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    Stories From the Gulf - Where Oil and Seafood Mix

    This summer, Patagonia teamed up with non-profit environmental and social justice group, Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB), to assist with a project massive in scale and ambition: to track the full impact of the greatest ecological disaster in American history, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of Spring 2010. The impacts of this disaster extend well beyond unspeakable environmental degradation to the collapse of sustainable industries like fishing and tourism, and the human communities those industries support. Today we offer the final post to close out our week of stories from Patagonia employees who travelled to the Gulf to assist the LABB in their ongoing community surveys and Crisis Map project.

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    Where Oil and Seafood Mix
    - Dulac, Louisiana

    IMG_6 It was the height of hurricane season in southern Louisiana when we landed in mid-August, the five-year anniversary of Katrina a couple weeks away. Headed for Dulac – a low-lying bayou town about an hour and a half southwest of New Orleans – we were told we’d be evacuated if the weather acted up.

    Our job was to go door-to-door surveying Dulac’s 2,500 or so residents about the health, financial and cultural impacts of the BP oil spill. The nearest oil had reportedly made its way into a marsh a dozen or so miles away.

    [The author's survey partner. Photo: Jim Little]

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    Stories From the Gulf - Birds Falling Out of the Sky

    This summer, Patagonia teamed up with non-profit environmental and social justice group, Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB), to assist with a project massive in scale and ambition: to track the full impact of the greatest ecological disaster in American history, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of Spring 2010. The impacts of this disaster extend well beyond unspeakable environmental degradation to the collapse of sustainable industries like fishing and tourism, and the human communities those industries support. Today we offer the fifth in a week-long series of stories from Patagonia employees who travelled to the Gulf to assist the LABB in their ongoing community surveys and Crisis Map project.

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    Birds Falling Out of the Sky

    C oil with straw Christina Allen and I were surveying members of the community at the Trade Winds Marina and met a group of fisherman and the marina owners. The business lost 90% of the fishing-excursion revenue and the only money to be made was off of BP workers shopping at the Marina Mart and staying at the Marina Hotel. We were shown a jar of oil that had been collected in a “safe” fishing area and told stories of birds falling dead out of the sky. None of this was normal to the men that grew up and lived their entire lives on this finger of land jutting into the Gulf of Mexico. Jonathan, one of the Trade-Winds Marina owners, extended an invitation to take us by boat to the Barrier Islands. This is where the birds feed that he saw falling dead out of the sky.  Little did I know this would be the most eye-opening boat ride I've ever experienced.

    [Oil collected by a local fisherman along the shore of a local barrier island. Photo: Christina Speed.]

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    Stories from the Gulf - The Town Meeting

    This summer, Patagonia teamed up with non-profit environmental and social justice group, Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB), to assist with a project massive in scale and ambition: to track the full impact of the greatest ecological disaster in American history, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of Spring 2010. The impacts of this disaster extend well beyond unspeakable environmental degradation to the collapse of sustainable industries like fishing and tourism, and the human communities those industries support. Today we offer the fourth in a week-long series of stories from Patagonia employees who travelled to the Gulf to assist the LABB in their ongoing community surveys and Crisis Map project.

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    The Town Meeting

    D trash Throughout the week, it was at times easy to become discouraged with feelings of insignificance in the face of such a large problem with an incredibly widespread and negative impact of the spill. The names are already escaping me, but the faces, voices, stories, tears and laughter of those Louisianans battling against overwhelming odds of economic and environmental violence are etched into my long-term memory. We witnessed a range of emotions while interacting with the people of southeastern Louisiana; I, too, am left with many of those same emotions. Anger, fear, and hope are probably the three biggest.

    On the evening of Thursday, August 5th near the end of our week helping document the physical, social, and economic impact of the oil disaster on the lives of residents, a town meeting was scheduled in Buras, ostensibly to address some of those same issues and concerns.

    [Trash and chemicals are an unfortunately common sight in Gulf waters of late. Photo: Christina Speed.]

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    Stories from the Gulf - Oil in the Bathtub

    This summer, Patagonia teamed up with non-profit environmental and social justice group, Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB), to assist with a project massive in scale and ambition: to track the full impact of the greatest ecological disaster in American history, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of Spring 2010. The impacts of this disaster extend well beyond unspeakable environmental degradation to the collapse of sustainable industries like fishing and tourism, and the human communities those industries support. Today we offer the third in a week-long series of stories from Patagonia employees who travelled to the Gulf to assist the LABB in their ongoing community surveys and Crisis Map project.

