The Gulf Oil Crisis hits close to home for me- literally. As I'm writing this blog, I'm perched on my parent's back porch overlooking the Gulf of Mexico in Orange Beach, Alabama. I've sat in this same spot every summer for 15 years. Many people have enjoyed this view with me- my family, friends, ex-boyfriends, sorority sisters, my husband, my in-laws. This trip I sit alone. The view looks no different than it did on April 19th, 2010- the day before a fire and explosion caused a drilling rig to collapse, leaking millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. Today, there's no evidence on the beach of the disaster taking place in the ocean.
I went for a walk on the beach this morning, expecting to see something, but couldn't find any tar balls, which is one of the first signs that the oil sheen is getting closer to shore. I walked past the same man who sets up his fishing poles every morning, on the same spot, and nodded hello. I noticed the same heron hovering near the fisherman, in hopes of getting breakfast. From the outside,everything looks the same, but it feels very different.
During my morning stroll, a woman told me a beach patrol officer just warned her not to walk in the water. I decided to take my chances. I wanted to see if the bottoms of my feed would have residual oil like the families who I talked to last night on the boardwalk. My feet were oil-free as I made my way back to the condo, but I noticed a bucket with a special cleaning agent specifically for oil next to the community hose used to rinse our feet of sand. These are the subtle differences.
I didn't know what to expect when I first arrived at the beach. As I dragged my suitcase (and two dogs) into the elevator, I noticed a posted sign warning people not to touch oil or oil-soaked wildlife. My family and I went to dinner last night, and to our surprise, there was no waiting list. This might seem like a good thing, but it's not. Locals rely on the bustling summer months to get them through the year, so the oil spill couldn't have happened at a worse time. There's a sense of despair here. It's no longer "if", but "when". Volunteers set up huge tents near the public beach where dozens of workers deploy booms in hopes of protecting sensitive waterways. Marine specialists spend their time cleaning oil off wildlife- the local news reported this morning more than 600 birds, and nearly 300 sea turtles have been killed by the massive slick.
It's hard for me to imagine. Gallons of oil gush into the Gulf every day, every hour, every minute. It makes me angry, sad, frustrated, but most of all, helpless. With these emotions comes the desire to find out who's to blame. So who is to blame?
I had lunch with one of my friends last week, and started talking about "The Gulf Oil Spill". He raised his eyebrows and asked, "Why are you calling it the Gulf Oil Spill? The Gulf didn't cause the oil spill- BP did. We should be calling it the BP Oil Spill."
People, including the media, are referring to this oil spill in different variations. I've heard Gulf Oil Spill, BP Oil Spill, Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Gulf Coast Crisis, Crisis in the Gulf of Mexico...so to whom does this oil spill belong?
Everyone. We're all to blame. If we're going to point fingers, we need to be fair. BP definitely deserves the majority of the blame. It was their malfunctioning drilling equipment which failed us all, but in reality, they're supplying OUR demand. The government always shoulders blame in some fashion. Yesterday, I saw a plane fly over the beach, pulling a banner which said it was time for Obama to step up. The Republicans are saying Obama is to blame, the Democrats are pointing back at the GOP. When I turn on the news all I hear is blame. I want to hear solutions.
We've pointed fingers at BP, blamed the administration, but what about ourselves? The Deepwater Horizon rig was drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to fulfill our growing reliance on oil. Instead of focusing on finding someone or something to blame, let's put our energy into stopping the spill, and then making sure we never find ourselves in this situation again.
I'm not a mother. I hope to one day be. I'm afraid my children will still be cleaning up the aftermath of this oil spill. BP says the drilling on the first relief well well won't be ready until the end of August. U.S. weather forecasters confirmed that some of the oil leaking from BP's well has lingered beneath the surface rather than rising to the top. Undersea oil depletes the water's oxygen and threatens marine life.
I might feel helpless-we might feel helpless, but we're not. EPA's website has a number of ways you can help the Gulf Coast, and if you're interested in wildlife preservation go to The National Wildlife Federation's website.
I love coming to the Gulf Coast. It's my second home. I hope to someday sit on the back porch with my children, enjoying the view. I know right now it's a "when", not "if" for the oil to reach the shoreline. I know it's also a "when", not "if" for the affected communities, along with a concerned nation, to come together in support. Let's call this oil spill what it really is...a time step up and help out.
Pictures provided by MArmentrout