On June 19, I received via email this cry for help from Joann Griffin Kauffman, a Cajun woman who lives in a small shrimping town on the Gulf of Mexico:
Our town has had some very rough times from the Gulf oil spill since you came here for our Blessing of the Fleet and enjoyed our Family Fun Day. Our wonderful wildlife and seafood as well as our way of living are being rapidly destroyed. I fear there will no longer be future Blessing of the Boats as there will no longer be shrimp boats lining our Bayou Lafourche.
Our lovely brown pelicans that just were taken off the endangered species list last year are dying by the hundreds. Eggs & baby chicks are accidentally being smashed by untrained workers in the marsh. Google "gulf of mexico oil spill birds" and feel the pain. Remember the pelicans and seagulls you saw perched on docks and in the bayou in front of our church? They aren’t there anymore.
God Bless You.
One year ago, I had the honor of traveling the world for three months as Expedition Writer for Alexandra Cousteau’s Expedition: Blue Planet. Our agenda was to explore critical water issues, writing blogs and creating short films to highlight the fragility of our earth’s ecosystem and to suggest solutions.
The last stop on our tour was Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, where the Mississippi River drains 40% of America’s landmass into the Gulf of Mexico. At the time, our concern was that chemical fertilizers from industrial agriculture upstream were flowing downstream into the Gulf, where they were creating a Dead Zone over 8,000 square miles in size. Although the shrimpers were still able to fish the edges of this Dead Zone, in the coming years they’d be seeing a steep drop-off in their catch. A way of life that had sustained their community for generations was coming to an end. View the film we made here.
Our Expedition team was charmed by the warmth and joie de vivre of the Cajun people with their twangy Franco-American-Southern accents. They invited us to the annual Blessing of the Fleet celebration kicking off the shrimping season, followed by a lovely church BBQ and dancing. It was a highlight of our trip.
The tragedy is that now, the Dead Zone is irrelevant. What dominates the shrimpers’ minds today is the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As it spews 35-60,000 barrels of crude oil into the Gulf each day, the spill is killing local wildlife and marine life at an alarming rate, and potentially sending the shrimpers’ livelihoods to an early, watery grave.
Joann told me that the church is rallying local people to take action, calling for donations and volunteers to help with the clean up. But she asks that we get involved, too. This oil spill is not a Lafourche problem, a Gulf of Mexico problem, or even an American problem. It’s a global issue whose impact will be felt for decades worldwide.
The oil spill serves as a powerful metaphor for our relationship with our planet. We’ve acted so carelessly and selfishly that now we’re paying the price, spilling black muck all over ourselves. Each one of us owes it to our mother Earth to take action and help clean up our mess.
What You can Do To Help:
1) Donate money: Joann recommends the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund, dedicated to helping local families.
2) Volunteer: The Audubon Society is running a massive volunteer effort out of Moss Point, Mississippi.
3) Send your prayers and positive thoughts to the Gulf.
A friend recently pointed out that when most of us think of the oil spill, we are filled with anger and frustration, thereby directing negative energy towards the region (not what it needs!). Instead, we might make a conscious effort to send love, healing energy, and positive intentions to the Gulf’s residents, from the shrimpers and their families, to the pelicans, dolphins and fish, to the tiniest barnacles living on the ocean floor.
Try this: “I breathe in the fear and anger of the Gulf, I breathe out love and healing.”