Dahr Jamail has a powerful article at Al Jazeera, “Sick Gulf residents continue to blame BP.” Widespread respiratory problems, rashes, miscarriages. One of the major problems is the chemicals used in the oil dispersants — many of these are showing up in the blood of Gulf residents.
I haven’t posted here in so long, I almost forgot my login…
Here’s my BP freakout poem:
Not an oil spill
Not an accident
Not a cut
A gash, a rape, a terracide
heart juice bleeds out
earth skin shrivels, cracks, implodes
we bite into her throat
suck out the golden black blood
gnash our teeth
because we can
and noisy scars prove we rule
I tell my son
“In your lifetime, there will be no personal vehicles.”
who knows what happens to Cassandras
no one ever listens
I close my eyes and ears
don’t want to
don’t want to
don’t want to
We are such a stupid species
bathing in apocoilypse
we insist it’s good for our skin
The TV ad detailing Palin’s push for killing wolves and other animals aerially is at Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund. It’s a cowardly, savage practice. And offering a “$150 bounty for the severed foreleg” of each slaughtered wolf, as the ad tells us, demonstrates an aggressive, unethical, barbaric practice.
I got to see Mimi Hughes at the Madison County-Huntsville City Public Library on Wednesday. She had tons of pictures of her Danube and Drava swims. Mimi started off her talk by quoting Ghandi — that we must be the change we wish to see in the world. I left keeping in my head that media in Europe attended to this almost 50-year-old (at the time — summer 2006) swimmer chugging along each day along the 1,776 miles of flooded and polluted river, while the U.S. media wasn’t too interested. This needs to be rectified.
“A Primeval Tide of Toxins,” the first of five parts in Ken Weiss’s Altered Oceans series, may keep me sleepless for a while. Weiss starts with this evil red stuff on the ocean floor of Australia’s Moreton Bay. It’s called fireweed and those who dare to fish in those waters when the fireweed blooms suffer “searing welts” on their skin, blistered lips, constricted breathing.
The thing about fireweed and other quickly growing and spreading bacterial organisms is not that they’re new products of modern pollution but that they’re ancient bacterial organisms flourishing in the polluted muck that kills off the organisms’ natural predators. Our oceans prove that rather than advancing, we’re in retrograde — to the tune of millions of years. Here’s Weiss:
In many places — the atolls of the Pacific, the shrimp beds of the Eastern Seaboard, the fiords of Norway — some of the most advanced forms of ocean life are struggling to survive while the most primitive are thriving and spreading. Fish, corals and marine mammals are dying while algae, bacteria and jellyfish are growing unchecked. Where this pattern is most pronounced, scientists evoke a scenario of evolution running in reverse, returning to the primeval seas of hundreds of millions of years ago.
Our pollution kills off the food we need and feeds the non-food that kills us. Part I clearly shows how each bit of our Earth connects with each other bit, because the pollution that dumps nitrogen and carbon into the oceans comes from fertilized farmlands, for instance, which runs off into the nearest river, like the Mississippi, and makes its way south to the ocean.
I’m on to Part II, although I’m not sure it’s good for my nerves. Doesn’t matter. That’s part of the problem — our huge mechanism of denial. Weiss states that we’ve believed for so long that the oceans are too vast to be affected by our polluting ways, but his series proves that, as he says, ” But over time, the accumulation of environmental pressures has altered the basic chemistry of the seas.”
The website for the Altered Oceans series offers video and photographs that I haven’t yet looked at. I’ll admit it: I’m scared to. I’ll leave you with the statistics that the front page offers:
- 90% of worldwide stocks of tuna, cod and other big fish have disappeared in the last 50 years.
- 650 gray whales have washed up sick or dead along the West Coast in the last seven years.
- 150 oxygen-depleted “dead zones” have been identified in oceans around the world.
- 75% of kelp forests off the Southern California coast, prime habitat for fish, have vanished in the last 50 years.
- 97% of elkhorn and staghorn coral off Florida’s coast have disappeared since 1975.
I missed most of Thursday’s Fresh Air but caught a bit of the interview (“Trouble at 20,000 Leagues?“) with Kenneth R. Weiss, LA Times reporter, who wrote the series Altered Oceans with Usha Lee McFarling; the series has won a George Polk award. In the snippet I heard from Fresh Air, Weiss was talking about the increased acidity of the oceans and how that acidity disintegrates the shells of snails and other mollusks. Such sea inhabitants lose their ability to create their own homes.
One action people can take to help avoid extinction of ocean dwellers is to eat lower on the food chain. That is, eat shrimp instead of bluefin tuna or swordfish. Weiss said that muscles and oysters can regenerate quickly, but larger fish take much longer.
The first picture I see when I go to the Altered Oceans series at the LA Times just blows me away. (Rick Loomis does the photography and video.) A huge encrusted pipe spews dirty greenish waste into what looks like clearer and bluer ocean water. The series is in five parts. If we all read this series and paid attention, what changes could we effect?
We ignore the pollution of our waters at our own peril, yet most of us remain ignorant. But there are some tireless champions who work every day to try and wake us up. I want to name two of those champions: Mimi Hughes and the Picton Castle.
I met Mimi in the summer of 2003 when we shared four weeks in a professional development seminar for teachers. Mimi was in my writing response group and that’s when I found out she’d swum to Russia. And that she was swimming the Tennessee River. Last summer, Mimi swam the Danube. You see, when Mimi leaves her high school reading classes, she dons her super hero swimsuit, gets inoculations against river bacteria, jumps in the water and swims. And swims. “My swim will be my pilgrimage,” Mimi says in her mission statement. She makes pilgrimages so that we will realize the following: “…we are abusing this great and beautiful resource. We are taking too much from it and giving too little in return.”
On the Kids’ Stuff section of Mimi’s Riverswim blog, we learn the following:
If all the water on earth could fit into a gallon milk jug, only one tablespoon of it would be fresh water. Of that tablespoon, nearly half is presently polluted.
While Mimi swims freshwaters, the Picton Castle inhabits our oceans as she sails around the world. The barque Picton Castle is a Tall Ship and a training ship, and the website offers a powerful education through the Captain’s Log, crew journals, photos, and the WorldWise educational foundation.
Just this past January, a group of Mount Holyoke students spent their January term working on board. Read about their experience at the group blog.
The Picton Castle website now has a page dedicated to crew member Laura Gainey, whom I also wish to honor here as a champion for the seas. On 8 Dec. 2006 around 11 at night, Laura was swept overboard and was not recovered even after several days of exhaustive search efforts. Read the tributes to Laura and you’ll understand how much she loved the ocean. You’ll see her courage and that of every sailor. Even as the crew grieve, the Picton Castle continues its mission to educate the rest of us. We owe them all much gratitude. We can express that gratitude by becoming informed and taking action.