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.
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.
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.]