Five years ago we Gulf Coast residents watched a circular spot grow larger by the day, held our breath watching its path, readied our houses and ourselves to the extent that past experience had prepared us, evaluated our options, and planned our course of action as the threat came closer, unable to forsee the magnitude of the disaster to come, and in the case of the New Orelans area, some of the reasons for it. Now we watch as the large black spot gets larger on the map, the oil sheen spreads on the top of the water, the black clumps appear on the marshes, and another devastating, “never been anything like it before” event unfolds.
Like five years ago we realize the domino effect of the devastation. Not only were people killed in or displaced from their homes in the flooding, but those houses once needed postmen to deliver mail, grocery stores to provide food, doctors, schools, and so on, all of whom were affected by the loss of each area. Similarly, not only did eleven men die, countless fishermen and people working the Gulf lose their jobs, and damage or destruction of wetlands and animal life begin, but people across the nation who drink coffee, eat shrimp, like fruit, plan to buy a new set of tires, or export grain, and those who supply these items, could also feel the effects of this oil incident.
Some things have changed in five years. There have been a lot more more disasters worldwide and people have become much more proactive, much more connected, and have heightened their expectations. Volunteers line up to help with booms, debris, and wildlife. Fishermen, who are prevented from doing what generations of their familes have done, quickly sign up to help because they desparately want the solution and so that they may have some income. Networks of interested groups communicate with their constituents to mobilize needed support, pressure, and action for a quick response at all levels.
We’ve also learned to stay informed, and to distinguish facts from the damaging misconceptions and generalizations surrounding the event, so we don’t compound the effects of the catasrophe.