BP Disaster in Gulf: “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”

Via Climate Progress, the background to this video from David Yarnold, Executive Director of The Environmental Defense Fund:

From a comfortable distance the BP oil disaster is depressing and horrific. But up close, it’s worse.

Two days in the Gulf of Mexico left me enraged – and deeply resolved. Both the widespread damage and the inadequacy of the response effort exceeded my worst fears. I’d spent a full day on the Gulf and we ended up soaked in oily water and seared by the journey.

By Tuesday night, I was home. My throat burned and my head was foggy and dizzy as I showed my pictures and video to my wife, Fran, and my 13-year-old daughter, Nicole, on the TV in the family room.

Images of the gooey peanut-butter colored oil and the blackened wetlands flashed by. Pictures of dolphins diving into our oily wake and brown pelicans futilely trying to pick oil off their backs popped on the screen. And, out of nowhere, Nicole put on the music from the season finale of Glee.

With all these horrific images on the screen, she had turned on the show’s final song of the year, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” The song, a slow, sweet, ukulele and guitar-driven version, couldn’t have added a deeper sense of tragic irony.

…The inspiration [for this video] was Nicole’s. This is for her, and for all of our kids – and theirs to come.



Environmental Defense Fund

Read the full post on Climate Progress.

Is there a different way of doing things, that moves us away from this dirty fossil fuel addiction we’ve developed over the last century?  Yes!  Check out Four Years.Go: A campaign to change the course of history.

Notes From the Gulf: “Tell Everyone What Is Happening Here And Pray For Us”

Today’s posting is by Lois Nickel, Director Regional Relations and Programs, Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS). MDS is a volunteer network through which North American Anabaptist churches can respond to those affected by disasters in Canada and the United States. Lois wrote this reflection last Wednesday, June 9, during a visit to the coast of Louisiana.

A Day Spent in Plaquemine’s Parish

Yesterday I had the privilege of spending a day on the Gulf Coast southwest of New Orleans in Plaquemine’s Parish (like a county or municipality), Louisiana USA.  Six Hesston College students, two Canadian Mennonite University students, and I were led by Mennonite Disaster Service volunteer Paul Unruh (Newton Kansas) on a tour of the area.

We began our day in Port Sulphur and met John – our boat captain – and two other shrimp fishers who travelled with us in the bayou.  We skimmed along the water until we reached the houses that MDS had built and picked up Rosina and Ruby.  Our group was now 15 in a small boat with nearly enough life jackets.  We cruised up close to the marsh grasslands and touched the healthy grasses, listened to the birds singing, smelled the clean air.  Miles and miles of marsh where fish spawn and live.  An ecosystem that is so precious to our earth and to these Bayou peoples.  They believe God has asked them to be its caretakers.  They’ve done that for generations, they want to do so for generations to come.  But that may not be possible.

We sped further out into the wetlands and it was not long until we could start to see a six inch line of black oil film on the grasses.  We could smell kerosene-like toxins in the air at points and we saw the gorgeous pelican birds covered in black oil.  One was trying to fly and was unable to.  We were assured by the next boat we met that the animal rescue folks were on their way to pick this pelican up.  It was explained later that day, though, that not nearly all the birds survive after being washed clean of the oil.  Many have ingested it and get sick and die anyway.  The line of black oil on the grasses grew in inches the further into the Gulf we drove.  We took a container out of the boat and scooped up some of the brown globs oil to show those back on land.  We saw the white booms that BP has placed as borders before the marsh grasses to soak up the oil and saw how they weren’t working and the oil was going under and around these booms and reaching far into the grasses anyway.

Eventually we turned around and came back to Rosina’s home.  She invited us in for conversation and sweet tea.  We sat in a circle and listened to her passionately talk about her corner of the earth and this new threat that may end her family’s way of life.  She and others in her family explained that Katrina was bad, but it was a natural event that came and went and both nature and humans rebuilt in the few years since.  It could be overcome.  The oil spill’s effects cannot yet be known and are affecting both humans and the entire ecosystem of the wetlands.  Shrimpers are out of work – they cannot shrimp.  Many of the local folks don’t know what they will eat – they are used to eating seafood much of the year.  They are now considering container gardening for vegetables and raising chickens.  They will need to diversify.

The Bayou people did not express anger.  They expressed grief and mourning.  Rosina agreed with my confession that we don’t want to give up the products that oil affords us.  We want to drive gas driven boats and cars, etc.  Her frustration with BP is not leading her and her people to wish for all oil drilling to stop.  Many of the Gulf coast people work for BP and the other oil companies.  These companies provide jobs that are needed.  Some families have one person in the shrimping business and one person working for BP and sometimes a person will do both.  Her frustration with BP is that they and other oil companies are not putting people first.  Economics and profit drive these large corporations and in this case (and others that have not had such an accident just yet) BP failed to follow all safety regulations as suggested.  This accident could have been avoided, but money and greed allowed it to happen.

