Thursday, June 10, 2010

Up Close and Personal with the Gulf Oil Spill Crisis

Pensacola, FL (June 9, 2010 - Day 51 of the Gulf Oil Spill)

Beautiful white sand beach in Pensacola, FL.

Beach shore with lines of pebble-sized tar balls.

A little crab outside its hole/home surrounded by tar balls.

An oil covered bottle that washed ashore.

An oil covered bird feather.

Birds walking around tar balls on the beach.

While on vacation in my hometown of Pensacola, FL; I was able to see first hand the effects of the Gulf Oil Spill. The shoreline is littered with pebble-sized tar balls. Unfortunately, this is only the prelude. I saw several plastic bottles that had washed up on shore and were coated in thick oil which is an indication of what is to come. During my walk along the beach, I was very moved by a little crab. Its hole/home was surrounded by tar balls close to its own size. Even the smallest of creatures are being affected and there is no telling the long term impact on the food chain. The Gulf Coast is a nursery for many species of fish and birds and the impact on even the smallest of creatures, in turn, affect many different species of creatures throughout the whole Gulf of Mexico.

I lived in Pensacola the first eighteen years of my life. I camped, fished, and played on that particular beach throughout my childhood. It is very sad to see it being destroyed especially after the destruction from Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Ivan leveled sand dunes and eroded large portions of the beach. After six years, the sand dunes are starting to build up again. However, Ivan was a natural disaster. What the Gulf Coast is experiencing now is a human-made disaster.

Natural disasters occur from natural processes. The earth is dynamic and ever changing. Some of these changes take thousands of years to develop. However, there is a process, a cycle. There is a passing away of one thing and a coming to be of something new. Take, for instance, a forest fire caused by a lightning strike. The resulting fire may destroy hundreds of acres of forest including trees, plants, birds, insects, mammals, etc. However, new life comes from the passing away of these creatures. It is a natural cycle of life. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die” (Ecc 3:1-2).

In contrast, human-made disasters occur from our negligence, ignorance, apathy, and even malice (take Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for instance). In human-made disasters there is a passing away of something but there is not necessarily a coming to be of new life. There is no natural cycle. The toxic aftermath of most human-made disasters actually prevent new life. So it may also be with the current Gulf Oil Spill. Only time will tell what impact there will be on the long term health of the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Coast. But there is hope. There is hope that something good can come from this human-made disaster. Not necessarily the good of new life, but the good of life-giving change. We can learn from this experience and work to prevent future disasters. We can treat this as an opportunity for conversion, a change of heart and mind set. The worst mistake one can make is a mistake that one never learns from and does not avoid to repeat.

This experience reminds me of the lyrics from a song called Burning Too by one of my favorite bands, Fuzagi. The song was released in 1989, but I think the lyrics are still very relevant today. - Bro. Jeffrey, T.O.R.

Burning Too (by Fugazi)
Anytime but now
Anywhere but here
Anyone but me
I've got to think about my own life

We are consumed by society
We are obsessed with variety
We are all filled with anxiety
That this world would not survive

We gotta put it out… the sky is burning
We gotta put it out… the water's burning
We gotta put it out… the earth is burning

Outrage but then they say...
Anytime but now
Anywhere but here
Anyone but me
I've got to think about my own life

The world is not our facility
We have a responsibility
To use our abilities
To keep this place alive

Right here
Right now
Do it
Do it


TOR said...

Very insightful, substantive, and profound faith based analysis of the oil spill and the call of God's Spirit to a change of mind and heart regarding our dependence on fossil fuels. Thanks so much for this great first-hand account of the effects of the oil spill. Gratefully, Pat, TOR

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your experience, Bro. Jeffrey, and congratulations on your first year with the TORs! Would you be willing and available to talk about your trip to Pensacola during the Franciscan Action Network's conference call on the Gulf Oil Spill on Wednesday, July 21st, from 4-5pm EDT? You can reach me at if you are interested. Thank you again! Peace and all good, Christy Elliott