It's Complicated

Sunday was Day One for our organization’s (Seventh Generation Advisors) Lives Per Gallon Story Project.  My colleague Andria and I were dispatched to the Gulf Coast to give the victims of the BP oil spill a voice; a venue to express how they are being impacted; and a way to connect with those who want to help. 

The immediate and primary focus is to hear DIRECTLY from the people that are being impacted in order to facilitate the help they need.

Okay that doesn’t seem complicated – surely as we drove out to the southern most tip of the state of Louisiana - Venice, LA, one of the center points of the spill clean-up efforts - we would find throngs of people lining up to talk to us. Or maybe not.

The communities dotting the narrow road leading down to “ground zero” are surrounded by vibrant bayou ecosystem and marshland. Knitted into the landscape is mile after mile of seafood restaurants, charter fishing businesses, family owned farm stands and coin laundromats. As we ventured down the highway we figured that finding folks that have been impacted and who would be willing to talk to us would be aplenty, and surely BP and offshore oil drilling the arch nemesis in their stories.

Naïve perhaps. For some that is indeed the case, as expressed by a few of the seafood vendors we interviewed, but for many of these people BP did wrong, but they are doing the best they can. And even more on their minds - the prospect of cutting offshore drilling – for many of these people a moratorium represents another knife in the heart of the community. As one restaurant owner expressed to us “every teenage boy dreams of getting a job on an oil rig”.  It was a sobering comment for this wide-eyed tree hugger from California and not the story we were looking for.  Since that interview and a few others like it the comment has me thinking deeply and searching for answers. How are we EVER going to transition away from oil when it’s woven so deeply into our culture and our communities?  My immediate thought is we must develop a duel track in these communities – provide opportunities and training for green, clean jobs while the oil jobs remain. Those jobs must be coveted, must be lucrative and must eventually be the dream of a teenage boy to pursue. Until then I fear disasters like BP will be a clear and present danger.