Monday, May 3, 2010

Gulf Coast is Closer to Home Than We Might Think

Before moving to Alaska I had only a passing knowledge and investment in the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. It happened, it made a mess, it got cleaned up, my life went on. I was a college student then at Seattle Pacific University, ironically along the banks of the canal that connected many of the Alaskan-bound fishing boats to the very areas where slippery and toxic oil formed a sheen on top of the Pacific waters. Only too happy to embark on a superficial yet totally genuine hatred of Exxon after the spill, I stopped buying gasoline at Exxon gas stations and had a "Boycott Exxon" bumper sticker on my bulletin board at home. But I didn't get it, not really.

It wasn't until I moved to Alaska almost five years ago that I began to understand the ramifications of such an event, and now, having visited the rocky shores of Prince William Sound and witnessed the undeniable beauty and wildness that is Alaska, knowing that the same event but potentially bigger is occurring at an equally lovely spot a few thousand miles away fills me with deep sorrow and endless regret.

Sorrow because I know what is happening and is going to happen; birds will die, fish will suffocate, turtles are already washing up on pristine beaches, white sand will be soiled with a tarry black guck that makes one sick. Regret because it could have been prevented, regret because I didn't pay attention before.

Alaskans, perhaps above everyone else of my generation, knows the pain, and we are grieving tonight as news accounts roll in and experts fly out to help in any way they can.

How can we save us from ourselves?

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