Gulf Coast Recovery Issue Update: Highlights & Lowlights of the Oil Spill

When I started writing for HeadCount earlier this year I was excited to bring you positive news from the Gulf as hurricane recovery advanced. Unfortunately, there is new cause for concern about the Gulf and the residents who live on its shores. As oil continues to flow, the fragile coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida face all new challenges. Here are some of the more interesting reactions, articles, photos and video clips to surface over the last six weeks:

  • Lenny Kravitz, Ivan Neville and a stellar Louisiana collaboration, "The Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars" (Dr. John, Tab Benoit, George Porter Jr., Cyril Neville, Marcia Ball), have been playing to raise money for victims of the oil spill. A recent benefit concert in New Orleans raised over $300,000, which will be distributed to those affected in the fishing communities of St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes. Drew Brees and the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints are raffling off a super bowl ring in hopes of raising a million dollars toward relief efforts.
  • The Huffington Post put together a rundown of some of the most shocking and outrageous moments to happen since the disaster on April 20. The list includes sweetheart relationships between oil companies and federal employees, suspect comments from BP CEO Tony Hayward, and clean-up workers falling ill due to lack of proper protective gear and over-exposure to toxic dispersants. This brings to light an important point: the dispersants being used by BP are themselves toxins and could pose threats to human and marine life. BP has been employing local boat operators and fishermen for the difficult and tedious task of cleaning up the aftermath. Some of these workers are reporting symptoms of nausea, headaches, and shortness of breath as a result of exposure to crude oil and the dispersants.
  • Tony Hayward has been busy on PR duty trying to contain not just the oil but the damage to BP's reputation. The BP channel on YouTube is airing "touching" video clips about how BP is doing the best they can. Between the advertising campaigns and the decision to pay dividends to shareholders, some question if there will be enough money left over to pay "every dime owed" for the spill, as the company has promised.
  • The concern for the health, safety and economic stability of Gulf Coast residents and fishermen is mounting. The 11th Hour, an organization that aims to raise public awareness and promote sustainable solutions to climate change, launched a campaign to bring the intimate and heartbreaking stories of the individuals who have been directly impacted by the spill. Their series, titled Letters from the Field, will allow individuals to record their stories on a blog, about their experiences and how they are dealing with the emotional rollercoaster.
  • To make matters worse, the official start of hurricane season was June 1st. This season is expected to be very active, with storms rivaling those in 2005 (Katrina). Scientists are contemplating the effect of a hurricane hitting oil slicked waters and the outlook is grim. There is fear that a hurricane or even a tropical storm could create a black wave that would devastate the Gulf coast. The fragile marshlands in Louisiana and Mississippi are already struggling to re-grow after Katrina and now are seeing large sheens of crude oil.

Want to help? Residents and travelers can support the local economy by catching some of the seafood festivals that have vowed to go on despite the spill. If you haven't made your travel plans for the summer, think about a trip down south and see what a difference you can make. This info from Greenpeace U.S.A will guide volunteers to find out where help is needed.