Posts Tagged ‘Spirit’

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

Remembering Hurricane Katrina

Today is the 5-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and just 1 week ago, our expedition team was down on the Mississippi coast talking with Katrina survivors about their stories.  In a previous entry, I described part of Daryl Arnold’s story of how his family survived the storm by tying his boat to a tree and his acts of saving what he could from his property and the surrounding areas in the aftermath of the disaster.

In the video below, Daryl talks with us about the first days after Katrina and the love for the area that has kept him in Pearlington, Mississippi all these years despite not having a permanent home.

We were very moved by Daryl’s story of survival and resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity, and thought it was fitting to highlight his story today.  More on our visit with Daryl soon.


08 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

Dispersing the Truth

While passing through a small town outside of Dauphin, Alabama, we saw these signs posted outside of a house and literally turned the car around to get pictures of it. All of us were so intrigued that we decided that it was worth it to try to talk to this person who was making these bold statements on painted placards of wood. 

Dispersant statement outside Dauphin Island, AL
Lori greeted us and was immediately open to telling us her opinions about the changes that were happening in her backyard. Among the many things that she shared with us, she really opened up about an issue that has been really sensitive to almost all the people who we’ve talked to on this expeditions; the dispersant. According to the NOAA, the fish in the gulf are perfectly safe enough to eat, but Lori offers up a different perspective on what the “clean-up” has done to the quality of her food.


08 2010