Urgent: Please Sign Letter To Congress

All, and especially those of you along the Gulf Coast:

Riki Ott is sponsoring a letter to Congress and needs people to sign, either personally or on behalf of the group they represent. The letter requests Congress to take IMMEDIATE action during the lame duck session. Here is the gist (but full text of the letter is below, for those of you who love details): Continue reading “Urgent: Please Sign Letter To Congress”

What You Can Do About The Oil Spill

Right now so many are frustrated and feeling quite helpless about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which will likely be leaking until the relief wells are complete in August. This is the moment when we MUST TAKE ACTION. Action is the antidote to despair, every time. Clean The Gulf Now has a perfect solution for you – something you can do right now. Send a clear message to President Obama to ban the toxic dispersant Corexit NOW. It will only take you 30 seconds. Stop, do it, and then tell everyone you know to do the same. I promise you that taking action will make you feel immediately better. Continue reading “What You Can Do About The Oil Spill”

How Earth Will Be Restored

This Memorial Day mourning, as the rain falls outside my window, my heart is very heavy, yet my soul is light. My heart aches for the man-made devastation being heaped upon our Gulf of Mexico specifically, but our Earth in general. The ongoing bloodletting deep under the water, paired with a violent chemical assault from above has forever altered life as so many of us know it. It’s been six weeks since the Deepwater Horizon buckled under the weight of BP’s blatant safety violations and disregard for the consequences of its cost-cutting measures, in pursuit of profit-generation at all cost.

Six weeks later, and still not a day goes by that I don’t pause in disbelief at the immeasurable loss we have and will continue to sustain. When I say “we” I am not referring simply to residents of the gulf coast, but to our global ecosystem. Many of those in Tony Hayward’s generation possess a very perverse way of measuring success in life. When we conduct analyses in our business to determine the dollar value of human lives and decide that saving money today is worth loss of someone else’s life tomorrow, we have veered so far off the path of humanity that there may be no recovery.

When “damage-control” means that hiding the truth (and quickly destroying our oceans) is worth more than the fine that might be incurred if we clean up after ourselves in a way that would preserve our ecosystem, and the health of us all, we are heading straight for global disaster. For all these reasons my heart weighs as heavy as the clouds above, swollen with their toxic precipitation.

And yet my soul is light. When I rise up and look above those clouds, and all things ethereal, I know that I am not alone. I know that the coming generations have both the desire and the ability to change things. And I know that through this kind of utter devastation these will be called to action, will stand up and say “enough”. It is time we earn back our place at the top of the food chain – by recognizing we cannot remain there if we destroy all life below us on that chain. Every person on this planet can do something today about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

To all the like-minded individuals across the world – join me, stand together in unified message: we do not own this planet; She is not here for the taking. She simply is; She allows and She gives, but She does not owe us this life. We need only look back over the millennia to know that She will take care of Herself, even if that means wiping the slate and starting again.

The decision to restore Mother Earth is not a daunting one. Every day we make a choice between our greed and our Earth. Individual choices combined will change this course of events. Will we create less waste today? Will we recycle? Will we drink from reusable bottles and eliminate plastic waste? Will we compost? Will we walk or bike to work? Will we carry reusable bags along with us to the store? Will we turn up the A/C or turn down the heat? Will we choose to consume more fresh products and fewer packaged, prepared meals? Will we choose to “sail” rather than “motor”? Will we choose a fraction less personal indulgence or consumption every day in order to save our Earth?

Decide today that you will take action right where you are to heal the gulf, to heal our Earth. No decision made in favor of our planet is small. Your actions combine with mine to create global and immediate change.

These choices, made individually, consistently and on a global basis, will move to heal our planet. No matter how corrupt or far reaching large corporations are, or how entwined they become with governments who cater to them, if consumers simply eliminate the need for their products, then there will be no profits to use in the sale of our lands and waters. We must unite and agree that change begins at home. Simple choices every day will save our Earth.

Will you join me? She’s counting on us. What will you change today, tomorrow, every day?

