The Future of the Gulf CoastApril 26th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
by Sr. Marge Clark, BVM, lobbyist on domestic human needs at NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
This entry is part of our interfaith series of reflections and calls to action around the one year memorial of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and BP oil spill disaster. Find resources to commemorate the memorial in your own community here.
Easter Sunday, April 24, marked the one-year anniversary of the official announcement that the Deepwater Horizon oil rig was leaking oil. One year after the disaster, tourism proponents are touting pristine and sparkling beaches –– evidence that the disaster is behind us – ready for your visit. However, not all is pristine and much is not healthy.
In recent weeks, oil which settled to coat the ocean floor has come to the surface in hardened globs. Just a month ago new oil slicks were investigated off Grand Isle and Elmer Island in Louisiana. There is continued caution on the part of coastal residents about the health of local shrimp and oysters. The health of the ecological region is still in question and will remain so for decades to come.
Human health is a growing concern as workers who sprayed solvents to break up the oil and those living in the area are reporting diverse and ongoing illnesses. People have been diagnosed as having “the flu” – for as long as nine months. Others have skin abrasions. Many people are developing kidney and liver ailments, as well as brain tumors in percentages far in excess of normal expectations. Depression is taking a toll, with above normal rates of suicide.
Despite lingering health and environmental challenges, the people of some of the most affected areas are coming together to bring awareness to the inter-relatedness between damage to coastal areas and the damage being caused by excessive lifestyles. A group from the Gulf Coast called Road to Washington, featuring Gulf Coast activist Cheri Foytlin, met with faith leaders in Washington, DC last week, after walking from New Orleans during a 30-day trek.
On their walk, they did not dwell on the trials of the Gulf Coast; rather they made connections between overuse of resources and waste so rampant in our culture. They stressed the need to reduce, reuse and recycle and to become pro-active in using more natural and more local resources. They pointed out that the United States has about six-percent of the world’s population, yet uses over twenty-five percent of the world’s resources – particularly petroleum-based resources. Without this overuse, there would be far less need for off-shore drilling, which has proven to be dangerous, and in no way is capable of providing a sustainable source of energy.
Yes, there is new life in the coastal regions. Yes, the economy is returning for some members of the communities. However, more needs to be recognized in supporting human health and mental health. The Gulf Coast cannot wait any longer for America’s response.
Gulf Coast residents have taken the future of their health and ecosystems into their own hands by advocating for new ideas for Gulf Coast renewal- and by marching to Washington to demand a response. The future of the Gulf Coast will be decided by the people who live and work there, but the rest of America must show that we are listening to their concerns and cries for help.
They have done all they can on their own, now it is up to the rest of America and our elected representatives to help support the future of the Gulf Coast by advocating for a logical, legislative response before it is too late for the ecosystem and the people to survive.