Multiple Impacts of the Oil Spill

As the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues the issues arising from it continue to swell.  I’ve written this blog post with a heavy heart, feeling the need to lift up these issues, and with a conflicted feeling because there is no direct call to action that I can offer to make a difference in the oil spill cleanup.  However, as we consider these issues, let us pray for all humanity and creation affected by the spill.  Let us also consider ways that we can lessen our need for oil and impact on God’s earth.

People are losing their livelihoods: fisher-people, workers in the tourist industry, and many others whose businesses supported these sectors.  On Earth has posted a video in which a Native American family, the Philippes, talk about how the oil spill will affect their livelihood and way of life, which as fisher-people relies on the land and water for sustenance and support.   Stories like the Philippes’ abound. 

As people affected by the oil spill lose their incomes, the need for emergency food assistance is rising.  Between May 1 and June 7 Catholic Charities, in the New Orleans Archdiocese alone, provided emergency assistance to 7,800 people, including 952 emergency food boxes from Second Harvest.  As the need for emergency assistance for food continues, conversations about alternative sources of food security for the area, such as small-scale gardening are starting.

Wildlife in and around the Gulf Coast continues to suffer.  This Times-Picayune article talks about some of the far-reaching impact.  While some wildlife impacts are showing up on beaches, the federal government confirmed yesterday that there are underwater plumes of oil as far as 142 miles from the spill site.  It remains to be seen how far the oil will spread and what the long-term environmental affects will be on wildlife and water quality.  Some scientists are also suggesting that the oil spill could increase the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil spill has brought with it public health issues for cleanup workers as well as the general public.  The Times-Picayune reports that as of June 7, 71 people in Louisiana have complained of illness related to the oil spill.  Of this, 50 of the claims came from spill cleanup workers, but 21 complaints were from the public at large concerning odors.  The use of dispersants is creating both environmental and public health concerns.  Read this National Council of Churches Eco-Justice blog post for more information.

These are just a few examples of the issues arising from the oil spill.  Environmental, economic, public health, justice, food security, and other issues will continue to arise for the affected area, which continues to grow.

I have heard from some communities and churches that are holding prayer vigils for the oil spill and brainstorming sessions on how their communities can make a difference.  Has your church or community had such an event?  If so, please feel free to share your story in the comment section.

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