As the Mississippi River rises and Gulf residents prepare for flooding, it’s a good moment to reflect on what is happening to our friends and families in the vulnerable region. It's been a year since the oil spill and recovery hasn't been easy:
- Progress and Distress – this dichotomy accurately describes the Gulf Coast at the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. It’s getting increasingly difficult to rely on the mixed messages coming from the media and the government. Some very revealing coverage came from the Gulf Restoration Network’s tour of the marshes in Plaquemines Parish; The pictures they took document the destructive clean-up process BP is using to clean the already sensitive and endangered marsh grass.
- BP announced that it's giving $16 million to fund tourism in Alabama. This year’s Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores, AL received $1.5 million to assist with advertising and promotion, and it seemed to work! The festival sold out, brining tens of thousands of tourists to the Gulf this weekend. Widespread Panic, Paul Simon, Ween and Primus are among the performers. Roughly another $4 million will be granted to various concert series planned along the Gulf shores of Alabama to boost tourism.
- Meanwhile, BP has again set off residents of the Gulf Coast by refusing a group of them access to the annual shareholders meeting held in London, including residents holding valid proxies that would have otherwise allowed them to enter. BP officials cited safety as the reason for denying entry to the individuals. The Gulf residents said that they “were treated like criminals,” with security even lowering a metal security gate to restrict the group from entering. Many of the Gulf residents who were present said that the action was not a protest; the group only wanted to inform the BP shareholders that “all is not well in the Gulf.”
- BP has gone on the offensive against Transocean, the company that owned and operated Deepwater Horizon, filing a $49 billion lawsuit for that company’s alleged part in the spill. This suit has only been helped by the U.S. Coast Guard, which has recently stated that the rig operation firm had a “poor safety culture” and weaknesses in its emergency training process. BP is using this report as evidence that Transocean “missed several opportunities to prevent the spill.”
- The effect of the crisis on Gulf wildlife is one of the biggest long-term concerns stemming from the event. It’s hard to forget the stories and images of 199 dead sea turtles and 86 dead baby dolphins that have washed onto Gulf shores since January. May 1st was the beginning of the sea turtle nesting season in the gulf. Scientists and environmentalists are hoping for a successful season to replenish the population of those cute little sea creatures.
Feeling like you want to get involved? I encourage my readers to send their stories or comments my way. Just because the media has turned its attention away from the distress down south does not mean that we have to.