down and dirty in Louisiana, an upclose report from Grand Isle

If you want to get a close-up view of what’s really going on in Louisiana, check out this  informative, on-the-island report from the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an organization that  has been monitoring the effects of the oil industry for more than ten years.

Anne Rolfe’s blog post from Grand Isle is quite (dare I use the word in this tragic situation?) refreshing, in this respect: It’s a personal report from a woman who has intimate, historical knowledge of how the oil industry has impacted people in the bayou state.

This particular link, from “the other side of the berm” is, among other things, an honest, eyewitness perspective of the awkward interface between local folks and the world-generated legion of media personnel and volunteers.

Ms. Rolfes presents a fascinating perspective on what is going on down there at the epicenter (from a human standpoint) of our nation’s worst-ever environmental disaster. She opened my eyes to several curious details about the cleanup effort there. I’ll mention just two of them here:

a.) Two businessmen from  California who are, writes Anne, “… hawking a bioengineered, non-toxic, 100% biodegradable oil dispersant product that works by activating water-borne microflora. Armed with a visually impressive video of the stuff in action, they have succeeded in working their way up through the BP bureaucracy to the point of becoming eligible for product field trials-a feat that I understand only about 14 out of hundreds of thousands of products can boast so far. It all sounds pretty good… I wish them luck.”

b.) Volunteers from outside can work for days without encountering a local resident. Anne refers to this personnel disconnect as “weird” because the home folks are generally not interacting with traveling volunteers; they have been asked–by whom I don’t know– to not talk about what’s happening Or maybe they’re just sick and tired of the whole thing.

This cataclysm is weird. I know the feeling. I experienced  somewhat it in 2005 when my wife and I were doing post-Katrina volunteer work in Baton Rouge, but were unable to go to New Orleans because of military or governmental restrictions.

The nightmarish surreality of this disaster prompts me to think in terms of Huxley’s phrase, “brave new world.” Only “the brave” would hazard a trip down to the marshes now, to look square into the face of this monstrosity of human recklessness.

Be advised, though: one Greenpeace writer, mikeg says people are not advised to travel there.  I can understand that. It could be mass confusion. I caught a glimpse of that tendency in post-Katrina work, though the Red Cross was exemplary in their handling of that overflow of manageable volunteers.

Nevertheless, that word “brave” ricochets in my mind. I can’t help thinking that if we are to continue living in a land of the free–free of oil pollution, that is– we must truly rise to the calling of being a home of the brave.

Thank you, Anne Rolfes, for going to Grand Isle, and for giving us your informed view of what is happening there. I’m sure this is but the first of many such reports.  Keep up the good work


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