deepwater drilling disaster
Oceana was joined by longtime supporters Kate Walsh ("Private Practice" and "Grey's Anatomy") and Aaron Peirsol (gold medal-winning swimmer) in Washington, D.C. today to remember the one-year anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. We were also joined by Patty Whitney, a Louisiana resident-turned-activist whose home was affected by last year's disaster.
Along with campaign director Jackie Savitz, and a slew of energetic volunteers, the group served to remind us that offshore drilling is never safe - and that an oil spill could happen anywhere. Check out this slideshow of images from today's event.
I am a Californian now, but I was born a child of the desert. My parents raised me in Arizona, where my father worked as an archaeologist, and my mother took me to wander the scrubby ravines near our home. She saw beauty everywhere. As a small boy I just saw great opportunities for hide and seek.
Once a year, for our summer vacation, we would drive to the beach. I still remember the great anticipation I felt as our station wagon crested the last mild incline that would give us a view of the Pacific Ocean. It filled me with an awe I still feel today, and as an adult Iâ€™ve always lived a window away from its expanses.
But my appreciation for the ocean is complicated by the knowledge that we risk it every day for oil. Last yearâ€™s Gulf of Mexico oil disaster was a bellwether tragedy for the oceans. We know less about the deep sea than we do about the surface of Mars â€“ just as we still donâ€™t know the true cost of the worst oil disaster in U.S. history a year later.
Yesterday, I wrote about tagging along with a NOAA crew as they searched for subsurface oil. The next day, I joined the Fish and Wildlife Service on an expedition with a much more easily visible goal: Checking out the breeding colonies of seabirds that have laid their nests near waters affected by the oil spill.
Nearly 1800 oiled birds have been recovered by rescue teams, and more than a thousand of those were already dead. The majority of the live birds go to Jay Holcomb's bird rescue center. Of course, the Gulf of Mexico is an enormous area, and it's only in recent weeks that a significant number of oiled birds have even been seen â€“ meaning that in the two months since the Deepwater Horizon started gushing oil, there have probably been many more birds affected that we'll never know about.
"This is the tip of the iceberg, what we're bringing in," said Steve Martarano, a public affairs officer with FWS who organized the boat trip to visit the nesting birds. "But we're saving a lot of birds."
NOAA restoration officer Sean Meehan deploys pompoms attached to a chain in Barataria Bay last week. He'll return in 24 hours to see if the pompoms have picked up any oil. I took this video while taking photographs at the same time, so be glad I have it pointed in mostly the right direction.
The Gulf oil disaster reminds me of that old Donald Rumsfeld chestnut, the one about known-knowns and known-unknowns. With a massive, ongoing gushing oil spill, and an enormous ecosystem at risk, we're in the realm of the "known unknown" â€“ we know that there is a huge amount of oil moving through the Gulf, but no oneâ€™s quite sure exactly where it is or where itâ€™s going.
A group of federal agencies, including NOAA, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service are trying to push us into the "known known" category with teams sent out on what are essentially reconnaissance missions. Two months into the oil disaster, theyâ€™re still grappling to understand the impacts on shorelines, turtles, mammals and more.
Last Thursday, for the first time, NOAA allowed a small group of ocean conservation activists to shadow a crew working on discovering the location and severity of subsurface oil. I joined our senior campaign director, Jackie Savitz, along with scientists and campaigners from Ocean Conservancy and the Gulf Restoration Network in a couple of skiffs that tailed the NOAA crew for a few hours on the water just east of Grand Isle, La.
Before we embarked, NOAA restoration specialist Sean Meehan gave us the rundown as we stood on the dock in Jean Lafitte, about 25 miles south of New Orleans. A jovial guy, Meehan is an experienced marine researcher, but even he acknowledged the unique difficulty of locating subsurface oil.
Hereâ€™s one more way you can help the Gulf -- while upping your cool points.
The Heads of State, who have designed posters for the likes of Wilco, Modest Mouse and Sonic Youth, have designed an Oil Drop poster (pictured here), and theyâ€™re donating half of the sale price of each -- that's $20 per poster -- to Oceana.
You can feel pretty good about that (we sure do.) Get your posters here and spread the word.
TED conferences â€śbring together the world's leading thinkers and doers for a series of talks, presentations and performances.â€ť So it was only a matter of time until TED tackled the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Topics will include: mitigation of the spill and the impending cleanup efforts; energy alternatives; policy and economics; and new technology that can help us build a self-reliant culture.
The presenters will include the following experts:
In his address to the nation last week, President Obama almost got it right.
He described his vision for Americaâ€™s clean energy future, which includes wind, solar, and other renewable sources, in addition to energy efficiency.
But his vague entreaties for progress on this most crucial of issues left out vital specifics and he stopped frustratingly short of saying what is on the minds of so many of us in the wake of the tragic and seemingly endless disaster in the Gulf: it is time for a ban on offshore drilling.
When he introduced the creation of a commission to investigate the causes of the Deepwater Drilling Disaster, the president displayed the same stale mindset that has plagued so many before him: that through improved technology we can make safe what is inherently an unsafe, dirty, and dangerous practice.
We donâ€™t need to improve offshore drilling: We need to ban it.
In a civic center in St. Bernard Parish last night, BP and government agencies working on the oil spill set up folding chairs and posterboards describing their work in a kind of high school science fair approach to meeting the public. There was NOAA, setting up vials of simulated dispersed oil like a flight of wine; there was the Coast Guard captain in charge of the recovery, Roger Laferriere, giving a heartfelt speech about his dedication to Louisiana with the earnest aplomb of a student body president.
But while the attendees were dominated by a scrum of reporters and camera crews, there were a few hopeful locals mostly interested in meeting one man: Kurt A. Hansen, a project manager with the Coast Guard standing between a table and a sign plainly marked "Alternative Response Technology."
Hansen's job is to take ideas from the public about the fixing the oil spill. He has the inscrutable expression of a man whoâ€™s heard it all.
When I approached his table, Hansen was listening patiently to a man complaining that heâ€™d been ignored by BP for weeks.
Oceana board member and renowned fisheries biologist Daniel Pauly spoke to OnEarth magazine about the gulf oil spillâ€™s effect on marine life and fisheries.
â€śWe cannot really grasp the measure of this accident because we donâ€™t know if we are at the beginning, the middle or near the end of it,â€ť he says.
Watch the video for more from Pauly.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.