What's the greatest environmental issue of our time? Back in March, you almost certainly would have said global climate change. Right now, however, American eyes are singularly focused on the oil spill that's pumping a steady half a million gallons of oil a day (a conservative estimate) into the Gulf of Mexico, with an end not expected until at least August.
Philanthropic organization 11th Hour Project is showcasing the links between global climate change and the oil spill. They've recently launched a series, Letters From The Field, featuring the individuals most affected by the spill, and highlighting the grave -- and growing graver -- importance of 21st century green issues. The 11th Hour Project aims to support the transition to a clean-energy economy -- and this series aims to analyze the individual stories of struggle that emerge when we fail to make that transition.
Their first guest blogger for Letters From The Field is Michael Roberts, a fisherman who's made his living off shrimp and crab for 35 years. He writes about his first meeting with the oil while out on his fishing boat, and how he's pained that his grandson can never follow in his footsteps.
I am not real emotional and consider myself a pretty tough guy. You have to be to survive as a fisherman. As I left that scene, tears flowed down my face and I cried. Something I have not done in a long time, but would do several more times that day. I tried not to let my grandson, Scottie, see me crying. I didn't think he would understand, I was crying for his stolen future. None of this will be the same, for decades to come. The damage is going to be immense and I do not think our lives here in South Louisiana will ever be the same.
Indeed, the environment affects us in more ways than one. Several media outlets are reporting that the oil spill may hurt the fishing industry in the South for years -- maybe decades -- to come. Though only about 2 percent of the seafood Americans eat comes from the Gulf of Mexico, the price of shrimp may rise considerably, which may make it even tougher for the shrimp boats that can stay afloat.
11th Hour Project refers to this series as a display of "voices in transition." This is an accurate assessment of the practical changes taking place in the Gulf, but may not tell the full story of the mood in the region. The stories they highlight certainly do. Roberts continues:
My heart never felt so heavy, as on that ride in. I thought to myself, this is the most I've cried since I was a baby. In fact I am sure it was. This will be a summer of tears for a lot of us in south Louisiana.
A region that has seen so much devastation over the last decade has another environmental incident to add to its list, and 11th Hour Project will be telling the stories that should remain on the front pages of America's newspaper long after the well stops gushing.