals

Lunch Stop

On to Bridge Side Marina to meet Captain Kenny for our offshore tour

Bridge Side Marina - Grand Isle, LA

Our team hops aboard with Captain Kenny of Bent Rod Offshore Fishing Charter

Bent Rod Offshore Fishing Charter

Terrell takes advantage of our stopover at the oil rig to capture this image

Oil rig caught in the net

Andy tests the water for herself

Andy tests the water

Terrell takes it all in

Terrell Clark takes it all in

We got to see the BP cleanup operation in progress

BP Cleanup operation

After our offshore tour, we ran into Alexandra Cousteau’s Expedition Blue Planet team on the Marina – awesome people!

Expedition Blue Planet

That night, we met some local fishermen on the bridge, including this very energetic boy with his bucket of crabs

Kid on the Bridge - Grand Isle, LA

On Sunday afternoon we headed to Pearlington, MS where we talked with some local Katrina survivors


Our final stop took us to Alabama near Dauphin Island – we stopped to see who was behind this provocative imagery

Provocative Signs

Dispersant statement outside Dauphin Island, AL

We found the creator, Lori and had a deep discussion with her on her experience.

Lori & Kim

We have a ton of content to prepare and upload.  Stay tuned for the video interviews of the people we connected with, and the additional imagery yet to be posted.  If you are not already following us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr, check us out on those channels too, and you can also subscribe to the blog posts via email on the top right of the page.  Thank you to everyone who is following our journey!


08 2010