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Life Arts    H1'ed 8/23/10

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

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Message Dahr Jamail

How Has it Come to This?

(original article at Truthout.org)

Sunday 22 August 2010

by: Dahr Jamail and Erika Blumenfeld, t r u t h o u t | Report

(Photo: Erika Blumenfeld)

The scene is post-apocalyptic. Under a grey sky, two families play in the surf just off the beach in Grand Isle, Louisiana. To get to the beach, we walk past a red, plastic barrier fence that until very recently was there to keep people away from the oil-soaked area. Now, there are a few openings that beach goers can use. The fence is left largely intact, I presume, for when they will need to close the beach again when the next invasion of BP's oil occurs.

Families on beach in Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld 2010

A father jokingly throws sand at his little boy who laughs while dodging it. This, against a background of oil rigs and platforms looming in the Gulf. In the foreground, littering the beach, are tar balls. We stroll through the area, eyeing even more tar balls that bob lazily underwater, amidst sand ripples in the shallows " they are in the same location where the father sits, grabbing handfuls of sand to toss near his son.

Two military Humvees, one olive green, the other tan,  are parked near the road just yards from our car.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld 2010

We stroll back to our hotel. Beside us is a large beach house that has been rented to the National Guard. Two military Humvees, one olive green, the other tan, are parked near the road just yards from our car. It is a grim feeling here, like living in the bowels of some greed-driven, security-obsessed, lumbering giant so disconnected from its heart that reality has long since ceased to figure into its outer perception.

The next morning, we head out in a boat from Fourchon with Jonathan Henderson from the Gulf Restoration Network, his friend Randy, who is a cameraman, and Craig, our charter fishing captain and guide. It is August 16, the day that several of Louisiana's fisheries have been reopened for shrimping.

A passing shrimper has caught nothing.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld 2010

Just after leaving the boat launch, we pass a shrimper coming back in.

"How did you do out there?" Craig asks him. "Nothing. Nothing at all," the despondent fisherman replies. "How much do you usually catch?" Craig asks. "Hundreds of pounds, sometimes a thousand pounds," comes the reply.

Craig looks at me and says, "That's not good."

Minutes later another shrimper passes us, returning to port. "How'd you do?" Craig asks. "We caught 12 shrimp," he replies, "That's one-two shrimp."

A brief reminder of the toxicity of the dispersants BP is using in the Gulf: "According to the EPA's latest analysis of dispersant toxicity released in the document Comparative Toxicity of Eight Oil Dispersant Products on Two Gulf of Mexico Aquatic Test Species, Corexit 9500, at a concentration of 42 parts per million, killed 50% of mysid shrimp tested." Most of the remaining shrimp died shortly thereafter.

Craig worked as a deckhand on a shrimp boat when he was 12 years old, and has been on the water ever since. He knows these areas like the back of his hand, and he is torn up by what he sees. "We find fish feeding that cause fish-oil slicks atop the water," he explains as we make our way out of the bayou towards the Gulf. "But now, thanks to BP, most of the slicks we see are oil."

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