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Life Arts

Destruction along the Gulf. How Has it Come to This?

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The farther inland we travel, the worse things become. It's as though the entire island is a sponge filled with sheen and oil. There is a pile of yellow boom, and another of red boom, in the middle of the southern beach. BP knows of this island, too. It has had workers here. And again, no one has been here in a very long time.

We walk along the bank of an inland lagoon. Fiddler crabs skitter away from us as we walk across sheen-covered sand. The pool is covered in brown, stringy oil and sheen - the rainbow colors tracing lazily across the surface. My stomach feels sick when I think of these crabs, and all the others along the Gulf Coast, that are filtering in sheen, oil and dispersants. We watch them move toward the waters oily edge, and stop. Are they trying to enter the water, as is their nature, and can't because it is too toxic? What will become of these crabs? What will become of the marine life and wildlife that feed on these crabs?

What will become of these crabs? What will become of  the marine life and wildlife that feed on these crabs?

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld 2010

There are several inland pools that are literally oil  pits.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld 2010

There are several inland pools that are literally oil pits. We are appalled at what we find. In one of the pools, brown liquid oil floats atop areas where the sand underneath is literally black with crude oil.

Sorbent booms blackened and browned with oil lay  chaotically in the lagoon.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld 2010

Sorbent booms blackened and browned with oil lay  chaotically in the lagoon.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld 2010

Sorbent booms blackened and browned with oil lay  chaotically in the lagoon.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld 2010

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The scene is apocalyptic. Sorbent booms blackened and browned with oil lay chaotically in the lagoon. It is one of the more disgusting, vile scenes I've ever seen. All of us fall silent. All we can do is take photos. The stench is overpowering. I gag. My eyes water from the burning chemicals in the air, but also from sadness. My throat is sore, my voice instantaneously hoarse, and I feel dizzy. I look over to see Erika taking photos, tears running down her cheeks.

All of us are devastated. "This is some of the worst I've seen," says Jonathan, who has been out investigating the results of the BP oil disaster every week since it started in April. He continues to take samples. I hear him gagging and look over as he coughs the stench from his lungs before bending down again to take another sample.

Shortly thereafter he finishes taking samples, and we are off, all of us hobbled and shaken by what we've just seen, along with the exposure to such a vast amount of chemicals.

During the ten-minute walk back to the boat, we hardly speak. I look out at the Gulf, the oil rigs and platforms in the distance, then down at the sheen oozing out of the sand at the water's edge as I walk alongside another tide pool.

Craig picks us up in the boat, and we begin the trip back to Fourchon. I climb up atop the "crow's nest," a small seat overlooking Craig's boat. I write in my notepad about what we've just seen, but mostly, I just look out at the Gulf. I've long since surrendered trying to get my head around the enormity and longevity of this disaster. The government cover-ups and its complicity with BP. The profiteering happening from this disaster, not dissimilar to the rampant war profiteering I've seen in Iraq.

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The cost of this? The Gulf of Mexico, the ninth largest body of water on the planet, befouled with oil and toxic dispersants.

About halfway back to port we come upon a thick sheen layer that is covered in emulsified, white foam " the same kind I've seen in videos taken by VOO workers, in which dispersants have been used atop oil.

We stop so Jonathan can take more water samples. As we do so, the stench burns my eyes.

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www.dahrjamailiraq.com
DAHR JAMAIL He is author of the book Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq. Jamail's work has been featured on National Public Radio, the Guardian, The Nation, and The Progressive. He has received many (more...)
 

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