It is enraging that states in the western Gulf – Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and especially Louisiana – have sold out to the oil industry. These states have now put the entire Gulf of Mexico and every single one of its beaches, fisheries and people at risk to make a fast buck. We as a nation do not have to sacrifice our natural beauty to feed our addiction to oil. Less than 10 percent of the oil we consume comes from the drilling in the Gulf.
Hundreds of people are working hard to clean up this devastating mess, and businesses in these areas are still trying to get people to visit the beaches to keep money coming into their now struggling communities. But these are not the beaches I grew up on. It is devastating to know that no amount of optimistic tourist-luring spin is going to clean the oil from these shores.
From my flight over the coast, I saw first hand the amounts of oil in the Gulf that will eventually come ashore. Coast Guard ships just offshore were marking the heavy oil in the tide lines as it drifted closer to the beaches.
As I walked along the oil-covered beach, I grew more enraged at the people who sued to lift the deep-water drilling moratorium, even as oil continues to spew into the Gulf. I am angered by the greed of BP executives who cut corners on safety, unleashing this disaster. But most of all, I worry if we as a people will wake up for this devastating environmental catastrophe and change our ways. Will we learn from this and make changes in our governmental policies to require increased efficiency in our vehicles, support cleaner fuels, electrification of our cars, and put a price on carbon pollution to set in place the market forces that will move us away from fossil fuels? Will people change their personal practices and begin buying cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars, or begin driving less all together? Will they demand their elected officials to play fewer political games and get more done? My fear is that we will grow numb to the miles of oily stains and tar balls on our once pristine beaches. I pray for our planet and future generations that we don’t let this happen.
To see the entire set of photos, visit our Flickr page.
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has 30 years of experience effecting change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as its executive…