Mourning the Gulf

In the 70s, we’d pack up early in the morning to drive to Galveston, meeting our next-door neighbors on a west end beach. We’d cook breakfast over a fire—Uncle Marty cooking scrambled eggs and bacon in a cast-iron skillet, serving it to us with cantaloupe, salted once by him and once by the spray from the Gulf of Mexico.

I think of the Gulf as a starter ocean, perfect for kids. Gentle waves, tepid temperature, nothing terribly dramatic.

Some days, the water shines blue or green, but the color that stands out in my memory is a café con leche brown.

Sure, we got the occasional jelly fish, but they were nothing like the brutal, iridescent Portuguese man-o-wars that stung so violently when I smacked up against them in the roiling surf of the Jersey shore.

I took a delegation down to Galveston to escape, for a day, from the Republican National Convention in 1992. Pro-choice New England Republicans accustomed to the bracing Atlantic that smacks down relentlessly on the flinty coast of Maine, they were horrified at the first sight of the beach.

Then, we got in the water. We floated without any worries of going too far, too fast. The warm waters leached out the tension and defensiveness, and we returned to Houston at the end of the day more refreshed than anyone would have expected. Too bad we couldn’t have dunked a few of the more hostile GOP candidates that day.

My dad and others have told me that the Gulf’s brown water is the result of runoff from the mighty Mississip. Silt flowing through the Delta, into the Gulf, then swirling down the Texas coast to Galveston.

I’m sure that Mississippi dirt, if that’s really what makes the Galveston water so brown, has carried plenty of chemicals and toxins over the years. But I’m also sure that it has never had to cope with the quantity of pollutants now being ejaculated from the BP spill.

What color will my beautiful Gulf be once the well has disgorged the last gobs of oil? What color will it be when the marine life expires, oxygen-deprived and oil-coated?

I read an article that compared the viscosity of the plumes of oil now floating through the Gulf to salad dressing. I fear our coast will very soon look like a salad you find in your fridge, soggy in a sad little styrofoam container, too many days after a lovely dinner out.

Several times in recent days, I’ve found myself motoring about in what Duane Bradley so perfectly calls the Petro-Metro, crying as I realize the enormity of the spill, and the futility of any action I could take in response.

What can we do? If we stood outside of BP’s office out west, near the reservoir, shaking pitchforks and demanding justice, would it stop the flow? Would it lead to any accountability?

I get so angry every time I see a headline that says “BP isn’t giving up yet.” NO KIDDING. Giving up is NOT AN OPTION. This is our Gulf of Mexico they’re talking about. Giving up isn’t an option at all. Ever.

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2 Responses to Mourning the Gulf

  1. Stacy Aab says:

    You took the words right out of my mouth. I didn’t have the same childhood experiences, but I haven’t felt this helpless in the face of harm since the days post-Katrina.

  2. The Destructionist says:

    While watching the latest news about the BP Oil spill, a frightening thought came to mind: what if we can’t stop the oil? I mean, what happens if after all the measures to cap the pipe fail, (i.e., “Top Hat”, “Small Hat” and “Top Kill”). What then? An accident this problematic is new territory for BP. The oil pipeline is nearly a mile down on the ocean floor, accessible only by robots. Add on top of that the extreme pressure at which the oil is flowing out of the pipeline and there you have it: the perfect storm.

    Moreover, scientists also claim that they’ve found an enormous plume of oil floating just under the surface of the ocean measuring approximately 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick. (I’m no math genius, but I bet one of you reading this could figure out just how many barrels of oil that is…)

    There are new estimates that the amount of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico is anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 barrels of oil a day: that’s a far cry from BP’s estimated 5,000 barrels a day. If BP’s estimates are correct, the total amount of oil now in the Gulf would be approximately 150,000 barrels (or 6,300,000 gallons). That’s barely enough to fill 286 swimming pools: sixteen feet, by thirty-two feet, by eight and a half feet deep. That wouldn’t cover an area the size of New York City, let alone an area the size of Delaware. Obviously, the spill is much larger than we are being led to believe. If the leak can’t be stopped, in a year’s time, we’ll have roughly 18,250,000 barrels of oil (or 766,500,000 gallons) in our oceans, killing our marine and animal wildlife. Such a calamity would be environmentally and economically disastrous. Pray that BP and our government work fast to end this catastrophe.

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