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Monday, June 21, 2010

The Spill

Notice the difference? Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP

On my way to work this morning, NPR did a story on the interrelationships of businesses in South Louisiana, and how the ongoing BP oil spill is affecting businesses from engine repair shops to businesses that sell ice. One of the business owners interviewed was from a company I had called on in Houma several months ago. When I made my sales call, he had a little over 100 employees. In the interview this morning he said he is down to about 70 because they can’t keep their guys busy. When the oil spill shuts down the fishermen, shrimpers and oystermen, they don’t need to use their boats. If they aren’t using their boats, the boats are unlikely to need repairs. When the engine repair shop struggles, it affects other businesses that try to do business with them, even businesses like mine that have nothing to do with fishing, oil, or any other offshore activity.

I can’t imagine what it must be like for the families for whom – for generations – life has centered around the gulf. This blog is about my experiences in this part of the world – learning the geography and culture. But even for someone who has only been here for a few short years, the stories and images of the spill are crushing. I hope that each of you that read this blog has had the opportunity to see or hear interviews with residents of South Louisiana over the last several weeks. If you have, you’ve undoubtedly seen or heard someone who has been beaten down by hurricanes, the economy, and now an oil spill. I recently heard James Carville speak, and he says he feels like Louisiana is under attack. I wouldn’t blame the men and women of the gulf coast for one moment for feeling that way. Yet for the most part, these men and women retain their unique sense of humor and joie de vivre, and have been their usual kind, courteous, welcoming selves to the onslaught of media.

If you’re wondering how you can help, allow me to make one simple suggestion: keep talking about it. One of my friends on Twitter lamented last week that #oilspill no longer shows up in the “Trending” section. Two things not to do: do not boycott BP, and do not support the ban on offshore drilling, as contradictory as that may sound. Boycotting BP, as I hope everyone has heard, only hurts the independent owners of BP gas stations – not the larger company. On a half-joking note, we also want to make sure BP remains solvent long enough to fix this mess. In terms of the offshore drilling ban, it may seem strange that we in Louisiana want the drilling to start again, given the mess at our doorstep. But one must understand that the oil industry provides thousands of jobs for Louisiana men and women, and the current ban only exacerbates the economic problems faced by the businesses, like the engine shop described above, who rely on those boats going out to do their jobs every day.

There are websites where you can volunteer to help with the cleanup if you wish. However, I have not been contacted yet to volunteer. Furthermore, I had lunch last week with a coastal studies professor from LSU, and he said on a visit to the beach a day earlier, there were 10 people cleaning up for every tar ball on the beach. Monetarily, you might consider donating to a wildlife organization. Last, you might buy one of these t-shirts. Each shirt nets $5 to Tri-State Bird Rescue, and they’re not bad looking. 

Finally, some of you may be wondering, since this is primarily a photoblog, whether I can get any pictures of the effects of the spill. From what I've heard, BP has made it fairly difficult to get anywhere near the affected areas. So I doubt I'm going to be able to take any pictures of oiled pelicans. However, I do have an appointment in Houma later this week. If I see anything oil spill-related, I'll try to take some photos.  


  1. Great post Chris. I'm passing it on to all my friends. Thanks! Rachel

  2. It's just heartbreaking! CNN (I think) has done a good job as usual staying on the scene--especially my personal favorite, Anderson Cooper. I was glad to see they held a telethon last night to raise some additional aid. The stories that are most disturbing to me are the potential long-term health problems--not just for the precious wildlife but for the people doing the cleanup.