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The Gulf Coast Oil Disaster

By It's My Life on May 3, 2010 4:55 PM | No TrackBacks

Hopefully you've heard about this big news story:

On April 30th, an explosion rocked an off-shore oil drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and causing the damaged well to leak oil into the ocean water. As of today, the oil is still leaking out, which means that the massive slick, which already covers thousands of square miles, will keep getting bigger. Despite cleanup efforts, most experts believe there's little chance of containing the oil before it reaches shore, meaning states like Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida could be in for an ecological and environmental disaster even worse than the one Alaska faced when the tanker Exxon Valdez dumped 11 million gallons into Prince William Sound in 1989. Yikes!

Why this matters:
Plants, animals, and people depend on the Gulf of Mexico for their lives. The oil gushing into the water could have devastating short- and long-term effects on things like:

oilspillfrog.jpg--Coral reefs
--Turtles and marine mammals
--Fish populations, and the jobs of fishermen
--Oyster beds, shrimp habitats, and the seafood industry
--Shore birds and their nesting sites
--Coastal wetlands, and the plants and animals in them
--Beach communities and the tourism industry

British Petroleum (BP), which runs the damaged oil well, is working to cap off the leak. But this process could take several weeks or even months, because the well is in very deep water. They've also said that they will pay for the clean-up of the spilled oil, but with the slick still growing, nobody really knows how long clean up will take or how much it will cost. In the meantime, the communities in the path of the slick are bracing themselves for the worst.

So what can we do about this? Here are some ideas:

Use less gas. Some people think that conservation doesn't help, but to us, it's simple math: The less we drive, the less gas we use, and the fewer oil wells need to be drilled. Try walking, riding your bike, taking a bus, or carpooling with other families. If we all make the change, the impact could be huge.

Donate. Money doesn't solve everything, but it sure comes in handy in a crisis like this and every little bit will help. Do you care about the birds and animals that this oil spill will affect? Try donating money to a wildlife conservation group in Louisiana or Florida.

Volunteer. The containment and clean-up effort in the gulf is going to take big money and high-tech equipment, But as the 1989 Alaska clean-up showed us, it will also take thousands of volunteers, each working to sift the oil from one small patch of beach. If you live near a shore community that is expected to get some of the spill, ask a parent if you can volunteer to help clean the beaches...even before the oil gets there. BP has said that the cleanup effort will be easier if the spill hits beaches that are free of garbage and other foreign debris.

The National Audubon Society has a Gulf Coast Oil Disaster Action Center page that includes more ways you can volunteer and help.

Help out at home. Even if you don't live in one of the states that will be directly affected by the spill, you can still help keep things clean and safe wherever you are. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Use less energy, and use it wisely. Remember: it's not just about saving the environment. It's about saving OURSELVES, because the environment is where we all live!

For more information, check out IML's section on Green Living.

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