Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday Gumbo

It's a wonderfully beautiful day today in Oakland. No coldness, lots of sunshine. In between packing boxes, I'm taking short bike rides around the area and drinking coffee and snacking on my first crock pot meal. I made beef stew yesterday! It's better today with my homemade bread. Who knew I could do those things.

As I was packing my kitchen gear using old New York Times (such a fucking elitist hippy I am) I saw an ad by BP from June. It was the one with the beach full of cleanup workers and text just below that said "Making Things Right". I threw it into one of the boxes I'm mailing directly to my new apartment. Good visual reminder of what I will be doing starting January 31. Keeping corporations held responsible for poisoning communities.

I've been asked what I really want to do more times than I can count, because that's what older activists like to ask younger activists. "But what do you really want to do?" A pretty terrible question to be asked, when what you really need at the moment (which is why you are having that conversation in the first place) is a fucking job to pay the fucking bills that has something, anything to do with what you really want to do. Hold corporations responsible when they poison communities and try my best to make sure they don't in the first place.

The final Oil Spill Commission report was released last week, which I already sent you the link to. 398 pages. Most community groups think the report is pretty good. It calls for a community body to assess new oil permits, states that there are systemic safety problems within the industry that will lead to other similar disasters, and states that fundamental reform is needed to execute true oversight of the energy industry.

We all heard of the man who got on his knees to beg for the money that BP owes him so that he can pay his bills. We've also heard of the companies from out of state who are putting in claims due to the financial impacts of the spill. What I haven't heard much about are the mental health issues in those that have been impacted. When the disaster first began I saw one news report that talked about mental health clinics opening up around the gulf, but that these were so underfunded that it was unlikely to penetrate deeply into the communities who need the help the most.

I recently met someone who said something of the sort, oh, well the city has recovered from the flooding so the problems aren't compounding. To that I said, no. No, sir, no one has really recovered from Katrina, emotionally or infrastructurely. When I look for articles about mental health issues from the oil spill, the majority of those were written in August of last year. Seems like a few journalists decided it was important then but haven't spoken much about it since. And we wonder why church and carnival are such important cultural cornerstones in the area; distractions on what is good in life, not what has gone wrong.

The Oil Spill Commission also commented on journalists taking advantage of this disaster to create high emotions or stir controversy. Because this didn't actually exist? I'm not sure what the origin of this came from, but it seems that Anderson Cooper was pointed out in particular. He is blamed from searching for angry oil workers to come on his show to be . . . angry at what happened. The one thing that my family and I were able to agree on was how Anderson Cooper was one of the best journalists covering the oil spill. He presented different angles and with the Keeping Them Honest segment held decision makers from all over the spectrum accountable for their actions. I find it hard to believe that finding someone who was impacted by the spill to share their anger with the rest of us who were pretty damn angry as trying to stir controversy. Cooper said the incident never happened.

What I find most terrifying about heading to New Orleans are these things. The compounded traumas of a repeatedly targeted community. Systemic problems within our energy and chemical industries, financial system, and federal and state governments that allow for these traumas to happened over and over again. The men and women who are much stronger than I who continue to live in these communities, fighting to survive and thrive in the homes they built. It's all a bit much. Maybe my awkward laughing in stressful/uncomfortable situations will finally be helpful?

The LA Times published this good article on the creation of a new agency that would focus solely on the safety of offshore drilling.

Save the Gulf Walrus!
Renee Claire

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