400K Photo Views and Counting

At some point today, I will pass 400,000 views on my photography blog. Not bad for an amateur hack who has never been formally trained as a photographer!

I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to celebrate by sharing my 10 favorite pictures from the past five years. Given it’s a Friday wrapping up a long holiday week, I figured, “Why not?” Here we go!

1) The Eiffel Tower

I took this beauty in late November of 2009. It was drizzling, and I had to take a slow capture to get the light to glow like this. Fortunately the rain didn’t mess up lens too badly, and the shot turned out quite nicely! Taken with a Nikon D-90.

The Eiffel Tower

2) The First Presidential Tweet

I had the honor of attending the first presidential town hall, which was moderated by Twitter Co-Founder Jack Dorsey. Somehow, I ended up in the first row on the side, and took this shot of Obama typing out the first presidential tweet. Taken with my Nikon, this shot has Jack reflected in the computer screen. It still gets used frequently in Obama blog posts across the web!
The First Presidential Tweet

3) The Devil’s Horns

The centerpiece of the W Trail in Chilean Patagonia, the Devil’s Horns are viewed here from across Lake Pehoe at sunrise. This trail kicked my ass and is legendary for trying experienced hikers who attempt its courses in three or five days. Taken with the Nikon. The Devil's Horns Across Lago Pehoe

Continue reading

Six Months Later: BP’s Oil Spill Still Stains

It has been six months since the height of public outrage about the Deep Horizon catastrophe and ensuing oil spill. Periodically, news bubbles up about potential lawsuits against BP and partners, but for the most part, the media has moved on to more current pastures. Meanwhile the damage left behind still ravages the Gulf Coast environs and economy.

Earlier this month, ABC News reported on University of Georgia’s Samantha Joye’s findings that Deep Horizon oil carpets the Gulf of Mexico floor. At 5,000 feet below the surface there appears to be an 80-square mile kill zone. “It looks like everything’s dead,” Samantha Joye said.

Meanwhile economic relief efforts seem to be hitting some walls. While tourist centric business like casinos located far away from Gulf shores are getting Gulf Coast Claims approved by the government, fishermen are being denied after one of the worst shrimping seasons every recorded. These fisherman fall into four classes:

  • Small vocal number who have presented Feinberg with strong documentation.
  • A much larger group that has been paid, but far less than their emergency claims called for.
  • Another group of more than 30,000 claimants, led by an organized Vietnamese contingent in Louisiana.
  • Thousands who can’t produce enough documentation to satisfy the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

The government dismisses these as suspect or fraudulent. Somewhere in between lies the truth. And on the interwebs, the BP PR machine continues.

No one asked BP to negligently contract and manage the operation of the oil Deep Horizon rig and its ensuing damage. Regardless of how the government and BP spin it, Americans, and the global environment will suffer for years to come.

2010 will go down as one of the worst years ever for environmental disasters. And BP’s negligent actions before and after the oil spill will go down as the largest lump of coal in the lot. The novelty of this has not been matched by the actions necessary to reverse the affects of manmade climate change. In fact, at least in the United States, environmental regulation seems to be moving backwards. Again, action to change falls to the individual.

If you would like to take action to help the fishing families of New Orleans, please consider Citizen Effect’s CitizenGulf project. Money goes to provide fishing children after school education programs.

The Plight of the Louisiana Fishing Family

Dream Is Gone

The Citizen Effect Gulf Mission team sat down yesterday with Natalie A. Jayroe, president and CEO of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans (serving 23 south Louisiana parishes). Our ongoing goal remains finding an actionable way for Americans to take positive mindful ways to act in the wake of the Deep Horizon disaster.

Jayroe told us her view of how the fishing families of Louisiana have been affected by the oil spill. The following post is based from that conversation.

An area the size of Great Britain was devastated with Katrina. The entire region had to rebuild, and nonprofits and community realigned themselves to rethink New Orleans. Five years after Katrina they are seeing another devastating disaster, and, it’s been very tough on many fishing families. in once case, a fisher committed suicide.

