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Category Archives: oil spill

Last summer in Gulfport, MS the 4th of July preparation was different than any year before. The smells of barbeque, fireworks and ocean water that filled the air were mixed with the smell of oil. Planet Harmony's Tuskee Barnes brings tells of her family's experience.

Tuskee Barnes: The Gulf Coast Oil Spill changed lives forever. My city was still recovering from the damages left by Hurricane Katrina, when a new wave of concerns over the area’s health and jobs washed on our shores. It took the form of approximately 3.3 million barrels of oil erupting from the BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

At the time, I was in Florida at school. Hearing the news worried me, but the phone calls from family and friends about the setback were the real dagger to the back. I traveled to Gulfport, MS on July 3, 2010. Most of my family lives close to the beach. The smell was the fist thing I noticed. As I approached the beach, I was overwhelmed by the smell of oil. My throat grew tighter the closer I got, and I started to feel faint. Even worse was the thought of my family inhaling this everyday.

Clean-up efforts in Gulfport, MS nearly 1 year ago. (Photo by

It wasn’t long before my worries were being seen in sick people along the Coast. Residents reported symptoms such as coughing, vomiting, chest pains and other respiratory issues due to the exposure to the toxins. One of my aunts complained about headaches she started to experience a few weeks after the spill. She mentioned they weren't severe, but happened often for a few months. My aunt wasn't alone, according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, more than 300 people had to seek medical attention for their headaches, chest pains, and dizziness.

My family also faced financial stress. My brother qualified for a job as one of the cleanup crew members. The salary offered 12-18 dollars an hour. Many locals jumped at the opportunity, some even left their jobs to work for BP. My brother decided to keep his. After about two months, the locals were replaced by out of town service workers.

A year ago I was shocked to find oil washing upon the shores. memory of last year.  I saw cleanup crews line up bags filled with oily sand for miles down the beaches.I saw a young girl kick up the black, oily sand. Her mother just laughed and told her not to do that.

Today, dark oil still lingers in the beach at Gulfport.  But the smell of oil has subsided.

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Vicki Smith from the Grio posted an article about the Demolle family in Pointe a la Hache, Louisiana.  They’re one of the many families on the Mississippi River Delta that lived off the once plentiful, healthy and delicious fish from the river.  But since the Deep Water Horizon oil leak has hemorrhaged millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, aquatic life has been chocked from their long-fished waters. The families that once lived off these shores now depend on on BP’s compensation checks and charity food. What I love about this article is it shows just how deeply connected we all are to the environment.    
When talking about environmental justice particularly for the black community, it’s a popular question:  "Why don’t more black people get involved in environmental issues?"  The answer is usually one of two: "They have other things to worry about like paying next month’s rent and putting food on the table." Or, "Oh, they’re just not educated enough to understand why they should care."  Both of these answers may be true in part.  But this story is a perfect example of where blacks communities lack fiscal stability or education that we assume are necessary for environmental consciousness.  Even here, the intimate connections to the land are profound.    
The Point a la Hache community and the hundreds of other fishing communities are stewards by necessity, not by option. And it’s these communities that are the first to suffer when the land is spoiled. Now that their relationship with the abundant shores has been severed, gone are the days of locally harvested shrimp, crabs, oysters, and fish.  Now it’s charity given peanut butter and jelly, beans, rice, and cheap "grind meats" like the hot dog and hamburger. 
Check out Vicki Smith’s article here

Photo courtesy of

Everyone has their own way of dealing with the crisis in the Gulf; some try protest, others patience, while many find solace in a dark corner to crouch with their heads between their legs.  Luckily for us (especially the panic-ridden), many have also turned to humor in the face of this ecological and economic disaster. For comedians, the BP clean up efforts has delivered a buffet of absurdity.  Below are just a couple of our favorite BP- brilliant parodies.

The subversive masterminds at the Upright Citizen Brigade comedy troupe take the BP leadership to task, imaging how they might handle a board room coffee spill. "Don’t worry it’s a small spill on a very large table"

Mr. Stewart at the Daily Show lampoons the colorful names for each failed attempt to stop the leak…i.e. if the "top hat" doesn’t work, maybe the "hot tap" will, or what about the Women’s defense class favorite: "junk shot." (tune in around 1:40). 

The Onion responds to BP CEO, Tony Hayward’s, relentless gaffing with, "Massive Flow of Bullshit Continues to Gush From BP"

Though BP provides more than enough grist, they aren’t the only target of satirists.  The unflappable President Obama fired a rare expletive in the direction of BP on NBC’s Today Show.  Autotune the News made music of the soundbyte.

Who do you think is making good comedy in the face of this tragedy?

We wrote about the toe-tapping indictment of BP at the Gulf Aide Benefit Concert.  The all star cast of Mos Def, Trombone Shorty, Lenny Kravitz and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band also released a studio version of the song. Check out this must hear "Ain’t My Fault" on Entertainment Weekly.

The Gulf Aide benefit concert went off this weekend, raising money for the people and places affected by the on-going oil leak.  Big name celebrities like Lenny Kravitz and Tim Robbins joined locals like The Voice of the Wet-Lands Allstars at the concert grounds near New Orleans. 

My friend (and favorite DJ) Ben Berman at Offbeat Magazine, told me about a great moment where Mos Def and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band collabo’d on a timely cover of the Crescent City classic, "Ain’t My Fault." 

Mos Def’s lines could’ve been lifted right from last week’s BP, Haliburton and Transocean senate hearings; "BP: big pimpin’/ big pile of BAD presses/ boiling point/ billionare point pressures/ Awwwww, it ain’t my fault."

…Well maybe just the last line.

Read more about the Gulf Aide from local music magazine Offbeat.

Have you heard any other protest songs about the gulf gusher?

Under oath and in the spotlight, the presidents of BP, Transocean, and Haliburton say they can’t promise another massive oil spill can be avoided in the future. Listen to excerpts from a Senate hearing, with Senators Frank Lautenberg, Ben Cardin, and Barbara Boxer posing the questions, and Lamar McKay (BP),  Steven Newman (Transocean), and Tim Probert (Haliburton) responding. Lautenberg is the first voice heard. 

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Iran says it wants to help the U.S. cleanup BP’s mess in the Gulf of Mexico.

After all, Iran has known oil as long as BP has. Before it was Beyond Petroleum, even before it was British Petroleum, BP was the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, incorporated after a wealthy Londoner discovered the Middle East’s first commercial oil field in Khuzestan, Iran in 1908. The British company had exclusive rights to drilling in most of Iran and soon established a monopoly, sharing relatively few profits with its host country. One coup d’etat, one revolution, and more than one hundred years later– and Iran is frequently cited as an enemy state when making a case for energy independence. 

Read about Iran’s offer here.

In the strange world of Washington politics, a massive oil spill means less support for plans to transition away from fossil fuels.
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The oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico is now leaking 210,000 barrels of oil a day destroying not only marine life but also the livelihoods of Louisiana fisherman.  Once the oil slick contaminates shrimp beds, the shrimp season which is only beginning, will be over.  Clean up efforts may last years and it is uncertain when fishermen will be able to continue fishing.  Roger Halphen, a local teacher, told the Associated Press "There is a lot of bitterness.  Most of these people are second, third, fourth generation fisherman and now they are looking at the end of their industry."

Many of these fisherman are paying off boat loans costing up to tens of thousands of dollars.  In desperate need of work, hundreds of fisherman have signed up to be a part of the clean up effort. 
Read more about Louisiana fishermen.