Note from the author:On April 20, 2010, when I first heard about the BP leak from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the coast of Venice, Louisiana, I tried to ignore it. It brought back such horrible memories fromthe
oil spill, which devastated the coastlines where I fished commercially and thecommunity in which I lived. I remembered the agony of not knowing what would happen to usor our beloved Prince William Sound, or who to trust among the lawyers, scientists, oilmen, public officials, spill responders, media, and “used bug” (cleanup product) salesmen who floodedinto our towns. Even twenty years later, the memories are still haunting.Besides, when the Gulf oil rig blew, I was on national tour, advocating a people’s movement toamend the U.S. Constitution to affirm that only human beings are entitled to constitutional protection—not corporations. Our democracy – rule by the people – has been hijacked by giantFortune 500 corporations like Exxon and BP that masquerade as “persons” in U.S. courtrooms. Italk about this in the last chapter of
Not One Drop
. After 20 years of fighting for justice for the
spill survivors, my life had moved on from Exxon’s spill (www.ultimatecivics.org
) – or so I thought.The articles about the BP catastrophe trailed me from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, to Salt LakeCity, and finally to Denver. The media calls became more urgent when it became evident that theoil would make landfall. The media frenzy also brought back bad memories, but I cringed at thethought of oil in the marshes and the devastation that might befall generations of sea life – andfishing families.Then I remembered the promise I made on March 24, 1989, after flying over the
wreck and seeing millions of gallons of oil in our Sound: I would work to transition our nationoff fossil fuels in my lifetime. Again, the thoughts that flashed into my mind in 1989, came back:“I know enough to make a difference. Do I care enough?”In a sudden shock of recognition, I realized that I knew
than I did twenty-one yearsago about oil spills, spill response, industry damage-control shenanigans, impacts tocommunities and ecosystems, litigation, and more – and it was all information that wasdesperately needed by people in coastal communities in the Gulf. I booked a one-way ticket to New Orleans on May 3.I’m writing now from Grand Isle, the only (human) inhabited barrier island in Louisiana, and athriving community of 1,500 based on fishing, tourism, and oilfield service. Fishermen here andin the small communities dotting the southern marshes and swamplands of what iseuphemistically Barataria “Bay,” refer to BP as “Bayou Polluter.” They say BP spills oil everyyear and they point out marshes still dead from dispersants that were sprayed there. They arevery afraid of the potential long-term impacts of 300,000 gallons of toxic chemicals to sensitiveyoung life forms – eggs, larvae, and juveniles – not just fish and shellfish, but the myriad lifeforms that nurture and sustain the intricate marsh and open-ocean food web. What will happen?What can be done to assess and mitigate the harm? And what about stopping future spills?