Grand Isle, Louisiana
Another early morning, all the more early because we didn’t stop work till 2AM last night! Today we head off to Grand Isle about three hours away from Venice to visit with Louisiana Wildlife and Fish department. Oil has made its way into the mangroves which means some of our worst fears have been realized. These wetland habitats are some of the most fragile in the world and also some of the most important. 40% of all the wetlands in the lower 48 states exist along the coast of Louisiana and they are directly in the oil’s path. Look at the photos and you will see why once the oil gets into these tight intricate bodies of water, there is no getting it out.
By the time we arrived it was midday and the sun was hanging hot in the sky. Horse flies surrounded us as we made our way to the Wildlife and Fisheries boat and headed out into the bay. The despair was visible in the eyes of the scientists and researchers who accompanied us. There was frustration too and it wasn’t long before they told me why. “BP has been sitting around for almost a month without preparing this area for the oil. The local authorities had to commandeer their equipment just a few days ago when it was clear they were doing nothing,” I was told. “Now the oil has made it into the marshes and mangroves and we have no idea what the long-term impacts will be but we are concerned that this will be worse than Katrina.”
They went on to explain that as the oil penetrates the vegetation it kills it and leaves bare soil to be washed away, which will decimate this once vital and productive eco-system. “We are seeing birds covered in oil during the height of nesting season and tar is washing up on the beaches,” they explained. There was real concern in their voices, people who have grown up here and who are now watching the entire ecosystem and economic bases of the community fall apart before their eyes.
As I dipped my fingers into a puddle of oil, one of many strewn across the sand, I was angry, too. This is the price of our arrogance, I thought; this black poison is choking the life out of one of the most incredible places on earth. As I drove back to New Orleans last night, the images I saw helped to reinforce the urgency of this issue…we have a clear choice: continue to pollute our planet or fight for a cleaner world. This is not an economic vs. environment issue as Ted Danson reinforced yesterday on Larry King Live. A true champion for the environment, he reminded us that clean energy creates more jobs than oil and gas and that this illusion that our economy can’t afford to go green is just that—an illusion. The truth is…we can’t afford not to.
For photos and video from Philippe's trip to the Gulf, visit www.treehugger.com.