How do you get 80 world-famous musicians to all sing in the same key? Spill a few million barrels of oil into the Gulf.
The Gulf Coast and, in particular, New Orleans, sits near to the heart of almost all contemporary American musicians. So in an age where multiple causes compete for artists' support, dozens are rallying around the oil spill clean up and longterm Gulf Coast restoration.
In recent weeks HeadCount artists Pearl Jam, My Morning Jacket, Bonnie Raitt, Galactic and The Indigo Girls, along with over 80 other musicians and bands sent an open letter to President Obama urging him to dedicate more funding to restoring the Gulf Coast.
The letter opened with the following call for action:
Dear President Obama,
As you are well aware, the BP deepwater drilling disaster has delivered a severe blow to the marine and coastal environments of the Gulf Coast, as well as the communities which rely upon a healthy Gulf for their economy and way of life. These communities are the originators and guardians of some of our nation's most unique cultures. As musicians, we are all in debt to this irreplaceable region, and are calling on you to help ensure its survival:
The BP disaster is on-going and will have lasting impacts. There are still tens of millions of gallons of oil in the Gulf and much more dispersed oil – and chemical dispersant itself – below the surface. The BP drilling disaster was at least 15 times bigger than the Exxon Valdez spill, and we know from Alaska that the ripple effects of the disaster will be felt for decades. It will be a long road to restoration, and the Federal government needs to stay focused on the disaster and environmental impacts that are just beginning to play out.
The musicians went on to ask the Federal government to establish a Citizens’ Advisory Council to advocate for the local community, as well as additional funding for Gulf restoration efforts.
It notes that "Louisiana loses a football field worth of wetlands every 45 minutes, and 40 to 60% of that loss is attributed to oil and gas activity, including exploration and dredging pipeline canals."
In a move that will surely draw cheers from the musicians, President Obama then announced that no drilling will be allowed in the eastern part of the Gulf or in the Atlantic, reversing a decision he announced just three weeks before the BP spill.
Still, we're only just beginning to get an understanding of the impact of the BP sill.
Right now the National Wildlife Fund is conducting research into large fish kills in Louisiana and to what capacity spilled crude is playing into what is becoming a disheartening and familiar occurrence. The BP oil spill is 15 times larger than the Exxon-Valdez spill in Alaska and the effects will be understood in real time, as it happens.
That is what makes this call to action so timely: without constant focus on clean up and restitution we will lose more more than just a driving force to our economy. We will lose part of our history and our future; we will lose our culture, our art, and a community that inspires music around the world.