They may be singin' the blues in the Gulf, but entertainers aroung the world are doing their part to lift everyone's spirits. Larry King gave a voice to celebs like Pete Wentz and Herbie Hancock who answered phones during King's June telethon, which raised $1.3 million for the Gulf. Jimmy Buffet is performing a free Alabama concert to promote tourism on July 11; it will stream live on CMT.com. Jason Mraz and Tristan Prettyman recently sat down with Surfrider to talk about the spill before heading down to the Gulf to help out. Here are a few things Jason might have noticed when he arrived:
- The oil spill has now reached all five states in the Gulf, including Texas and even inland in Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain. Cleanup operations were stalled indefinitely due to Tropical Storm Alex, BP still can't stop the spill, and even when estimated conservatively, more than 85 million gallons of oil have spilled into the Gulf since the spill began in April.
- Painful, isn't it? Sadly, it's not just humans that are bummin'. While more than 66% of federal Gulf waters remain open for fishing, and the Federal Government has created a new coalition aimed at assuring us that it's OK to eat Gulf seafood, the animals who call the Gulf home have been severely affected by the spill. Over 400 sea turtles have died (some burnt alive during BP cleanup efforts) and the ones that are left are swimming through oil that persists deep below the surface.
- The out-of-work fishermen who manage to get jobs with BP - not all of them can - are not being reliably paid but they are being supplied with prostitutes. Meanwhile, some are not allowed to wear protective gear and are not allowed to talk to anyone. Probably because the public would find out that the workers are physically sick and are suffering extreme emotional distress. You've likely heard about the boat captain who committed suicide, but what about the increase in reported incidents of domestic violence and child abuse? (If these are the kind of stories you want to follow, I recommend the Mother Jones website, and their daily Oil Spill updates here.)
- BP is spending millions on advertising to clean up their image. They bought up the search term "Oil Spill" on Google and Yahoo, to "assist those who are most impacted" according to a BP spokeswoman. They've also written fat checks to state tourism bureaus to help keep visitors coming to the beaches. It's a big help to local businesses. But is it really safe? Check out this video of kids playing in a beach spotted with oil.
- Are you in need of a laugh yet? Check out Jon Stewart'scoverage of BP's ... shall we say ... inadequate ... emergency response plans, and the Member of Congress who "apologized" to BP. Top it off with the viral video "BP Spills Coffee."
- In addition to pushing BP to create a $20 billion disaster relief fund, President Obama continues to meet with Senators behind closed doors, advocating for a climate and energy bill that includes carbon caps. The re-energized Senator Harry Reid has set his sights on creating a bill that will be "impenetrable" to obstructionists by linking climate and energy with offshore oil drilling safety reform. President Obama and Senator Reid plan to introduce the bill after the July 4 recess.
We are running out of time. A Louisiana judge with significant financial investments in the oil and gas industry overturned President Obama's 6 month offshore Gulf Coast drilling moratorium. The Obama Administration has vowed to fight back.
You can help. Call your Members of Congress to express your concerns. Speak out. On June 26 tens of thousands of people gathered in 860 locations on 6 continents to draw our elected officials' attention to the dangers of offshore drilling. If you can head to the Gulf to volunteer then you might be able to help clean up gobs of oil but if not, there are plenty of nonprofits that can use your help. Or check out the newly announced $10 Million prize money that (TED) X PRIZE Foundation is offering up to those who can come up with the best ideas for cleaning up the Gulf's waters and shoreline. Whatever you do, just keep talking about it.