Now, Rosina says, the people in the Gulf are held hostage by BP.  They can’t try to clean up the oil themselves, nor can the state or the parish.  Everyone must leave it alone while BP takes responsibility and cleans it up.  If anyone interferes, then BP can blame anything that doesn’t work or goes wrong on someone else who was involved.  The people who live there are restricted in going and even looking at the damage – they can get fined for doing so.  They also need work.  They can register with BP and be hired by BP to help clean up the spill.  But again if BP sees them so much as wearing a nose/mouth mask or spitting into the water, they are fired.

What can we do?  Rosina believes that each voice that carries the message to the world that we need oil companies to be safer and make human life and ecosystems priority over profit will make a difference.  She asked us to tell everyone what is happening there and to pray for them.  They want to live there and work there and have the earth healthy there.  They feel like they can’t fix this, they can’t do much, but they can tell their story.

Later in the day we met with a Vietnamese shrimper who had been waiting for weeks to hear from BP about a job as his boat sat idle.  He found out on Tuesday evening that he was hired.  We toured his shrimp boat after he pulled into his berth for the night.  He was smiling from ear to ear he was so very very happy that he had work.  He did not believe that the booms (white long strips of batting that are put in the water to soak up and stop the oil) he was placing where BP told him were helping any, but it meant he could pay his bills and feed his family.  The pay is good and he was happy to work.  Another fellow on the docks was waiting for that call from BP – he has registered too – and was so hoping it was him that would get a job next.

There is much more I could write yet and I may yet, but this is it for today.  I’m including a few pictures to show an example of what I saw.  I have many mixed emotions – of anger, frustration, sadness, loss, and also of not completely understanding the scope and magnitude of it all.  Paul has written a most moving poem about all this that I also will share with you (click here to read “Grieving Again”).

Healthy marsh grasses. Photo by Lois Nickel
Oil soaked marsh grasses. photo by Lois Nickel
Globs of oil in marsh. Photo by Lois Nickel
BP cleanup booms not working. Photo by Lois Nickel
Shrimp boat working for BP. Photo by Lois Nickel
MDS group visiting Plaquemine Parish. Photo by Lois Nickel

More links:

Mennonite Disaster Service

“Grieving in Louisiana”

Grieving in Louisiana

A poem by Paul Unruh:


April and May 2010

Part I

Grieve for the red fish and the trout

That lie belly up

Near the marsh grasses

Grieve for the brown pelican

That flounders on the riverbank

Instead of gliding proudly over

Grieve for the dolphin nearby

With oil in its eyes and nostrils

And a death ache in its stomach

Grieve for the sea turtle

The raccoon

And the lowly nutria

Grieve for the prairie marsh

As it soaks up the crude

And its ecological cycle begins to warp

Grieve for the Vietnamese and the Cambodians who survived war, Katrina and Rita

But who now sit in silence on their boats

At night time.

Grieve for the Houma, the Cajun, the Atakapa and the African American

Whose ancestral way of life is being altered

Without their permission

Grieve for the eleven

Who died while at work

On the sea

Part II

Pray for the children who do not understand

The unspoken fear and sadness

On the faces of their parents

Pray for the parents who wonder

Whether their children will learn

Their ancestral way of life

Pray for Venice, Boothville, Buras, Triumph, Empire and Port Sulphur

And for their roots

Sunk deep in the oily marsh

Pray for us all, that we may yet find a way to save the earth

And to teach our sons and daughters

To fish

Paul Unruh

Louisiana Coast. June9.2010. photo by Lois Nickel

Paul Unruh is a volunteer and consultant with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) from the Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton Kansas. He is currently working on the Gulf Coast. Thanks to Lois Nickel, Director Regional Relations & Programs at MDS for forwarding this poem to me, and to Paul for giving me permission to share it.

Climate Change Denier Christopher Monckton’s Fabrications Eviscerated By University of Minnesota Professor

From Climate Progress, Professor John Abraham’s step-by-step deconstruction of one of the most famous of the anti-science deniers, the Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, a.k.a Lord Chris Monckton:

The number of errors Chris Monckton makes is so enormous it would take a thesis to go through every single one of them.”

Click here to see the slide presentation of Professor Abraham, where he addresses Monckton’s talks, slide by slide, and shows how erroneous his assertions are, and how he twists the data of real scientists. A must-see!

Meanwhile down in the Gulf of Mexico BP still can’t say whether the oil will stop after it’s latest attempt to stop the underground volcano. Here’s a video from Greenpeace USA taken last week showing the extent of the disaster at that point, and hundreds of thousands more gallons have poured into this fragile ecosystem since then.


Click here to go to 1,000,000,000 Strong Against Offshore Drilling’s “Write a Letter to the Editor” action page to make your voice heard against Big Oil’s push to “Drill Baby Drill”.