The second memorial of the BP drilling disaster last week was a whirlwind. While there was a marked drop off in national media attention from a year ago, we were glad to see the Gulf get attention from a wide variety of news outlets, the vast majority sharingstories that remind the nation that the oil isn't gone, and that the disaster isn't over. GRN was invited to share that perspective in a number of different media outlets.
GRN worked closely with the Sierra Club under the Gulf Future coalition to share that message with a Progress Report on the Gulf, which found the responses to needed advances in Marine Restoration, Community Recovery and Public Health to be "Unacceptable" while efforts under Coastal Restoration ranked marginally better with a "Needs Improvement." The only positive ranking was for the "Potential for the Gulf", which we had to rate "Excellent" despite the ongoing challenges.
At three coordinated press conference across the Gulf we were honored to be able to present a wide range of viewpoints, from Senator Bill Nelson of Florida who gave Congress an F on their Gulf response, to those who more directly depend on the Gulf, such as Ryan Lambert from the Buras Louisiana hunting and fishing lodge Cajun Adventures who shared his personal stories of impacts to speckled trout fishing, and the business which relies upon it. Our Mississippi event featured the passionate voice of the Vietnamese fishing community, and our Florida event touched on the ongoing concerns of the tourism industry. In NOLA, Cherri Foytlin passionately spoke about the health impacts to coastal communities.
Danny Phillipe of the Grand Bayou community. Still photo from GRN's new video. Credit: Greenhouse CollectiveAll of the press conferences also included faith-based support for recovery and restoration in the wake of the BP disaster, and we'd like to recognize Rev. Cory Sparks, of the Commission on Stewardship of the Environment of the Louisiana Interchurch Conference, Rev. Denise Donnell of Mississippi City United Methodist Church, and Shep Massar of Sunshine State Interfaith Power and Light, who led our memorial prayers, recognizing the 11 dead and the need for continued healing.
Prayers were also central to a uniquely NOLA event GRN participated in a bit later on the 20th. The master of mojo, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, and star of GRN's new video (only speaking role!), Dr. John led a drum and prayer circle at Louis Armstrong Park (which recognized GRN's Jonathan Henderson and the remaining oil in the Gulf) and flowed into a second line to the MS River, culminating in a ceremonial scattering of ashes. Pedicabs, Mardi Gras Indians, Brass Bands, dancing, drumming, prayer. Mac doesn't hold anything back.
We also saw support from a less traditional sector, with the release of a Super Chefs' Letter for the Gulf, headed up by GRN Advisory Board member Susan Spicer, and supported by Anthony Bourdain, Donald Link, Leah Chase, John Folse, Rick Bayless and many, many more friends, helped organized by the Chefs Collaborative. Check it out.
GRN closed out the evening in a familiar venue, speaking at a forum held at First Unitarian Universalist Church, featuring folks concerned about the ongoing health impacts, environmental impacts, and the inadequate response from our leaders. I spoke on a panel with Antonia Juhasz (author of Black Tide, and current Nation cover story) and Rikki Ott, (the hard-charging, Exxon valdez survivor, former Alaska fisherwoman, scientist, democracy activist who has been a stalwart defender of the Gulf's communities). The robust yet respectful discussion that followed was a testimony to the dogged organizing and cat-herding of Drew Landry, who understands the need to bring people together for the long haul.
The rest of the weekend in NOLA was filled with Saturday's Live Earth Expo at the St. Claude Healing Center, and Sunday's Earth Day Festival and Green Business Expo on beautiful Bayou Saint John. GRN spoke at both events, and also added our perspective to Earth Day worship services at Rayne United Methodist Church, and a unified Unitarian Universalist event.
By the end of the week we were tired, but inspired. The response from those we've been talking to has been phenomenal. From the pews to the dj booths, our conversations have been incredibly gratifying. Our friends have helped amplify our voices, either through sharing our new video, sharing our stories, or simply signing a postcard at the different events.
Big thanks to the Institute for Southern Studies for their report Troubled Waters which we were happy to help release. AVEDA remains a critical partner, and organized dozens of events around the region in support of our work.
We also want to thank Pearl Jam, Mark Ruffalo, Bonnie Raitt, and Naomi Klein, for sharing our new video, and the Greenhouse Collective, the Voodoo Experience, Portugal. the man, Dr. John, Ani Difranco, NFL star Scott Fujita, Stanton Moore, Fishbone, Katee Sackhoff, Blind Pilot, Fleur De Tease, Honey Island Swamp Band, Bonerama, Clint Maedgen, Helen Gillet, John Michael Rouchell, The Sheepdogs, Zack Smith, Mantana Roberts, David Torkonowsky, John Taylor, King Britt, Red Barrat, Grand Bayou community members Rosina Phillippe and her brother Danny and her nephew John for making the video possible.
As we look back, we're also aware of how far we need to go. Every day should be Earth Day, every month should be Earth Month, and we treat them all the same. Our work continues, our challenges remain significant. I hope you can continue to help.
Aaron Viles is GRN's Deputy Director. You can follow him on twitter here.