POINT TO PONDER
"Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” - the title of a 1972 speech by Edward Norton Lorenz (1917-2008) before the American Academy for the Advancement of Science
How seemingly small actions or inaction can make huge positive or negative difference down the road.
STORYLINE by Rajiv Shah
Jeffrey stood in front of a wall of pictures. His whole family history, over one hundred years of fisherman and business owners, lined the wall. Grandparents, his father, cousins, and siblings that worked the docks, boats, and fisheries along the Louisiana coast stared back at us in yellowed, sepia tones. Tears filled Jeffrey's eyes as he looked at the photos - sensing that he was losing his business and a legacy his family had rooted themselves to in the now polluted Louisiana marshes.
"You know you asked me about a plan B earlier," Jeffrey said.
"Yeah," our interviewer confirmed.
"I can't see a plan B. There's too much here."
"It'll be okay Jeffrey."
After a pause Jeffrey quietly responded, "I hope."
I went to Grand Isle, Louisiana trying to find investigate the BP oil spill with a documentary film production - to uncover some truth that I thought BP was trying to hide - and ultimately found myself in a dying restaurant with the owner, Jeffrey. His father was a fisherman as was his grandfather. He had always lived on the coast as did his entire family, over a hundred years of history now in jeopardy due to the oil spill. Customers weren't coming in as much because there was no seafood to catch in the gulf, tourists and sport fisherman were non-existent, and people didn't trust the seafood that was being served because it was being imported from out of town.
After the interview I sat in the car as we passed signs put up by local residents condemning BP for the oil spill. I wondered how one action, the inability to heed warnings of a faulty oil cap could lead to the destruction of so many lives. How BP wasn't able to see the potential damage from ignoring to fix a single cap. Every action has an opposite reaction, and in this case, the results are disastrous.
Now BP is in damage control mode, spinning the media with stories that the oil is slowly being cleaned when in fact they are just spreading dispersants that are sinking the oil below the surface rather than removing it. The current damage is only partial, the oil now at the bottom, poisoning the ecosystem will be felt long after BP vacates the southern shores of Louisiana. Again, there is no foresight, just short cut fixes, without thought to how their actions now will affect the area for years to come.
We spoke to many fisherman on our trip to Grand Isle, many of them currently working to clean the oil, and these are points they brought up relating to the potential problems for the future:
- Oil sunk to the bottom rather than being cleaned will contaminate seafood for years to come, thus handicapping the fishing industry.
- The oil on the bottom maybe hidden but will be washed up onto land the next time there is a hurricane. Oil on the land will be an even bigger mess than in the water.
- Because of the sunk oil, fisheries will not but fish or crabs from Louisiana fisherman.
- People have built their lives around fishing and where will they go when they don't have the money or means to move? Many are afraid that will lead to a rise in crime rates. There is already a rise in the number of suicides and depression in the area due to the spill
These are only a few of the problems that will arise, many more are unseen and will reveal themselves as years pass. What is true is that with a little foresight and thought towards the future, potential disasters such as this one could be minimized. The most harmful effects will be the ones we won't be able to see for years to come.