Do all that you can, with all that you have, in the time that you have, in the place where you are. – Nkosi Johnson

PR Perversion, Or: BP Translated

In this overview by Tracey Barnett of The New Zealand Herald, she uncovers a list of recent and blatant lies by the BP PR team, made directly to the American public. Do not be deceived. Watching BP (and many government officials, for that matter) is like watching a carefully choreographed rendition of Lord of the Dance. Speaking about what BP did to oil rig workers immediately after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Tracey says:

…survivors would be held in isolation for 40 hours before they were allowed off their ship, reports The Guardian. For that period, crewmen were denied access to call their families. Some were furious, others just numb.

Lawyers for the survivors say the crew was told they had to sign statements denying they were hurt or had witnessed the explosion before they were allowed to go onshore. Davis had been awake for 50 hours at that point. He signed. Most men did. That was only the first lesson of containment.

And on clean up efforts:

BP-employed clean-up workers have been specifically told not to talk to media, though many have.

Some angry ones reported that BP initially told them the crude they were swimming around in to move barriers early on was red tide or dishwashing-liquid runoff, reports Mother Jones.

The current leak, like so many others, was not unplanned by BP. In fact, in a recently leaked memo we see how BP conducted a cost-benefit analysis to put a price on each of their employees lives, to calculate which would cost them more – ensuring workers safety, or paying settlement claims on their deaths.  This is BP’s way of calculating the cost of cutting safety and taking risks. If it’s cheaper to pay the settlement on employees who die in an explosion than to implement the safety measures, then BP simply considers that good business. Making this practice more egregious, BP actually used the Three Little Pigs analogy to conduct their analysis, wherein the employees were the “pigs”:

And the bottom line comes with the expense of an employees life, and the chance that they’ll lose it (but more importantly, the money they lose if that chance occurs). And how do you figure that out? You place a value on the worth of a human life. Like this:

Coon says that during the discovery process, he found another email from the BP Risk Management department that showed BP put a value on each worker when making its Three Little Pigs calculation: $10 million per life.

Now you tell me where BP’s priorites are.  Do not be fooled by “slick” talking executives and PR people who are far too practiced at responding to these situations (because their business policies actually create them). And while you are at it, hold your government accountable for being paid off by BP, and allowing them to operate in this way. Demand that we take over the clean up efforts and that BP cease and desist from dumping any more toxic Corexit into our waters. Demand that all BP drilling licenses in US territory be pulled immediately. No more questions. No more lies. Because if you buy the current story that BP has “fundamentally changed the culture of BP” since the previous disaster, well you better hold on.  Tony Hayward is huffing and puffing and he’s blowing your house down, right under your nose.

Oil + Sugar = Dirt??

The United States Coast Guard apparently has trouble thinking outside the box, which is why they don’t see any option other than “BP leads this effort or… no one“. I don’t think the government should take over the project from BP. FAR from it. I don’t think the government should attempt to be part of the solution finding, for that matter. What I do think is that the government should force BP to play second in command to a team of independent scientists and engineers from around the world, who do not have profits as their main priority.

The role of the government should be to realize that BP cannot and will not put our environment first and that BP will not choose a less toxic solution if a more toxic solution seems easier or (especially) cheaper. The government should allow private industry, those not already in bed with the oil industry (which is what rules out the government), to call the shots. BP’s resources get used at the discretion of the independent team.

Now, just as I believe the power to govern should be in the hands of the states, and less so with the federal government, I also believe the clean up should be localized. Local areas have the knowledge and intricate understanding of their own areas that BP workers can never have, no matter where they take up residence temporarily.  Local teams should assess their own needs, BP should write the checks weekly, and the locals take care of their own (with BP resources at their disposal of course).

To that end, my mother in law, Gayle was doing her own research. She began to wonder what the more wealthy areas like Boca Raton, FL were doing to prepare for oil reaching their shores. She’s a smart lady. She found this article, which describes a product created by a Boca Raton man:

Frank Pajaujis has found an ingenious solution to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that is threatening to encroach onto our Florida shores.

