The Government, The Press and The People…

Why is this man smiling?

So, here we are…

Almost six months after the Deepwater Horizon exploded and the Macondo Well became a petroleum free for all, the Gulf Coast has become a crazy mix of truths, cautions and hopes, a petri dish, much like the aftermath of Katrina where agendas did battle inside the square circle with the winner this time to be given the British Petroleum Federation belt and allowed to rule over a four state zone of healing? of mess? of aquatic death? of astounding ecological recovery?

Of something…Yes, we got the government, the press and the people because apparently the corporations are off somewhere making feel good commercials starring – golly gee – real live New Orleans residents, buying stock in Nalco and begging Iraq to let them come in and drill, baby drill…please?

Local Government:

In the Alabama tourist town of Orange Beach, the city’s engineering director, Kit Alexander is finishing up on preliminary testing of water samples, hundreds of water samples they have taken to “at least partly…allay concerns about oil dispersant lingering along the Gulf Coast.” The mayor, Tony Kennon, states they are taking the samples in order to potentially pursue legal action against BP PLC, but Kit has said the Corexit they are finding is in such small percentage it wouldn’t be harmful to people. Meanwhile, Robert Naman, an analytical chemist from Mobile directly contradicts these findings concluding that due to the amounts of propylene glycol and 2-butoxyethanol, BP and/or its contractors is still spraying Corexit in the Gulf. In addition, Orange Beach councilwoman Pattisue Carranza, a pharmacist has said she believes more people were getting sick this summer than summers past. She suggested this might have something to do with the oil spill, but Mayor Kennon quickly called such comments “reckless.”

Local press:

An editorial came out this morning in the Press Register titled Perception is the Problem; it comes to the interesting conclusion that people outside the Gulf Coast are under the perception that people on the coast are still warding off a steady onslaught of oil. J.D. Crowe makes the case the environmental impact isn’t as much as had been feared. He reports Dr. Crozier, the director of Dauphin Island Sea Lab as saying that environmental issues are “way, way secondary to our economic issues and our human issues.” He concludes his editorial by writing, “Yes, Alabama is in the early stages of recovering from the effects of the BP oil spill. But its restoration will have much more to do with the human fallout from the spill — the damage inflicted by perceptions to people’s livelihoods, to their pocketbooks and to their mental well-being.”

The people:

Project Gulf Impact held a Fishermen’s Forum held a conversation this past Sunday at Loyola University in New Orleans where Vicki Perrin with the Coastal Heritage Society said “The oil is ten feet, twelve feet into the grasslands… On June 16th I walked out of my front door and hit the ground.  The smell was so strong I could not breathe. It literally took my breathe away.  I didn’t think I would ever smell anything like that ever.. and we smell it every now and again,” said Perrin.  It’s because of those strong odors that Perrin said she began testing rainwater. “Aluminum, magnesium, chloride, copper, nickel.. these are things you shouldn’t find in your rainwater,” said Perrin.

In Buras, LA, another group of fisherman got together to talk about their struggles, about ways to show the public the oil is not gone:

Rocky Kirstner writes:

They felt abandoned and desperate. Some have had to accept free groceries and school supplies because they have run out of money to feed their families or buy gas for their trucks. They are incensed by million dollar ad campaigns aired during Saints games touting how BP “will make it right.”They know what’s coming. The cleanup boats are being pulled off the job and their only income will be handouts from government and charities. And those sources are drying up too. “It’s time to standup,” local shrimper Darla Rooks told the assembly of fishermen in this fishing town still devastated by Katrina. “This is my land and I cannot let me children fish here anymore. We need to stand up and fight or there will be nothing left. If you say nothing, you get nothing.”

“People out there don’t have a clue what’s going on,” says Acy Cooper, an official with the Louisiana Shrimp Association. No one wants to buy our shrimp. We can’t say for certain it’s safe while there’s still oil coming in here.”

So, as I wrote above, here we are.

The Gulf Coast, she is a big place and she has many agendas and many narratives and personally, it is the agendas I pay most attention too. In a nutshell, the fishermen want to fish, get their culture back and the people don’t want to worry about their homes, their families, getting sick. Local governments are concerned about the economy, the tourist industry so many depend upon as well as the fishing industry. The bigger press, many of them now owned by companies have financial agendas as well, and especially in the editorial section, varying political agendas.

But even with all these localized, competing agendas, I would imagine there to be several areas of agreement: we all want the oil to be gone, we all want the environment and the seafood to be safe. We want the tourists to come back as well as the physical, emotional and the economic health of Gulf Coast residents. Nobody wants the economy to keep suffering. Nobody wants to put people in danger. Nobody wants to let BP off the hook.

But, we do need caution. And we do need to continue to ask questions:

Why is it everyone but the NOAA can find oil? Why is it everyone but government officials can find dispersant in the water? Why is it BP is allowed to say they aren’t using dispersant anymore, and then qualify this declarative statement, without question from anyone in the government or media by saying, but we have a lot of contractors, implying they can’t know or control what the people they hire are doing? Why is it waters are being declared free from oil, opened for fishing but fishermen are finding oil in their catch from these oil free waters? Why is it people keep getting sick?

And finally, this last question, one of my own…why can’t the local government and press work more closely with the people? The entities they are fighting against are monstrous: the Federal Government, British Petroleum, twenty-four hour media conglomerates who only want, it would seem of late, is to pronounce this whole BP oil spill thing over.

The more localized agendas need to be more closely aligned.

Healthy Gulf, healthy people…go get British Petroleum and everyone else responsible for this clusterphuk. Go get them, together.

Have a nice day.

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