From the Gulf: Learning to See the Invisible
I traveled to the Grand Isle for the first time this week, expecting to see a community of locals. The goal, along with fellow Washington, DC bloggers on CitizenEffect's Gulf Mission blogging trip, was to meet and learn from fishing families about the oil disaster - hoping to find ways to help out. Despite beaches being inaccessible due to disaster response, I assumed neighborhoods and eateries would still be active hubs for local folks we could talk to.
But it was all quiet.
Those visions I had of neighborly conversations on porches or in the popular diner or beachfront restaurants were nowhere.
Other things became apparent there though and elsewhere in the state, making me uneasy for the environment here:
- Grand Isle beaches are roadways now traveled by huge humvees transporting supplies and staff to cleanup sites. As logical as this scenario may be for response efforts, it brought home this point: containing oil in the Gulf has consequence to not only water life but species from shore environs too;
- As for the Grand Isle's perceived emptiness, that's the telling factor: according to many I've met, that area is a big family vacation spot. The fact the cleanup effort restricts access creates an inevitable drain on the local economy;
- teams of local deckhands and fishermen are now working on oil containment in the inner marshes. Our CitizenEffect bloggers and myself enjoyed meeting many of them in St. Bernard's parish. They showed fantastic pride in their efforts, managing vast amounts of orange booms hoping intensely to protect the inner marshes and surrounding marina. Yet a few entered into side conversations on how vulnerable they see the inner marsh area. They know if efforts don't succeed, their life as fishing families will evaporate.
What I've come to consider is how much the unseen maintains heavy impact here -- shore life unseen by beach based rescue vehicles; unseen local populations that normally fuel local summer economies; and Deep Horizon oil absent from inner marshes (but angst of its arrival pervades generational fishing communities).
So far from blogging experience this week, invisible and evident factors both stimulate concern and dread on what comes next.
Photo Grand Isle Humvee by Geoff Livingston, Creative Commons.