The Ol’ Bait and Switch

– originally published on “The Recovery Room” 1 June 2010

Sorry for the absence folks. The too-good-to-be-true wifi at the campground was on the fritz and I didn’t have any luck at the other alleged hot spots in town. After three action packed days it took 2000 miles and an evening of rehashing the situation to friends back in California for me to be able to process some of the things that I learned down in Louisiana into compartmentalized ideas that translate into blog posts. Right now I’ll give you my quick and dirty impression of what’s happening, then follow it up with tangents relating to specific parts of my last few days on Grand Isle.

There is an enormous game of bait and switch taking place on the Gulf Coast right now. An army of workers (the US Army and National Guard included) has been mobilized, but their actions don’t seem to show any real consideration for the big picture of cleaning up this mess and recovering the ecosystem. Most of it is a big “dog and pony show” as my fellow reporter and biologist Drew Wheelan so aptly labeled it in a post on his blog for the American Birding Association. Read his post to get a more comprehensive idea of that aspect of the situation. The people who’s lives are connected to this disaster are left doing all of the real work and having to continually travel a long and convoluted chain of command to get BP’s minions to do the work that only their employees can legally perform.

I did my best to talk to a representative cross section of people to get a well rounded feel for as many aspects of this effort as possible: locals fishermen and shrimpers, locals not affiliated with fishing, state employees, federal employees, conservation organization representatives, and fellow volunteers. The sentiment that there is no clear plan of action mike on island.jpgis prominent across the board. While a few visibly conspicuous beaches are getting a lot of attention and remain spotless, there are miles and miles of oiled shoreline that are not being attended to even after repeated reports have been called in to clean up crews.
After two days out on the water as a scientific observer in four different boats I began to realize the extent to which the organizational fabric of this effort just didn’t exist. The folks that I was with were clearly doing all they could, very well and under a lot of pressure, to make things run as smoothly as possible but their efforts were continually stymied by organizational dysfunction and unacceptable time lags in response to their reports and requests.

Arriving back into the “real world” brings a heavy bitter-sweetness. I’m leaving my impromptu community of like minded individuals behind with hopes that all of our paths will collide again some time down the wiggly road of life. These folks have stained my soul permanently with their care and humor. They’ve brought enjoyment in the worst of times and I’m in their debt. Happy trails Drew, RJ, Ed, James, Kerry, Bub, Freddy, Felix, and Mike.
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