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Jun 10
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Water of Life, Darkening Gulf, Part 3 Hwy 23
Mississippi Delta, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana; photo by Bill Scheffel

Mississippi Delta, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana; photo by Bill Scheffel

Bill Scheffel recently traveled from Boulder to the Gulf Coast to bear witness to the oil spill and blog about what he encountered. Here is a recent excerpt from his blog, The Drala Principle.

By Bill Scheffel

On a journey to actually see the oil that had just made contact with shore, I bought a map, rented a car and drove to a town that more than one local referred to as “the end of the world,” Venice, a dot on the map at the south end of Hwy 23, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. All the ABC and CNN and other news crews had already been there, but I didn’t see a trace of them in the brief time I spent. What I saw was a restaurant with a Harley parked in front, a couple of motels and a tangle of piers, harbors and construction cranes with lots of sheriff patrol cars parked about. The gravel road I followed eventually led to a fence, a keep out sign and a large hanger with the name Hallliburtan on the side.

Like the returning bodies of solders killed in Iraq that photographers were denied access to until recently, I seemed to be in the symbolic tableau most of our citizens find themselves in. If we think of our country and the global economy as a “family system” there are, naturally, many things the more privileged children should not be allowed to see. Combat, factory conditions in Juarez and oil coating the white sands of the Louisiana shore must be as off limits as Dad’s drawer of racing forms and photographs of his mistress. This impression was amplified later in the day when I stopped to film an oil refinery along the side of Hwy 23. A Sheriff pulled up, questioned me and announced he “had to report me to the FBI.” I had ostensibly broken no law, but in the post 9/11 Patriot Act era an oil refinery is a “potential terrorist target” that obliged the Sheriff to conflate my legal act into an interrogation and a final stern warning that he “never wanted to see me on this road again.”

News reports speak about the “crystal blue waters” of the gulf, as if the spill is is a toxin entirely new to an otherwise unspoiled area, yet scientific studies have long-cited the Mississippi River coast as ” the single dirtiest, most imperiled coastal ecosystem on earth.” It’s not that the river itself is so highly polluted, but it provides continuous flows of nitrogen and phosphorus into the ocean, the vast runoff of chemical fertilizers from American farms which promote algae growth and so greatly decrease the oxygen content of the water that large “dead zone” had been created, no longer able to support marine life. To acknowledge this is in no way to discount the sweeping destruction of the oil spill but to acknowledge the insidious degradation that continuously goes on below the waters surface, often belied by a surface that may still look “crystal blue.”

Read more of this post, titled slowness, more tears (laughter), on http://dralaprinciple.blogspot.com/

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