Sunday, July 11, 2010

What are we losing?

Venice, Louisiana

The sign says it’s the Southernmost Point in Louisiana, and that’s no joke. In fact, the only way to get farther south is by boat.

We may look at the emptiness out here with no fast food restaurants, no Walmart, no condos... and never give it a second thought, but the Mississippi River Delta is a true American paradise. The locals even call this area “God’s Country”... and rightfully so. There is such an abundance of life here in these marshes that the air swarms with waterfowl and the waters teem with crab, fish, alligators and (this time of the year) locusts.

As I take the Land Rover out for a drive, the birds are reluctant to get out of the way, lest I interrupt their dinner. As a matter of fact, I saw one bird desperately trying to haul away a crab half it’s own size before dropping it back in the water to meet its fate under my tire. They are so used to humans and vehicles around here that they literally won’t move unless they absolutely have to. And their behavior is understandable. After all, we’re trespassing on their feeding grounds. The natural rhythm of the tide through these marshes brings an onrush of water across the grasses and the roads providing a shallow smorgasbord of aquatic life easily visible to the multitude of wading birds.

Oil, oil everywhere...

But it looks as though this winged paradise is about to meet its fate. With the help of chemical dispersants, the oil gushing from the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico is rapidly making its way to these pristine shores. And, once it hits, no form of life will survive. Every link in the food chain will be affected, from the smallest form of algae to the largest alligator and everything in between. That’s how it works -- one thing eats another, then something bigger eats that, and on up it goes, multiplying its deadly effect the entire way.

Some progress is being made in the effort to contain the spill, but it’s not enough. The reasons are many, and I won’t get into them here, but suffice it to say that it looks like “God’s Country” doesn’t stand a chance. Many of the locals are leaving -- locals who fought their way back here to rebuild after losing everything to Hurricane Katrina -- because they know all too well the lasting damage that this oil spill will cause. There will be no recovering from it in our lifetimes.

I wanted to try to make my trip to the Gulf a positive one -- I was hoping to show how America is pulling together to fight this disaster and protect our shores from one of the largest man-made catastrophes in history. I wanted to show that. But I can't. It's unfortunate, but I haven't seen much progress being made to stem this black tide. Maybe in the upcoming weeks that will change. I hope with all my heart that it will. And I will show it to you when I find it. But, until then, know that just because these stories have fallen off the front pages of the news, it doesn't mean that this disaster is over.

No... far from it. Even if the leak is capped today, it will take many generations before the Gulf, and all the life within it will be able to recover. If it ever does.

So, take a good look at the most beautiful and varied coastline North America has to offer. Once the oil reaches these shores, you can kiss this bayou paradise goodbye.

If you would like to help bring these stories from the Gulf to the American public, please visit and make a donation today. Be part of the solution.

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