Gulf Coast-That's a Wrap
It's been over three weeks since I visited the Gulf Coast and wrote about my experiences. Though originally planning on writing a wrap-up piece immediately after my visit, I decided to wait. I know what you're probably asking: "Spencer, why have you waited so long to write a summary? Will it not have lost it's effect by writing it many days after going and now that the end is possibly in sight?". I'm writing it now for the very reason that the ending COULD possibly be in sight. The more days that go by, the less times the oil spill will be in the headlines. It's not what's new and fresh. Somewhere else in the world another celebrity is getting arrested, another weather disaster is spinning out of control and another gadget is debuting. This is what's new and fresh. On December 26th, 2004, a Tsunami made landfall in Asia, forever changing people's way of life. I read this week staggering statistics, that in Thailand alone, it killed over 5,000 people, left 1,500+ children orphaned and damaged 4,500+ fishing boats. But when was the last time you heard news about it? Soon enough we will see little to no news about the Gulf Coast, yet the effects will live on for the fisher who lost his business, the family who lost their husband to suicide and many others. This is different than any hurricane in the Gulf before, as the effects are still unknown and it's hard to just move on when it continues to loom. However, life goes on; as the Gulf residents are a resilient people and lives are moving on. Just like everyone else in the world is getting up every morning and going to work, so they are doing the same thing there. Although I did see people sitting around, drinking beer early in the morning and talking about the demise, life is going about predominantly these days as it always has.
I've had a lot of people ask what they can do. First and foremost, go down to the Gulf. Gas prices are less this summer than in many past summers and accommodations are cheaper than ever along the Gulf. Tourism is down over 50% and just trying to keep their head above water. As is the case, the Gulf has some of the cheapest accommodations in the U.S. right now. The Beach Club in Gulf Shores, for example, is offering resort credits on four-night stays from $250 to $450. By doing this, you're helping support the economy and tourism that is in such need of it right now.
Although many have gotten the vibe there's nothing they can do to help, there's actually plenty of volunteer opportunities. One of the biggest needs has been the need for surveyors to walk along coastlines and shores to spot oiled animals, as well as remnants of oil, such as residue and tar balls. People with boats or access to boats are encouraged to donate either their boat and/or time to helping with cleanup efforts. Many families, especially ones involved in fishing-related industries, have come under hard times, therefore food banks and aid organizations need not only financial support, but also items such as non-perishable food and time from people who can help organize and distribute items to families. The Deepwater Horizon Response Command has a variety of resources and information to help mobilize volunteers.
Most importantly, I encourage readers to be aware of what's happening in the Gulf. Like all disasters, they eventually stop appearing in the headlines and ultimately stop appearing in the news at all, though the effects continue to live on. I hope this inspires even more wanderlust and travel; that it would remind us of the beautiful, yet fragile world we live in, empowering us to explore and take it all in to the fullest while we can.