A Gift from the Gulf

I’m experiencing a bit of writer’s block today, and I’ll tell you why.

Last week my colleagues, Kristina and Andria, traveled to the Gulf Coast to collect video blogs from people who have been affected first hand by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (for more about this project, please visit livespergallon.net).  They interviewed the rich, poor, black, white, young, old, men, women; they came back with about 30 interviews and yesterday we watched a handful of the videos.

Each person interviewed was inspirational in their own way, whether it was the Cajun hardware store owner whose sales have dropped drastically since the spill; the young woman working for a non-profit that is measuring and documenting effects from the spill; the older woman whose fisherman husband is too old to be working the clean up and is patiently waiting to see if he will ever be able to return to his career of fishing; or the Captain of a boat for a bayou tour company who is so in awe of the beauty of the bayou and is extremely concerned for its fate. 

Here’s where I’m stuck: my blog assignment is to write about eco-friendly lifestyle choices, and after hearing from the devastated people of the gulf, I’ve fallen into a “feeling helpless” mode.  I grow my own baby food, I use cloth diapers, I constantly look for ways to make our home run more efficiently, and although I am perpetually encouraging people to remain optimistic and remind themselves that every little bit counts, I am for once having problems believing my own message.  This spill is on such an epic level, and I am wavering.

But I realize that wouldn’t be fair to the residents of the gulf.  And to wallow in my own misery is not only unattractive, but selfish.  As I think back to those interviews, there are two messages that really stood out to me.  The first is that when my colleagues asked the people what the general public can do to help them, many were hesitant about asking for any assistance.  Most said something along the lines of, “We’ll be fine, and we’ll keep going.”  Hearing those proud words from people who have lost a business, career, and/or way of life is astounding.  The other lesson is that these people are smart, and though many of us exhaled a huge sigh of relief when the oil stopped leaking into the ocean, the residents know that there is a long road ahead of clean up and uncertainty.  Perhaps it will be years before many effects are even known.

Many of these residents experienced Hurricane Katrina first hand, and now this; yet their hope and optimism remains persistent and alive.  They do not want our pity.  The best way I can think of to serve these people is to take on their optimistic hopes for the future, and remain dedicated to each environmental improvement I have made in my life, and continue to look for more ways to cut down on consumed resources, continue to diminish waste, and continue to educate those around me.