Along the beaches of the Florida panhandle and Alabama there is a massive rescue effort underway involving butter knifes and forks, tricked-out Styrofoam coolers and specially-rigged FedEx trucks.
The job is to scoop 70,000 mostly loggerhead sea turtle eggs out of the sand (very carefully, using kitchen utensils among other tools) before the hatchlings can swim out into the Gulf where they will either suffocate or be poisoned when they start floating with the current and munching on oil-soaked seaweed.
It is an unusual example of across-the-board cooperation among the federal government (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and local environmentalists, who are usually loudly against any such intervention. No matter the threat, relocating turtles nests is rarely done. Here it’s being regarded as essential.
Early this morning I talked with J. Nichols, a research associate with the California Academy of Sciences who was just leaving the dock in Grand Isle for a day observing the impact of the oil gusher on local wildlife. His Grupo Tortuga has for years been dedicated to restoring Pacific Ocean sea turtles. His response to the unorthodox rescue plan? “I wouldn’t want to put any turtle into that oil if there’s another option.”
(For the rest of my dispatch go to takepart.com.)
Venice, Louisiana – Along the fifty-miles of Highway 23 leading south from New Orleans to the fingertip of land that ends in marshes outside of this fishing-and-oil town are reminders of disasters past and pending.
Remnants of wood-frame homes never rebuilt since the hurricanes five years ago. Cement slabs where entire sub-divisions of brick homes used to stand. New homes and workplaces built since the storms sit two, six, even twenty feet above ground, supported on cinder block , sturdy posts of brick or 4 x4s, prepared in advance for whenever the next flood waters race beneath rather than through them. Dozens of businesses shuttered, never to reopen.
Looking months and years into the future, given the still-looming crisis building in the Gulf of Mexico each day as thousands more barrels of crude are added to the mix, it’s easy to imagine many of the homes and businesses still standing as vacant, abandoned shells. Once oil reaches the marshes and coastal beaches of Louisiana – as it is right now threatening in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida – for many years after there won’t be work for the shrimpers and seafood processors, charter boat fishermen and the dependent businesses (restaurants and bars, bait shops and hardware stores) lining the four-lane. For the rest of my dispatches from Louisiana, see takepart.com.