There is nothing finite right now on how to handle the post oil spill economy. One step forward has yet to be determined. There are 49,000 Louisianans that have fishing licenses, and in all 150,000 people are affected immediately. The oil drilling moratorium has put another 40,000 people out of work.

The secondary and tertiary circles of job loss have yet to be felt in the Gulf. The ripple effect could be huge. The local economy is tourism and oil, so both of the big economic drivers of the state have been challenged.

Fishing is an up and down business. The fishing families of Louisiana are traditional and self sufficient, and do not gladly take government benefits. Fishing families take advantage of federal benefits at a rate 10-20% lower than the rest of the state. They don’t accept help readily. They don’t like case work. They just want to go back to work.

How The Hell Are We Supposed Feed Our Kids Now

Five or six generations of fishing families live by the tides. When this is taken away from them, there is little chance to take on a new career.

Their next job opportunity is often oil rigs. So they are less likely to take swipes at BP, it’s a huge part of their economy.

The fishing families think about how they are going to get through this today and tomorrow. Most of them are still trying to keep the oil off the shores. They liken it to fighting a war, and hope they will be able to shrimp next year. If there’s a way to survive they will do it. They are about subsistence and survival, and they will what they have to live with the land.

To create that next generation of sustenance income would require the community to take on a lot of education work. You would need to do a lot of front line activity with the community to evolve. They would need to band together. Given the fiercely independent culture of the fishing families here, it’s a dubious outcome…

The environmental impact from the oil spill will likely be felt for decades, stifling the marine life and fishing industry. The BP Deep Horizon oil spill may have permanently devastated this fishing culture.

Long Term Impact for Second Harvest

Second Harvest knows this issue will continue a long time after the oil spill is capped. It could take years. The organization estimates that more than 47,500 fishing homes may eventually require food assistance as a result of the Gulf oil spill.

Because it’s not a national disaster declared by the President, federal food commodities (via disaster SNAP) can’t be given out.Fact Check: Louisiana Department of Social Services. If Obama declares the oil spill a National Disaster, BP would no longer be liable. The bailout fund is not necessarily going to benefit the Gulf directly. That means disaster resources are not making it to the Louisiana parishes today.

The organization has already provided 200,000 meals through disaster relief sites in the impacted areas since May 1. The demand is making a direct impact on Second Harvest’s stores before hurricane season, stretching their resources. BP has paid the organization $350,000 to replace these recources.

Second Harvest Food bank became the largest foodbank in history following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The foodbank distributed 8 million pounds of food in September 2005 alone.

Geoff Livingston is a regular contributor to the Live Earth blog.

Welcome to the Obama BP Spin War

Rhode Island farmers pitch in to help the Gulf

It’s been three days since my last post on the Deep Horizon oil crisis, and what a 72 hours it has been. Let’s take a look at what’s happened in the now very apparent Obama Administration vs. BP spin war:

Wow! The spin war has begun in earnest. And who loses? The Gulf community and environment, and the American taxpayer. The Deep Horizon incident is quickly becoming the greatest eco-disaster in modern history. And instead of focusing on useful actions, Obama seems bent on spinning BP as the villain.

No Need to Kick. BP Is Already Down.

BP’s shoddy PR and poor actions has done enough to vilify the company, at this point. Obama and the Democrats are sacrificing the company for public opinion points. We need leadership, not PR.

As to claims that BP’s profits should be stripped, please. The company has lost 1/3 of its market cap. Isn’t that enough? We need BP employees feeling like they have a job to do (plug well, refine oil, etc.). We need this company still for fuel because we don’t have a clean energy economy yet.

Let’s be clear: BP has owned responsibility and has maintained that it will pay the necessary financial damages. There is a lawsuit being actively explored to hold criminal offenders accountable. What else do people want?

Yes, BP PR and execs need the watchdogs, and if you read me you know I am one of those watchdogs. In fact it seems everyone is one of them now. I hardly see how BP will be able to get away with anything.

