Ocean of Uncertainty: How the Oil Spill Affects Our Lives

It’s a strange feeling to awake inland from the beaches and to hold them in my mind as the beautiful, bountiful places they were even just three weeks ago…to know the advancing black tides are out there washing into fragile places…it makes for a continual sense of uncertainty.

The economic impacts are felt in the general sense in the community of doom and gloom. The local mental health clinics have been active on radio and in the newspapers advising us on how to be resilient and keep our chin up. Their advice seems like a wafer held-out to the starving. We flash on a baby dolphin crying out to its pod out on Ft. Pickens, later dying on the way to a rescue center. Flash-backs of oil soaked turtles and birds.

Some of the staff at the university are avid fishermen, from families who depend on the weekly catch as part of their diet and for whom fishing was a meditation, a communion with the land and sea. They do not know what to do with their time and thoughts. Prayer is big here, with a very religious community. There is a lot of “miracles can happen” speak, and vacuous talking about “it will be okay.”

It’s not okay. The air fills with petroleum products that are lethal. No, it’s not above the EPA standards yet, that is true. But it will have its impacts. This is a community that has never really wailed against 100 years of corporate irresponsibility that left PCB and other damaging byproducts in our bays and bayous and ocean of air. We finally cleared away Mt. Dioxin, one of three super-fund sites in the Pensacola area. But we don’t talk much about that because, well we want those corporations to keep coming to infuse much needed dollars into the community.

Now, perhaps, we’ll rethink that and require, as the nation surely now must require, that a corporation have public safety as its first responsibility and profit as its second priority. Corporations are supported by stockholders, us, and we must now see that we have to read the monthly statements and keep vigil over them, or we ourselves will be just as culpable as the corporate leaders we criticize, even hold as villains.  Its time for all of us to grow up, and to realize that we have not, as a people, required ethics in our business practices – certainly in our offshore oil drilling safety standards.

But, we Pensacoleans, we are living the nightmare now for all of you. Our foolishness is in our faces, on our shoes and toes, and in our lungs. What that will mean for our futures is another uncertainty.

2 thoughts on “Ocean of Uncertainty: How the Oil Spill Affects Our Lives

  1. Larry Chamblin

    Susan, what a joy to read your blog. It is beautiful on so many levels. I just discovered it through the Pensacola Area Progressive Calendar and plan to attend your book signing at Ever’man’s.

    I recently had a Viewpoint article in the News Journal on what the Natural Resources Defense Council calls our “twin crises” of fossil fuel addiction and climate change (“No escape: climate will change society,” Oct. 10). I am involved with a small local group called Sustainable West Florida. Our main activity is to conduct discussion courses on sustainable living, deep ecology and related topics. We have been dormant in the past year, but in previous years we have held public meetings on local food, sustainable practices by local governments, and other topics.

    Since the oil spill, I have been thinking about having a meeting on the many ways this oil spill affects our lives–and all of its implications for the future. I had thought of having some people from the local coastkeepers organization, one or two environmental scientists from UWF and/or DEP, and others. I would love to have you participate as you bring an added perspective–the kind of Barry Lopes or Aldo Leopold view of our place in the natural world.

    I just thought I would plant that seed now. I will try to contact you later, or you may respond with your thoughts.

    Thanks for this wonderful blog. Despite your rejection of the easy way out (the “it will be OK” approach), your writing does give me hope. The kind of understanding of our interdependence with the environment you demonstrate is critical to learning to live in harmony with the Earth.

    Larry Chamblin

    1. Dear Larry,
      Thank you for your praise and thoughtful reply. I have wondered about Sustainable West Florida, having missed a presentation almost two years ago, I have often thought that was unfortunate but perhaps that timing was not right. I had just moved here to care for my elderly father who was subsequently hospitalized and then recovered very slowly. Then, quite by surprise, I lost my sister to a fatal illness in April. Not until recently have I been able to get more involved in the community.

      So your note and invitation come at the right time. I will find your viewpoint – thanks for the date so I can do that. I would be interested in talking further about how I can join in the work and yes, if you think I can contribute, I am willing to give a talk or lead a discussion. I’ll look for you at Ever’man’s.

      My email is: susanleefeathers@gmail.com

      Thank you.

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