I have to be honest with you, readers, I hesitated a lot before making a post on this topic. Because of my deep love of nature and concern for the environment, though, I eventually decided it was about time I finally bring up the Deep Horizon/BP Oil Spill on Backyard Safari. There are two main reasons why I took so long to write this post. The first is because there are many other websites and organizations with much better resources and a larger readership with which to do so. The National Wildlife Federation has a fairly comprehensive webpage about the spill, for example, as does the Nature Conservancy. The second reason is that the existence of one (very large!) disaster does not take away the need for people to care about and love nature on a local level. The point of this blog has always been to focus on the wonderful resources right around us–the little things we often overlook every day. I believe very strongly that if you help people connect to and love the environment, the desire to protect and save it will naturally follow. It is my goal to show people that they don’t need a large expanse of untouched wilderness in order to see the wonder, joy, and magic of nature, and I will certainly return to that after this post. The deep horizon oil spill IS a big problem that we, as citizens of the world, should all be aware of, however, and the fact remains that for thousands of people this oil spill IS in their backyard. For these reasons I thought I would take a time out from our usual safaris to give you some of the resources I most appreciate with regards to the oil spill. I also want to make people aware that British Petroleum recently purchased different search engine words related to the spill, so that when when people search for information they will be directed to BP sponsored websites instead of actual news sites.
I know that I will never be able to give the same resources that these larger groups have, so for the moment I greatly encourage everyone to take a look at these and other sites if you are interested in figuring out what you can do to help. There are many places to donate money, supplies, and volunteer hours listed on these sites. There are also some more unexpected ways to help, like donating human hair and nylons in order to create absorbent and natural ‘booms’ to soak up oil. You can read more about that creative method here. Finally, anything we can do in order to reduce our usage of and dependency on oil helps! Carpooling, adding errand runs on to a work commute, or taking public transportation where possible are all good ways to cut down on our use of oil, and the need for these pipes to be constructed in the first place. This blog post from the Nature Conservancy estimated that if each person in the U.S. cut down their weekly car mileage by just 20%, we could eliminate the need for oil the equivalent of the Gulf of Mexico’s oil production.
It is a shockingly terrible disaster, which will have impacts–some we can guess at and some we won’t even know until it is too late–for decades to come. The latest figures say that the equivalent of the Exxon Valdeez spill could be flowing into the gulf every 8 to 10 days.
This terrible photo from Business Insider shows an oil covered wave just off a beach in Alabama.
A photo by Dave Martin from the same site shows a large amount of oil collecting on the ocean surface.
I found this graphic from the New York Times especially helpful. On the website you can actually play it, and it shows the oil spill spreading over time, and all of the cities it has reached along the coastline.
I also like the website www.ifitwasmyhome.com, which allows you to place the oil spill over any town or city in the world in order to get a better idea of the size.
There are some more very well done pictures of different aspects of the oil spill here. I didn’t want to post any of their photos of struggling or dead animals on this site without a warning first, but I do think that to a certain extent we all need to force ourselves to be aware of some of the terrible things that are happening. If we let this spill go by without noticing the heavy losses, then we have no impetus to keep this from happening again in the future. This link includes pictures of the great relief efforts made to clean pelicans and other birds, but also shows some very depressing pictures of turtles and young birds lost to the spill. I should also add that, while the pictures of lost birds and dolphins are some of the most heart-rending, the worst future impacts will probably come from the loss of many microscopic and small organisms at the bottom of the food chain.
Finally, I found this NWF page on “How to Talk to Children about the Oil Spill” very helpful. They have the information divided out into different ages, and actually recommend that if you have very young children that you don’t bring up the oil spill unless they specifically ask. They explain that at such a young age it is difficult to get a sense of things beyond your backyard and local habitat, and that these children should only be getting positive and reinforcing experiences with nature now in order to help them become life-long advocates in the future.
As I mentioned previously, that is actually the main reason why I haven’t talked about the oil spill yet on this blog. With many more well-equipped groups working hard to bring awareness and aid to the Gulf, some people need to keep working to show people why they should care about nature at all, and help them begin their own personal relationship with the environment and world around them. I realize I have just posted some pretty depressing pictures and information, but it is so important that we don’t lose hope! If you are looking for a way to help, try just taking your kids outside! If you don’t have kids, see if there are any volunteer programs in your local community, nature books you can donate to a local library, or just take a walk outside yourself!! We can’t help anyone or anything if people do not care about the environment, so take heart, take a breath, and head out wherever your feet take you! The more YOU care about nature, the more those close to you will care, and the more those close to them will care, and onward and outward, and eventually we will all save this world together.