How will destroying the entire company like this help? I don’t see how putting 90,000 more people out of work helps the 10,000 fisherman who will lose their jobs. I don’t understand how killing their clean energy programs — fueled by their profits and market cap — will help us become an oil free economy. That’s what you do when you stop shareholder payouts.

What Needs to Happen

Chest beating and mindless witch hunting will only hurt all of us. We need to channel our anger towards both the government and BP and hold them to the task at hand. Specifically, protect unpoisoned Gulf waters, clean poisoned Gulf beaches and waters as best we can, plug the leak, and finally, activate citizen volunteers.

Obama needs to do a better job getting a capable command and communications structure in place to clean up the Gulf. BP is not an environmental clean up company, nor do they defend shores from danger. Last I checked that was the Coast Guard, EPA and U.S. Navy’s job. BP is an energy company that drills and refines oil. Why are they being asked to handle clean-up? Let the military do it and hand BP the bill.

The Obama Administration needs to use its considerable PR skills to effectively communicate with the American public during the crisis, not schlack BP. What is the government doing Today to resolve these issues?

Obama needs to ensure not only communications, but that the DoJ investigation holds his own administration accountable, too. For surely, some EPA/MMS employees broke the law, too. Speaking of, has the Obama Administration been checking on the safety of all the other off-shore sites? What’s the status on other active oil platforms?

The president needs to activate citizens to help, because we are angry and feel powerless. Some folks, like the video featuring the farmers above, have stopped waiting for Obama and BP to get the public engaged, and started acting on their own (See my Mashable article on four ways to clean-up the Gulf using social media). What happened to “Yes, We Can?” Heck, how about taking some of the 10% of unemployed Americans and paying them to clean up, then giving the bill to BP?

And frankly, Obama needs to find viable employment for the Gulf fishing community, which will be out of work for much longer than this year. The Gulf marine environment and associated economies have likely sustained permanent wide-reaching damage.

BP needs to be quiet about whether or not oil plumes exist, whether or not 10-20k barrels a day are spilling, and simply focus on getting the leak filled. There’s no further advantage to be gained by trying to minimize public perception of how bad this is. Instead, let the facts tell the story, fix the well, and simply focus on being supportive to all clean-up, DoJ and scientific efforts. Ethical, factual communications are the only way out for BP.

No elected official should take pot shots at oil company profits without first disclosing how much oil money they have in their campaign war chest. In the words of Ben Franklin, “Clean your finger before you point at my spots.” Congress and the administration need to get big corporate dollars out of their pockets and reform themselves if they want anyone to take them seriously.

Enough BS and spin about who is to blame. Let the DoJ investigation figure that out. We all need to mindfully address the Herculean problems Deep Horizon presents with solution-oriented actions.

The El Show Episode 33: PR Ethics and the Oil Spill


Episode 33 of the El Showfeatured guest host Rich Becker who filled in for a sick Richard Laermer. We discussed the Deep Horizon oil spill crisis, the collective communications mess that has ensued, and the ethical issues presented.

Here’s a breakdown of Episode 33:

  • Introducing Rich Becker and his Fresh Content Initiative
  • Breaking down the oil spill problem into a series of sub-crisis, from the culpability aspect, to fixing the oil spill, the different clean up issues, and the PR behind
  • BP’s role? Rich says that they simply need to fix the oil leak and stop dismissing environmental damage.
  • Is it a question of leadership: BP is running the entire show, and it’s not realistic.
  • We analyze the BP (Haliburton and Transocean) PR and the related ethics
  • Then we discussed the role of MMS in the oil spill, and how Elizabeth Birnbaum lost her job
  • The DC blame game and how it’s backfiring on Obama
  • How Obama is starting to position BP as the enemy
  • PR ethics and the oil crisis
  • When to become a whistle blower

Download or listen to the El Show Episode 33 today! Also available on iTunes!