Oil spill presents array of threats to Gulf Coast

By Andrew Blejwas
Fishing booms among the roso-cane near Venice, LA. Note the brown oil on the bottom, and that the grass is half brown. They should be all green this time of year. Photo: Audra Melton / Oxfam America.

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For some people here on the Gulf Coast, the oil spill is exactly like a hurricane: you know it’s coming and you just have to wait and see how bad the damage is going to be. For others, it’s far worse.
 
“This is much larger than the aftermath of the hurricanes,” said Courtney Howell, executive director of Bayou Grace Community Services in Chauvin, LA. “I can’t fathom the impact this is going to have.”
 
Everyone is uncertain about how the oil spill will impact the region, but they know its effects will be broad. Coastal communities are just now, nearly five years later, bouncing back from the effects of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Now, their livelihoods and homes and the very land they live and work on are in jeopardy.
 
In response, communities are organizing in much the same way they did after Katrina and Rita – sharing information and pooling resources to fight yet another unprecedented disaster. And now, as then, Oxfam is standing with the local communities that depend on the water for their livelihoods. Oxfam is continuing to support some of the same partners we have known since the first days after Katrina - partners who focus on issues such as livelihoods, coastal restoration, and the mental health and well-being of those most affected.
 
“For the people who depend on the coastal waters for a living, the oil spill may have serious consequences for more than a decade,” said Minor Sinclair, who directs Oxfam’s programs on the Gulf Coast.
 
Through its Gulf Coast Oil Spill Response Fund, Oxfam will support its partners in the region to shape the disaster response to meet pressing needs on the ground - from generating independent assessments of the environmental and economic damage, to helping ensure that those who participate in the cleanup effort are safe and well-informed, to keeping both government and industry accountable to the communities at risk.
 
“Oxfam can’t halt the oil slick,” says Sinclair. “But we can help ensure that the local people most affected by the spill have a strong voice in the recovery and protection of their own communities.”