Let’s be frank, lots of people are helping with #citizengulf and it’s awesome. There are so many people spreading the word, I can’t even begin to thank them. But this is not Haiti, in large part because of BP’s responsibility for causing the oil spill, and its moral and legal obligation to clean up the mess.
But as we have seen over and over again, BP continues to promise fully responsible actions, only to have its actionscompletely contradictits PR and messaging. Consider the most recent lies that have been exposed this week:
2) Phytoplankton, the base element of the fishing food chain, have been poisoned by this oil. This means the entire Gulf food supply has been affected and will have crude oil poisoning to contend with.
This continued public lying (and the co-signing of this behavior by the Obama Administration) should tell all of us one thing: BP will abandon its responsibility to clean up the Gulf at the first opportunity. The Gulf cannot count on BP or the federal government to resolve this situation.
Any of us would be furious if our homes and livelihoods were treated in such a fashion. In fact, many of us who do not live in the Gulf are angered by the public hucksterism we are being offered by BP and the Obama Administration. But what can we do about it? Plenty, and as my trip to the Gulf convinced me, this hurricane ravaged region definitely needs our help.
Beyond the citizengulf program, there are more mindful actions: Write your elected officials and tell them to stand up to big oil and large corporations ruining our country, live a better sustainable life, and restore ethics to the communications profession. Want more? The AARP offers six ways you can make a difference for the Gulf.
No , it’s not Haiti. But it’s happening in our own back yard at the hands of corrupt oil company with the federal government cosigning it. Whatever you do, friends, I encourage you not to sit this one out. In my mind, it’s a civic duty. Take mindful action and say no to BP.
Today we opened the first #citizengulf city events for registration on the Citizen Gulf site. Citizen Effect‘s national day of citizen action seeks to help fishing families in need by providing an education for their children, in the hopes that they may be able to pursue new careers in the wake of the oil spill’s long term impact.
And as we launch, a raging controversy brews about the latest spin from BP and Obama – claims that the oil spill’s impact is disappearing. Fishing families and other members of the Gulf economy still struggle to survive. As the above video from a Grand Isle City Hall meeting last week, shows even with BP’s financial aid, the oil spill survivors are suffering and cannot pay their bills.
The fishing families of Louisiana and the Gulf beyond still need our help. It’s clear that BP and Obama will shirk this responsibility at the first opportunity. Meanwhile fishing families are left to pursue their profession of generations in diminished, or worse, permanently tainted waters.
Andy Gibson’s story is the classic example (on Friends of the Fishermen’s charity site). A fourth generation fisherman who found his waters closed to shrimping and the market for his goods bottomed out, Gibson simply went further out to the fertile fishing grounds of western Louisiana and Texas, untouched by the oil spill. Gibson is “determined he will figure out a way to make it through.”
Many fishing families will continue to choose this life style in the face of adversity. But their children can have an option. Working with Catholic Charities of New Orleans — an organization working directly with fishing families everyday in eight parishes — we can provide an opportunity for kids to have a better education and the choice for a different career path.
Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Marketing and Promotion Board estimates the problem to be a $100-$200 billion economic calamity (see above video). But because of the ongoing PR and legal culpability that’s being fought between the Obama Administration and BP, Gulf states are floundering.
Instead, a $20 billion pledge from BP is supposed to cover it. Culpable, yes. Capable of addressing the widespread calamity resulting from the oil spill? No. The Gulf may be irreparably harmed by not only the oil spill, but by our reaction to it; namely, the Obama Administration’s failure to declare the oil spill a national disaster, and the general U.S. societal turning our backs on this issue and expecting BP to pay for it.
My fellow Citizen Effect Gulf Mission goer and leader Dan Morrison painted an interesting view of it: “The more I learn on the trip, the more it becomes clear that BP can’t and won’t solve this economic disaster. The economic and social problems facing fishing communities due to the oil disaster are local problems that need local solutions. Put it another way: there is no one large top down solution and program that can address this problem). While it is hard for the country to see the impact of the oil spill on fishing families (they are not covered in oil like birds), the stories about how a families livelihood and way of life are endangered are real and tangible.”
The Unfathomable Depth of the Issue
BP’s Vessels of Opportunity program has 2100 vessels signed up, but only 500 working. These guys are not working, and their deckhands are not working. Tony Martinez, owner of the Breton Sound Marina (above) corroborated this. On our trip east yesterday, we heard similar reports from the son of a Vietnamese Fisherman in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Those are the commercial fishermen. Consider the unlicensed ones who harvest fish on a cash basis, the deckhands for these people, as well as those commercial fishermen who may not report all of their income.
These folks cannot get money from BP or the Obama Administration because they don’t have IRS reports. In essence, because they haven’t played by the system, they will be crushed by it. They are out of luck, and at the mercy of nonprofits serving the region like Catholic Charities of New Orleans, Second Harvest and the Greater New Orleans Foundation.
The losses will be just staggering for the fishing community. But it extends beyond Gulf seafood. Restaurants and tourism are hurt in all affected states. There’s also Louisiana’s other big industry: Oil. Regardless of the politics behind the moratorium, you are talking 100,000 jobs dedicated to the Louisiana oil industry. Consider job losses of 150,000 people in a region already hit by Katrina and in a recession.
FriendsoftheFisherman.org was a fund started by the Lousiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board to help the commercially licensed fishing families affected. It has four corporate partners Entergy, Rouser’s, The New Orleans Hornets, Abita beer have started it. The Board’s goal is to raise $100 million in total money. Further the Board’s LouisianaSeafoodNews.com shows real stories of fisherman.
But what about the non-commercial licensed fisherman and the deckhands? In addition to the on-the-ground fantastic work of the Catholic Charities and their partners HorizonRelief.org has been set up by Kevin Voissin, eighth generation oyster fisherman. He is taking oil and selling it in vials. Yet Voissin’s work will not be enough to resolve the long-term crisis facing the fishing culture in the Gulf.
A Way of Life Crushed?
As discussed in my Plight of the Fishing Family post earlier this week, this reaches far beyond money. We are talking about the possible destruction and ending of a culture.
Gulf fishing communities in the United States have gone back generation upon generation. It’s been the subject of movies (Forest Gump comes to mind) and has even inspired unique fashion and phrases like “down on the bayou.”
The cultural impact of taking away a profession for more than year — let’s be frank here, the overall devastation on the fishing industry will go well beyond 2010 — cannot be underestimated. While the environmental damage the wetlands has been sustaining over time may have accomplished the same result in 30 or 40 years, the sudden end via the Deep Horizon disaster breaks your heart.
Kerry (pictured above and see his story here), a sixth generation fisherman said it best to me: “My father always told me this business was a dying one. But no one imagined it would happen like this.”
What is the answer? Just as we know gulf fishing may have ended, most fishing families aren’t ready to give up yet. Getting them to suddenly become educated or get new vocations — in an ongoing long-term recession — will take more than recognition of the issue. It will take a nationally supported, yet locally driven, community wide solution.