You are probably not able to sit at your computer today and engage the internet without seeing something somewhere about the BP Gulf Oil Spill. That’s mainly because today, Friday, April 20, 2012 is the second anniversary of the day that eleven lives were sacrificed in the name of Big Oil. Along with that fact is breaking news that Judge Barbier has decided to move forward with settling the class-action lawsuits and giving businesses and individuals their due.
The abundance of internet coverage about the lawsuits, those negatively impacted, and the damaged eco-systems is mind boggling. Look closely enough and you will read stories of shrimp without eyes, crabs without claws, and deformed fish being discovered somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico. Just exactly where in the Gulf of Mexico are these mutant sea creatures? Therein lies part of the problem—the mixed messages coming from varying parts of the Gulf Coast.
The Gulf of Mexico is vast, and while the oil did not quite reach the immediate area of the Gulf here in South Central Louisiana where I make my living, the folks who read these stories have no clue the geography of these findings. This type of reporting fuels the wrongful perception that our Louisiana seafood and fish are not safe to eat. Thus continues the downward turn in our charter and recreational fishing and seafood industry. This, at a time when we were hoping to be fully recovered from the physical affects of the oil.
While the debate over whether or not the oil still lingers continues, it is for certain that negative articles about just how much oil remains and just how badly the Cor-exit has harmed our marine life are causing continued negative impact on Gulf of Mexico industry and tourism. One sector of society is screaming “Help!” because our marine life is suffering, while others scream just as loudly, “Welcome to our coast” because our doors are open for business, and we are begging for that business to return to pre-oil spill days. Thus you have the two sides of this ongoing aftermath: the economy and the environment.
Along the Gulf Coast, economy and environment go hand in hand—we cannot separate the two. The two sides of this disaster continue to chase each other around like hamsters on an exercise wheel. Those who depend on the Gulf as a resource for income want to see the Gulf restored. On the other hand, there is no need to sensationalize the problem to the point that the whole world believes that the entire coast is still covered in oil. Such is just not truth. What is the healthy coast to do?
Using BP compensation dollars, tourism along the Gulf Coast is advertising like never before. Billboards, radio, TV, and internet ads show the Gulf Coast at its best, claiming the beaches are clean, the fish are biting, and the seafood is safer then ever. But the question still remains: Is it enough? Will tourism ad dollars be enough to counteract all the negative publicity about baby dolphins washing up on the beach or saltwater fish being caught with growths on their scales?
Many businesses that are tourism or seafood based are still waiting for compensation for their loss of income due to the BP oil spill. They are on the economic impact side of things. But that economy will not recover until the public is certain that the environment has recovered. See? Catch twenty-two. The businesses and individuals who are still living this two years later just want to scream, “Compensate us for our losses already!”
But maybe Tony Hayward said it best, his words more prophetic then he knew,
“We just want our lives back.”
Is that too much to ask?
For eleven families, it is way too much to ask. Their lives will never be the same after losing loved ones that tragic day when the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Those of us left behind will continue to fight the good fight over environment and economy, but we will never be able to thank those eleven and all the others who have died providing petroleum to fuel this nation. So for just a few moments, on this second anniversary, let us set aside our strivings for economic and environmental justice and offer a prayer of thanks for these folks and a prayer of peace for their families.
I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
Post Script: This article won an Excellence in Craft Award from the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association in August, 2012.