Thursday's Gumbo: The BP Oil Disaster One Year Later

Yesterday was the one-year mark of the BP oil disaster. It has been a busy week. A week of reflection mixed with a renewed sense of urgency for all of us to create more sustainable communities. Our country can’t afford, financially, socially, environmentally or even emotionally, to suffer another disaster of this scale. One year later, we must learn the lessons of this disaster and we must move forward together to find the solutions we need to truly protect our communities from oil pollution.

The Gulf coast was still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita when we were hit with another disaster last April. The Gulf coast is also known for its numerous chemical plants, refineries, and vast oil industry complexes. When communities speak about recovering and restoring our region, industry and political decision makers often mention that it's hard to know if our illnesses or the destruction seen to the environment and marine life is even associated with the BP oil disaster because of this decades long pollution we have all suffered. This passing of the blame is prepetuatng a sense of mistrust between residents and those in charge of restoration.

We must also use this time of recovery to build a foundation so that the Gulf coast will no longer be an industry dumping ground. This week I attended a number of memorial events and meetings in New Orleans. Over and over again I heard Gulf coast communities labled as a 'sacifrice zone' for the rest of the nation's energy demands. But we must not get stuck in what hasn't work for our communities.  We must memorialize the BP oil disaster each year as a time to redefine how our communities behave, not only on the Gulf coast but nationwide.

Amazing community leaders have emerged in the wake of this tragedy to help us move forward. On Wednesday I sat in the audience of the Gulf Coast Leadership Summit, where I listened to Cherri Foytlin speak about her month long walk to Washington DC from her home in Southern Louisiana. She is the wife of a rig worker and a mother of six children. Over this past year she has become an outspoken and eloquent activist and true Gulf coast hero.

Yesterday she said two things that really stuck with me. First, she said that when she arrived in Washington she realized no one knows who is in charge of restoring the Gulf coast. Those she met in leadership positions passed that role to others and it was clear to her no one really wants that responsiblity. Eventually Cherri came to the conclusion that Gulf coast recovery is up to us. We, as citizens, must be the leadership we are looking for. She also challenged each of us to find our place in this fight. Find a piece of Gulf coast recovery that most motivates you and dig in, wherever you happen to live. Get the word out and work hard to find solutions.

The Waterkeeper Alliance is built on this sentiment. We envelope into our Waterkeeper family, those that are passionately protecting and restoring the health our community’s watersheds. And we thank you for standing by us this past year and we hope that you continue to support the Waterkeeper Alliance and your local Waterkeeper in the year to come.

Save Our Gulf Gumbo Ingrediants This Week:

Media Links: This is a busy media week.There are many great articles that give us an idea of where the Gulf coast is one year later. 

Take Action with the Waterkeeper Alliance: If you haven’t already taken action alongside the Waterkeeper Alliance, please do so today. Send a message to your congressional delegation to send all Clean Water Act fines back to the Gulf coast. 

Gulf Future: An Action Plan for a Healthy Gulf: This week community groups and orgniazations released an action plan weeks in the making. It is our vision for how to create a healthy gulf coast. Check it out and share it wide.

Louisiana Bayoukeeper: Tracy and Mike attended an event for Fishing communities in Point La Hache, LA on Wednesday to stand up in solidarity with fishing communities around the Gulf coast who are not being financially compensated for the losses they sustained due to BP’s negligence.

Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper: LEAN and the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper participated in two sessions at the Gulf Leadership Summit in New Orleans. Marylee Orr shared stories from some of the people who are calling her about becoming ill due to the BP oil disaster. Paul and Michael Orr  and Wilma Subra were also featured in movie called Hunting for Oil. You can watch this short documentary here.

Mobile Baykeeper: Yesterday Tammy, Deputy Director of Mobile Baykeeper, posted a blog of her story from late summer 2010. She was and continues to be on the frontlines of the recovery efforts in the wake of the BP oil disaster.

Galveston Baykeeper: Co-released Gulf Future: An Action Plan for a Healthy Gulf on Wednesday in Austin, TX with Lone Star Sierra Club. The event was unique to the Gulf coast as it ended with a Second line from the press conference to BP’s Austin headquarters.

Renee Blanchard, Save Our Gulf Coordinator

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