Walking the Beach

Walking the Beach
BP Surveillance Team in Pass Christian on Memorial Day Weekend

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Just before Memorial Day, I drove down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to visit with representatives from the Mississippi Wildlife Federation. The trip was to get a feel for how that state was planning on responding to the BP oil spill. At the time, there had not been any incursion of oil on the beaches or barrier islands of Mississippi, and people were generally upset that alarms were being sounded about the impending disaster, which was driving tourist away and keeping the beaches empty.

Just three days after my initial visit, I drove back through Pass Christian with my family, to see if anything had changed. My kids were very happy to see the beach -- as soon as the door opened they ran across the white sand beach, headed straight for the water. As we approached the water, we notice that there were four rubber-suit wearing beach walkers (this is the opening picture of this blog), whose both attire and demeanor were out of place on a sandy coastal beach. As the boys start to enter the water, we were approached and it was suggested that we (parents) might NOT want our kids to get in the water because tar balls had been found earlier that day in the vicinity. The rubber-suited ones offered that the beaches in Gulfport might be better, and the water more to our liking.

As we mounted the crest-fallen young lads back in the the mini-van, and drove away, we encountered another group of rubber-suited beach walkers a few yards down the road. Interested, I stopped to ask who these people were, and what was their purpose. First, I identified myself as a representative from the National Wildlife Federation, and that my interests were more than casual, but not official. The rubber-suited folks in this group were a little different from those in the first group. This group was composed of men with tattoos and thick muscled arms -- white men with darken skin from being exposure to long hours in the sun. They were polite, but firm when asking if they could help me. The conversation was brief, and the direction was the same as before; again, I was assured that the beached in Gulfport would be better for us than those in Pass Christian.
So, tomorrow, June 28th, I head back to the Coast. Nearly 30 days after my first trip -- and hundreds of thousands of gallon of oil later. I am headed down to see for myself what is happening in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. I will visit each state, and talk with people who are working on the front line, and with people whose lives are being impacted by the disaster. No, I suppose, I will not have the same access as the big networks, perhaps not the small ones either -- but I will have something they don't -- Freedom. I don't have an audience profile to speak to, no sponsors to please, no editorial board to think about. I can just call it like I see it.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I want you all to know that I work for the National Wildlife Federation. And that it is for my job that I am making this trip -- with information I am able to gather while visiting the gulf, we will be able to make more informed decision about how best to enhance efforts to identify, rescue, and rehabilitate wildlife impacted by the oil. I say this not as an apology -- I like my job very much -- I say it so that you know that while I work for NWF -- the views expressed in this blog, as I have said elsewhere, are my own, and are not meant to infer, imply or impugn any intent or policy for or of NWF in any of my ramblings or rantings -- and there is likely to be plenty of both. One other thing you should know is that I am Louisiana, I was born and raised there -- I am very upset that my state and her oft-time overly patient populous are having to overcome yet another major, lifestyle altering challenge.
I hope you will join me on my journey -- I will try to stick with just the facts as I know them -- post some pictures and, when I can, some video so as to not bore you with my monotonous prose. I can be a little long winded, so I apologize up front for that -- but I hope that as you read each post, an image will emerge of what it is really like in the gulf...what people are really feeling, what they are thinking. To be sure one can not capture it all in a week-long visit, and certainly not this one -- but perhaps, enough will be captured to give you a sense of what is going on. I am anxious to get out there, and at the same time afraid of what I will find. Anticipation.

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