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Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

Posts Tagged ‘dead pelicans’

“The Oysters Never Had It So Good.”

Friday, June 18th, 2010

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For anyone who might be concerned about the effects of BP oil on Louisiana seafood and needs reassurance that “oil will be well,” you just need to sit back, relax, and watch this 1960 newsreel of “progress at work” titled Lifeline to an Oyster, “presented as a public information service by the American Petroleum Institute.” (Note that “the trouble” is said to have started when the oystermen “claimed” that the oysters were being killed off by oil production. No complaints = no trouble?)

“The trouble started down in Louisiana on the Gulf of Mexico when the Louisiana oyster fishermen claimed that oil production was killing off the local oyster population. The oil companies didn’t agree, but they agreed to look into the matter. . . .

“In the research laboratory, every type of condition is created for the ‘oyster patients.’ A blanket of crude oil is poured directly on the water. Water is jetted through oil for six months. Oil-drilling mud was emptied into the water. . . .

“Every possibility was explored. After years of study and progress, the results were in: The test oysters showed no ill effects from oil, even under conditions which far exceeded those ever present in oil production. As a matter of fact, the test oysters were so happy they brought forth new generations to share their luck. They never had it so good.”

Well then, if this wasn’t killing the oysters, what was?

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“This Small Planet”

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

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At a loss for words while Louisiana’s at a loss for land, life

Like many bloggers we’re sometimes at a loss for words in the face of the widening catastrophe in the Gulf—the one that began with a bang on April 20, Earth Day. We want to say something, to do something that will stop the hemorrhage (we can’t) or make the federal government push harder on BP to work faster and be more honest in their damage assessments (any progress?). There is much we could say, some of it ambivalent or confused and self-contradictory or unrealistic. How is it possible to be realistic when we cannot see the full scope of the catastrophe? We want to be accurate and comprehensive (on one hand, on the other hand), yet the subject has grown so large that, as with the all-touching subject of Hurricane Katrina, comprehensiveness and accuracy seems beyond anyone’s grasp. So instead we’ll take bits and pieces. It’s okay to take small, focused subjects, too.

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One specific, poignant subject is the absolute heartbreak of seeing a dead pelican—the state bird of Louisiana—being carried in a plastic bag along the oil-stained beach by an emergency clean-up worker. Other photos show pelicans trying to clean the oil slick off their feathers. Only last November the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu announced that after some four decades the brown pelican, once driven nearly to extinction by the pesticide DDT, had repopulated enough that the species no longer required specific federal protection. Where is the pelican now? Dripping with oil, gasping for air, like the state it symbolizes.

(See “The Brown Pelican Is Back.” Click here for a gallery of photographs of the brown pelican by Times-Picayune photographer Scott Threlkeld • Boston Globe slide show • New York Times oil spill slide show • Washington Post photo gallery of the oil spill’s animal victims • ProPublica.org oil spill slide show.)

We treehuggers are often scoffed at for caring about the animals and other life crushed by industrial expansion, and it is true that sometimes environmentalists concerned about a single species in a specific habitat have lost sight of a larger good—sometimes a larger environmental good. Go ahead, we can take the scoffing—we have skin like tree bark—but who that has a soul feels nothing in common with other creatures? The animals are the same as us, only without the protections humans can (sometimes) afford. Let’s all remember that, as President Kennedy said in his famous commencement address at American University in June 1963:

“. . . in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

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Top photograph from ThinkProgress.org.

Bagged pelican photograph by Gerald Herbert/Associated Press.