Pajaujis has invented a biodegradable powder made from sugar cane fibers and infused with microbes. The granular mixture repels water and absorbs the oil, while the microbes actually ingest the oil. Within fifteen minutes, the ensuing reaction begins turning the sludge into humic material, or dirt. After nine weeks, the dirt begins to degrade naturally, which means that the material can be used in the area’s fragile ecosystems such as wetlands and beaches.

Here’s the company that manufactures the product.  Here is a video about the product. It’s been in use for 20 years. This is why we should have independent teams working on this. Of course BP can’t take in and process all the information from all the people out there trying to tell them how to do it.  If you localize the efforts though – I bet there are more than a few parishes in Louisiana who would try this. All it would take is one successful outcome and the word would spread like wildfire.

We must stop waiting for BP to save the day. They cannot and will not. We must allow private enterprise to rise up to this challenge. They will come through. The government’s role is to give them the chance, at BP’s expense, of course.

If You Build It, They Will Come

With tears of joy this week I read this story about Kevin Costner’s invention, which can collect polluted water, separate it and return water that is 97% clean. An invention he’s been working on since the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, Costner’s “Ocean Therapy” is potentially the cleanest and most effective solution for the oil in the gulf that we’ve yet heard. He has spent $26 million of his own money creating and perfecting the device, and obtained a license from the Department of Energy in 1993. That kind of makes me wonder how many other great solutions are out there that we don’t know about yet?

I’m so pleased to hear Costner is on hand in Louisiana, conducting demonstrations and live testing and I’m hopeful that this thing works and is put into action very soon. He may not have enough on hand to get the entire Gulf cleaned up today, but certainly it would be worth it to manufacture about a thousand more of them, rather than continue dumping toxic chemicals on top of toxic waste in our water.

Impeach BP!

There’s enough information about the Gulf Oil Spill to make your head spin, your heart heavy and your stomach turn. It’s been suggested more than once that I “stop reading so much about it”. And I would love to, but someone has to hold BP accountable, and since it’s obviously not going to be the government, then I guess it’s going to have to be us. The only way I know to do that is to get and stay informed, and to share the vital information BP tries to neatly sweep under the rug.

This morning I’m still reeling over the fact that BP has been left in charge of the oil spill – both assessing the damage and then making the decision regarding the best way to clean it up. We are well aware that BP got us into this situation through blatant lies and cutting corners. Why would we trust them to clean it up in a way that is sensitive to both our environment and our own health? The answer? We absolutely cannot. And yet, they are still running the “show”, and is it ever a show. My favorite quote this week is from this NPR article, outlining BP’s “restatement” about the spill size once it became impossible for them to continue that lie:

“Too much information is now in the hands of BP’s many lawyers, and too little is being disclosed to the public,” said Larry Schweiger. “The Gulf of Mexico is a crime scene, and the perpetrator cannot be left in charge of assessing the damage.”

Indeed. We have a lot of highly educated, well-trained talent in our country, in our world. We should assemble a team of scientists and engineers who are top experts in this field (and NOT on the payroll of any oil company) and put them at the top of the chain of command. BP should be forced to accept what this team finds, findings that are FULLY disclosed to the American people, and to implement the remedies this team outlines as the best and most appropriate for finally securing the leak and for cleaning the gulf. Basically, someone without profits as a motivating factor should be telling BP what to do, and BP should simply be writing checks and doing what they are told.

This CNN video alone should tell you that BP is either playing out its own agenda while paying mere lip service to the people of the United States or is grossly incompetent and cannot oversee this matter, or more likely, BOTH. I didn’t realize until a few days ago that the EPA “order” to BP to stop using the toxic chemical dispersant Corexit was merely a “suggestion” – you know, you guys should really stop using that stuff, unless you just think you can’t find anything better, that is. To the EPA, and to the rest of our elected officials – kindly I say, grow a pair. Somewhere along the way it seems BP earned a seat in our government. I’m not sure how they managed that but they are definitely there, with all the pull of a top Washington official. It’s time to impeach BP.

