June 17, 2010

The Gulf Spill Gets Personal.

BP’s Oil Disaster has Struck Home.

Dammit.  Now they’ve done it.  BP’s oil disaster has struck home – my home – in Minnesota.  I’ve just returned from taking a road trip with my son from my adopted home of Boulder, Colorado to visit my family in Minnesota, where I grew up.

On one of the days, we drove to my parent’s cabin on “the lake” and we went canoeing.  The water was calm and glassy and through the mist and slight drizzle I noticed a pair of loons gently floating out in the distance. We paddled closer to them and I said, “Look over there Andrew!  Do you know what those are?”  He didn’t.  So I told him that they are the state bird of Minnesota and they are my absolute favorite bird.  He’s still at that age where he’s into animals – and idolizes me – so hearing that those are my favorite birds caught his attention.  He asked why and I told him that it’s a combination of their sleek design, their black and white coloring, and their lovely, haunting calls.  For the next 20 minutes or so, we circled around near them watching that mated pair dive for fish and enjoy each others company.  It was a sacred moment on holy ground, er water.

Then, later that day during lunch, I read an old copy of a small town local paper which had a feature story that told everything you’d ever want to know about loons.  Where they live, what they eat, how they communicate.  And then I noticed something that I’d forgotten about, they spend their winters in…. the Gulf Coast.  Uh oh.  My heart sank and I was quiet the rest of the day.

When we returned to my parent’s house in St. Paul I discovered an article in that very day’s Pioneer Press that made my heart sink even further.  It’s official, the BP oil spill is expected to have dire consequences on Minnesota’s state bird.  Turns out that juvenile loons spend three years in the wetlands along the Gulf Coast before they return to Minnesota to mate.

It’s bad enough that the Gulf spill has ruined the livelihoods of thousands of my fellow Americans and killed untold thousands of creatures who live in the sea. I felt just horrible about those things and I was outraged by what has happened.  But now I’m livid.  That BP’s spill has threatened one of the things that makes my home state state so wonderful— a state that is no where near the Gulf coast, has me feeling palpably sickened.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Johnny-come-lately to being alarmed about these matters.  I’ve led a work trip with college students to repair houses in Moss Point, Miss. damaged by Hurricane Katrina and I led another on Galveston Island to repair an old home that was damaged by Hurricane Ike.  I know and care about people down there.  Moreover, a few weeks ago I posted an article Elephant about how we can donate the hair from our hair cuts to help make booms which can help filter oil from the waters.  I’m boycotting BP and cutting back on my use of oil based transportation.

But somehow, when the effects of this fiasco reached Minnesota things became more solidified.  I am now almost militant in my outrage.

I don’t own firearms and I’m not calling for a call to arms, but I am calling for a call to legs. I urge everyone of us to walk or bike to work, to the grocery store, even to the laundromat.  We can reduce our dependence upon fossil fuels – we really can. I’m also calling for a call to hands— i.e. to urge us to write or type letters to our congress persons to hold BP fully accountable for what they have done and to demand an end to deepwater offshore drilling.  Just because we have the ability to drill that deep doesn’t mean that we should— esp. given that we don’t have the technology to quickly put a quick stop to spills that take place that deep.

Sadly, I have a feeling that the last loon call I hear may be BP saying, “That’s all folks!” ...as they eventually finish their tertiary, surface level, “clean up” efforts and then… continue on with business as usual as if nothing happened.

P.S. I’m also going to try to spend a week volunteering down in the Gulf this summer.  I have absolutely no idea what I’d do down there and I’m not trained at all in how to work with oil spills, so I may just help make sandwiches and iced tea to help support those that do.  But by God, I’m going to do something.  My son needs to know that if I love something, I do something.

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