The Obama administration announced last week that it is safe to eat fish and shrimp caught in the 78 percent of federal waters in the Gulf that are now reopened to fishing. But many are still concerned about the levels of toxins in the water and the impact on marine life. Independent journalist Dahr Jamail has been reporting from the Gulf Coast for over a month now. Last week he spoke to some commercial fishermen in Mississippi who are refusing to trawl because of the oil and dispersants that are still in the water.
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.
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. Continue Reading →
Story by Dahr Jamail
Photography by Erika Blumenfeld
Since BP announced that CEO Tony Hayward would receive a multi-million dollar golden parachute and be replaced by Bob Dudley, we have witnessed an incredibly broad, and powerful, propaganda campaign. A campaign that peaked this week with the US government, clearly acting in BP’s best interests, itself announcing, via outlets willing to allow themselves to be used to transfer the propaganda, like the New York Times, this message: “The government is expected to announce on Wednesday that three-quarters of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon leak has already evaporated, dispersed, been captured or otherwise eliminated — and that much of the rest is so diluted that it does not seem to pose much additional risk of harm.”
The Times was accommodating enough to lead the story with a nice photo of a fishing boat motoring across clean water with several birds in the foreground.
This message was disseminated far and wide, via other mainstream media outlets like the AP and Reuters, effectively announcing to the masses that despite the Gulf of Mexico suffering the largest marine oil disaster in US history, most of the oil was simply “gone.”
Thus, it’s only what is on the surface that counts. If you can’t see it, there is not a problem.
Story by Dahr Jamail, Photography by Erika Blumenfeld, t r u t h o u t | Report
While the devastating ecological impacts of BP’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico are obvious, the less visible but also long-lasting psychological, community and personal impacts could be worse, according to social scientists, psychologists and psychiatrists.
“People are becoming more and more hopeless and feeling helpless,” Dr. Arwen Podesta, a psychiatrist at Tulane University in New Orleans told Truthout. “They are feeling frantic and overwhelmed. This is worse than [Hurricane] Katrina. There is already more post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and more problems with domestic violence, threats of suicide and alcohol and drugs.”
Dr. Podesta, who also works in addiction clinics and hospitals said, “It’s a remarkably similar experience to that of the stressors of Katrina. There is an acute event, but then a long-term increase in hopelessness with every promise that is broken. Like a promise for money to rebuild a life, then people are put through red tape and each time they fail to move forward, they take five steps back in their psychological welfare.”
“The total number of years this will affect us is unknown,” Dr. Podesta said, adding, “however, it could affect us for possibly 20 to 30 years.”
Dr. Janet Johnson, an associate professor of psychiatry at Tulane University, told Truthout, “People are on edge. People are feeling grief. I’m hearing of physical illnesses related to the oil and people are worried about losing their home, their culture, their way of life.”