As the above video shows, hundreds of thousands of gallons of a much safer dispersant have been sitting in the Houston sun for over a week, waiting for BP to pick it up and use it, all the while BP is dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of highly toxic Corexit into our precious Gulf waters (see the last post about the problems with Corexit). Here’s the problem – people seem to want to believe that BP actually gives a damn about what happens to the Gulf, to the people, about cleaning up their mess. So let’s get this straight right now: BP cares about one thing: PROFITS. Period. Don’t get me wrong – I do not deny BP the desire or right to earn profits. Private enterprise exists to make money, and I have no problem with that. My problem is that you cannot allow an organization who created a problem the size of the Gulf oil spill in pursuit of profits to remain in charge of cleaning up that mess. They now have conflicting goals, and the goal of profits will ALWAYS come first.

We now KNOW that BP 1. will cut any corner to save a buck and 2. will lie right to our face even when everyone knows it’s a lie. And even our Coast Guard doesn’t appear to have authority over BP. Since when does BP control maritime law and the airspace overhead?  According to the USCG, boaters cannot visit the area of the spill, which rules out a massive section of the Gulf of Mexico by the way, and private pilots cannot fly overhead. And the USCG says those are “BP’s orders”. If those last two sentences didn’t make you so mad you’d like to punch Tony Hayward in the throat (and kick at least ten government officials in the groin), then you had better re-read.

BP has indeed created a massive crime scene in our waters. And as it grows in size by the miles every day, BP tries harder to throw it’s shroud over the mess, grin and say: “Oh, it’s not that bad. The Gulf will clean up easily. There won’t be that much damage.” And it seems too many Americans and politicians sit there wide-eyed and dazed, staring at BP’s swinging pendulum, absent-mindedly nodding in agreement. This is your wake-up call, folks. Hear me snapping my fingers and pulling you out of the trance. Know that virtually every word out of the mouths of every BP executive is a colossal lie, told to placate you and to keep you off their backs.

We have to demand more. It’s time to remove BP from office. BP is not capable of replacing their profit goal with that of putting the health of the people and marine life first. And they shouldn’t be expected to do so. BP should be forced to hire independent consultants from the private sector (BP does NOT get to choose them – we do), and they should have ZERO influence over this team’s findings and recommendations. And I do NOT mean a mealy-mouth task force hastily put together by Obama, who apparently took more than 30 days to decide something needed to be done here. I do NOT mean more people from Washington, and I definitely don’t mean the EPA. I mean men and women with backbones, people with no personal agenda except to save our earth, marine life, our health, our fleeting precious resource that is clean water.

Potential Human Hazard: High

(See new update since below was posted)

That’s the official safety description for the dispersants that our government approved for use in the gulf oil spill. By BP’s own admission they have conducted no studies on the material and acknowledge that this stuff could make a lot of people ill, or dead. And yet, our government, which is supposed to represent the people, quickly put their stamp of approval on it. We already know that BP has and will lie their way right through this entire ordeal. And if you question that, have a look at what Marine Toxicologist Riki Ott tells us about the long-term health of Alaskans who were exposed to both the oil and dispersant toxins following the Exxon Valdez spill. This is from her article: At What Cost? BP Spill Responders Told to Forgo Precautionary Health Measures in Cleanup:

During the 1989 cleanup in Alaska, thousands of workers had what Exxon medical doctors called, “the Valdez Crud,” and dismissed as simple colds and flu. Fourteen years later, I followed the trail of sick workers through the maze of court records, congressional records, obituaries, and media stories, and made hundreds of phone calls. I found a different story. As one former cleanup worker put it, “I thought I had the Valdez Crud in 1989. I didn’t think I’d have it for fourteen years.”

In 1989 Exxon knew cleanup workers were getting sick: Exxon’s clinical data shows 6,722 cases of upper respiratory “infections”–or more likely work-related chemical induced illnesses. Exxon also knew workers were being overexposed to oil vapors and oil particles as verified through its air-quality monitoring program contracted to Med-Tox. The cleanup workers never saw results of this program. Neither did OSHA, the agency supposedly charged to oversee and independently monitor Exxon’s worker-safety program.

