Friday, April 30, 2010

Just Another Day in New Orleans

Tragedy is common in New Orleans. Murders, hurricanes, poverty, indictments, you name it, we've got it. But the most recent tragedy, the oil spill in the gulf, is in a class of its own.

You would think a city that got pummeled by a hurricane and nearly destroyed by levee failures would be immune to worrying about an oil spill. We nearly drowned in Katrina, but we didn't. We survived, and will continue to do so. So what's a little oil in the gulf?

To southeast Louisiana, it's big. And eventually, it will be to the rest of the country, if not the world. Like Katrina, the damage was preventable. If the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had not had designed flaws in the levee protection system, New Orleans would not have flooded. This is no longer speculation but has been proven. Likewise, had BP paid the extra half a billion dollars for the automatic shut off for their rig, the oil flow would have shut off prior to the entire rig sinking. As it stands, oil is still continuously pumping out into the Gulf of Mexico.

And the Gulf of Mexico is by no means a Louisiana problem. The entire southern coast of the United States, as well as the east coast of Mexico, will be greatly affected by massive amounts of oil washing up on shore. This has ramifications so huge it's hard to put into words.

The people down here are standing in line to buy up seafood, as clearly, we won't be having fresh shrimp, crawfish, or other types of seafood for quite some time. But it's not just this year we have to worry about. The entire ecosystem is going to be disrupted, likely for years. Shrimp and crawfish will not be back, much less suitable for consumption, for years to come. Animals and plants that live in or near the gulf are going to be poisoned, and those that do survive will not have a suitable environment for a long time coming. Species of animal and plant life may disappear forever.

And how long will it take to rid the water of this oil, particularly when it is still flowing? Will this oil evaporate and fall down in the rain, contaminating water supplies, poisoning crops, lowering the quality of our atmosphere? Will we breathe in oil the way we breathed in mold, seeing another spike in asthma and upper respiratory diseases and illnesses like we did after Katrina?

What happens if another big storm hits, whether it's Louisiana, Texas or Florida? The gulf water will get tossed around and tidal surge can send this oily water onto even more land than it is already invading.

Not to mention the number of people in southeast Louisiana, as well as the entire coast, who make their living in the gulf. Fishing is a huge industry in coastal areas. What will happen to these people who can no longer make a living because of the oil spill?

We have had oil spills before. This one is unique in that they have still not cut off the spill. The rig has sunk, apparently too deep into the gulf to send human beings down to figure out a way to turn it off. Maybe it will run out before they get it turned off. Either way, gas prices will end up going up, and if BP is the only gas station in your neck of the woods, you'll be feeling it.

But New Orleans will keep on dancing on Bourbon Street, hosting Jazz Fest, spending every last penny on Saints season tickets. We've always been the red-headed stepchild of the United States, so whatever happens, it's just another day for us. Whether our fishermen have to survive on welfare and food stamps or our children end up in emergency rooms from breathing problems, we will endure. We always do.


Anonymous said...

Holli, I'm an author from Houma, LA and I think your post pretty much sums up everyone's fears here on the Gulf Coast. South Louisiana is home to us, and no matter what disaster befalls us, we don't want to leave. I often wonder if the rest of the nation understands why we love it here on the Gulf Coast so much. We have some of the nicest people, greatest food, and best music in the USA here in Louisiana. The damage done to seafood and petroleum industries by this tragedy is a disaster for our ecomony, and the damage done to the environment is catastrophic. In my city, we are still repairing the devastation caused by Hurricane Gustav, and then this happens. I pray God will protect us from any more tragedies.

Ashley Ladd said...

I've been very worried about what you said, too. I thought about buying a lot of shrimp now, but what about next year, and the year after? I imagine the shrimping industry is dead in the Gulf for a long time to come. We lived in Biloxi, Mississippi in our Air Force Days and my mom worked in a shrimp factory for awhile.

What will the long term effects be?

Subourbon Wife said...

Holli, this is so similar to a post I just wrote where I called Mississippi the "Step-child of the Gulf Coast". :) I have nothing at all against LA, love the place in fact. But MS is going to be pounded as well. You are so right that any way the oil blows, we'll see it again during hurricane season. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Gulf Coast. I grew up on the beach in AL, where they're still recovering from Ivan. You guys certainly don't need this right now. Many thoughts & prayers.