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    Oil in the Bathtub

    Though I'm from the south and am familiar with southern hospitality, I am still amazed by the polite and welcoming experiences I had surveying local residents of Plaquemines Parish, LA about the impact the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill has had on their lives, health and community. It can be intimidating walking into a foreign community and know that you are going to approach houses, knock on their doors and ask them personal questions regarding their health, jobs, income, and community. Most people I know would not even begin to be comfortable answering these questions from a stranger, much less inviting them inside their home, out of the sweltering Louisiana summer sauna heat to do so.

    B velma While in Plaquemines Parish we walked through the neighborhoods, knocked on doors, and were welcomed into homes to learn about the impact the spill has had on their lives. We spoke to people and heard first-hand how they were being affected. What we thought would be a 5-15 minute survey often turned into a 30-minute, or hour-long, discussion of their lives and how they've changed.

    We heard that many people were experiencing an increase in symptoms such as coughing, difficulty breathing, asthma, itching and burning eyes, headaches, skin rashes and nausea.  We learned from a recently laid-off oil response worker that on the day the dispersant was sprayed, workers on a platform a few miles away became . . .

    [A Patagonia volunteer surveying a resident of Chauvin, LA.]

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    Stories from the Gulf - Living on the Lottery

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    This summer, Patagonia teamed up with non-profit environmental and social justice group, Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB), to assist with a project massive in scale and ambition: to track the full impact of the greatest ecological disaster in American history, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of Spring 2010. The impacts of this disaster extend well beyond unspeakable environmental degradation to the collapse of sustainable industries like fishing and tourism, and the human communities those industries support. Today we offer the second in a week-long series of stories from Patagonia employees who travelled to the Gulf to assist the LABB in their ongoing community surveys and Crisis Map project.


    B tracy When I got on the plane for New Orleans, the only thing I was sure of was that we would be working as outreach crews, administering surveys around Plaquemines Parish. I’d never done anything like this before and the feeling was indescribable as I walked down a long, exposed driveway to the door of a complete stranger, to ask, "Good morning, how has your family’s health & livelihood been impacted by the world’s largest oil spill?"

    What I discovered is that the future is a big black abyss for these residents. Over and over people expressed the same sentiment. After Katrina, they knew what to do: they had to clean up, rebuild, and keep fishing. After the oil spill, there are no answers.

    [Volunteers Tracy Scott in Dulac, LA. Photo: Christina Speed]


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    Stories from the Gulf - Patagonia Partners with Louisiana Bucket Brigade to Track Historic Spill

    Venice_Southernmost_point_in_Louisiana.sized When the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sank in the Gulf of Mexico on April 22, 2010, it led to what is today the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. The international oil company, BP, is held largely responsible, and by the company's own worst-case estimates, as many as 4.2 million gallons of oil a day flowed from that deepwater hole some 52 miles off the Louisiana coast.

    Many of us at Patagonia were devastated and disheartened by the Gulf spill. So much so, that our employees (including our ordinarily tight-fisted CFO) joined together to develop a program to dive in and help out. In mid-July, we started sending up to 10 employees per week to Louisiana to work with a long-time environmental partner, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade in areas affected by the spill (All expenses and salaries were paid by Patagonia). The Brigade is creating an Oil Spill Crisis Map, and our employees helped to gather information, stories and photographs in communities where oil has reached the shoreline and impacted wildlife. All of this information is being uploaded into the map - a living document that speaks to the environmental and health effects of the spill. It will serve as an open source of information that shows NGOs, governmental agencies, state and local wildlife agencies and the general public where help is needed most.

    Patagonia folks bunked down in trailers and local churches in Lafitte, Grand Isle and Plaquemines Parish and walked door to door to door to interview residents about their immediate needs, adverse health effects, environmental harm and cultural loss. We thought you might like to read a few stories from them, of birds falling dead from the sky, forsaken shrimp boats, of living on church lotteries and finding oil in the bathtub. Join us each day this week for a fresh report straight from our recent work in the Gulf.

        Hit the jump in the first in our week-long series of stories.

    [An old sign with new meanings. Patagonia employees recently helped members of the non-profit Louisiana Bucket Brigade in their effort to track the full impacts of the historic oil spill on Gulf Coast communities. Photo: Naomi Helbling]

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