Alarmed by the “chemical poisoning epidemic,” as expert witness Dr. Daniel Teitelbaum would later call it when he testified on behalf of sick workers, Exxon created a partial release form to indemnify itself from future health claims. Exxon paid its workers $600.50 to sign it, as I discovered in court records.

As I understand it, the point of the extra $.50 was to force everyone who signed a waiver to have to claim it on their taxes (anything over $600 must be reported to the IRS), so that if someone filed a claim Exxon could quickly access their tax returns and know if that individual signed the waiver or not. My stomach turns just writing about that.

And now:

BP is assuring [local fisherman] they don’t need respirators or other special protection from the crude oil, strong hydrocarbon vapors, or chemical dispersants being sprayed in massive quantities on the oil slick.

Fishermen have never seen the results from the air-quality monitoring patches some of them wear on their rain gear when they are out booming and skimming the giant oil slick. However, more and more fishermen are suffering from bad headaches, burning eyes, persistent coughs, sore throats, stuffy sinuses, nausea, and dizziness. They are starting to suspect that BP is not telling them the truth.

And based on air monitoring conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a Louisiana coastal community, those workers seem to be correct. The EPA findings show that airborne levels of toxic chemicals like hydrogen sulfide, and volatile organic compounds like benzene, for instance, now far exceed safety standards for human exposure.

Now, of course we know that BP will say whatever it takes to make a buck. If you still aren’t sure about that fact, check out this article, where BP told feds it could handle oil spill 60 times larger than Deepwater Horizon. It’s pretty obvious that was one giant “misstatement” of fact. But, and this is the REALLY important part of the article, even if the press did tuck it away all neatly at the end:

A safety data sheet about the principal dispersant that the company has reported using during the ongoing spill says “no toxicity studies have been conducted on this product,” and labels “the potential human hazard: High.”

I suppose if you’re a BP executive living in Europe, or for that matter a politician in Washington who vacations in The Hamptons on weekends, well you probably just want this whole mess to go away, no matter how it’s done. After all, you and your family will not be affected, will not be made sick and hey, if a few hundred thousand people get and stay sick for the rest of their lives as a result – well it was worth it to get the press off our backs about this nightmare.

Few question the fact that our politicians have been in bed with big oil for decades. Few question that big oil has made these elected officials their b****’s, and that we have a Capitol full of (to quote Charlie Daniels) “lily livered, pantywaist, forked tongued, sorry excuses for defenders of The Constitution”. I couldn’t have said it better.

This is our nation and it’s time we got together, took a stand and said that it’s not for sale, neither is our health, neither are our waters, our land, or any other precious resource. If these pushovers in Washington aren’t willing to stand up for what’s right, even (and especially) if that means to the companies that put money in their pockets then we need to find men and women who will. But right now, we need to come together and take our nation back!

Remember the words of Margaret Mead:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

UPDATE (10:30a.m.) EPA informs BP to use less toxic chemicals to break up oil spill Wow, what must they have seen in the last couple of weeks during application of these chemicals? I shudder to think, but I’m so happy to hear EPA has stood up and put a stop to it.

I encourage you all to stay informed and demand answers, information and the highest level of care for health and safety throughout this process.

Learn From The Past – Gulf Oil Spill Volunteers MUST SEE

My husband’s family is from Alaska. They lived through the Exxon Valdez oil spill 21 years ago. Or rather, they’ve been living through it for the last 21 years. As it becomes glaringly apparent the BP oil “spill” will soon eclipse the Exxon Valdez in terms of size (if it hasn’t already – depending on whose data you believe), my mother-in-law, Gayle Roth, is supplying me a steady stream of information that is vital for gulf coast residents to read and understand, NOW – not later. Due to the extent of information available I’m going to prioritize and share what I can as I can. By the way, for information on the spill, I like SkyTruth’s site.

The first is this video that any volunteer considering working for BP in the clean up must see. Gayle says the health of those volunteers who worked to clean up Exxon’s mess is still an ongoing discussion in Alaska. Gayle has a friend staying with her now who was one of those volunteers. He was just telling her last night how lucky he was not to have worked the coastline where they used the dispersants; many are dead or very ill.