No joke, this is Philippe dipping his hand into oil on a Louisiana beach. All photos and video courtesy of Philippe Cousteau.
Guest blogger Philippe Cousteau is chief ocean correspondent for Planet Green, and will host the network's forthcoming Blue August programming. He is reporting from the Gulf oil spill in Louisiana.
Grand Isle, Louisiana - May 25, 2010
Another early morning, all the more early because we didn't stop work till 2 a.m. last night. Today we head off to Grand Isle, about three hours away from Venice, to visit with Louisiana Wildlife and Fish department. Oil has made its way into the mangroves which means some of our worst fears have been realized. These wetland habitats are some of the most fragile in the world and also some of the most important: 40% of all the wetlands in the lower 48 states exist along the coast of Louisiana and they are directly in the oil's path. Look at the photos and you will see why once the oil gets into these tight intricate bodies of water, there is no getting it out.By the time we arrived, it was midday and the sun was hanging hot in the sky. Horse flies surrounded us as we made our way to the Wildlife and Fisheries boat and headed out into the bay. The despair was visible in the eyes of the scientists and researchers who accompanied us. There was frustration, too, and it wasn't long before they told me why.
The red tape (darker spots) on this map shows where the oil has already hit.
"BP has been sitting around for almost a month without preparing this area for the oil," I was told. "The local authorities had to commandeer their equipment just a few days ago when it was clear they were doing nothing. Now the oil has made it into the marshes and mangroves and we have no idea what the long-term impacts will be but we are concerned that this will be worse than Katrina."
They went on to explain that as the oil penetrates the vegetation, it kills it and leaves bare soil to be washed away, which will decimate this once vital and productive eco-system.
"We are seeing birds covered in oil during the height of nesting season and tar is washing up on the beaches," they explained. There was real concern in their voices, people who have grown up here and who are now watching the entire ecosystem and economic bases of the community fall apart before their eyes. As I dipped my fingers into a puddle of oil--one of many strewn across the sand--I was angry, too. This is the price of our arrogance, I thought. This black poison is choking the life out of one of the most incredible places on earth.
Cousteau speaks with a local naturalist about weathered oil on the beach.
Oil-drenched and fresh booms precariously surround an island where birds are nesting.
As I drove back to New Orleans last night, the images I saw helped to reinforce the urgency of this issue. We have a clear choice: continue to pollute our planet or fight for a cleaner world. As Ted Danson reinforced yesterday on "Larry King Live," this is not an economics-vs.-environment issue. A true champion for the environment, Danson reminded us that clean energy creates more jobs than oil and gas and that this illusion that our economy can't afford to go green is just that--an illusion. The truth is that we can't afford not to.
Tanker truck are being used to store oil skimmed from the water.
For more from Philippe and his travels to the Gulf, check out Earth Echo International.