Monday, June 7, 2010

Ragnarok and Armageddon Combined

As promised, here is Jen B.'s report from the wetlands that were. For those of you who don't know her, Jen B. is a a geochemist/coastal process geologist who specializes in assessment/remediation of soil/groundwater contamination. Or, as she calls herself, a Jill-of-All-Trades environmentalist. She and I are both of the same mind. 

Wake up and smell the dying, burning earth. It is yours, or your childrens' or it belongs to the future. 

I give you Jen's moving account of what she saw:

I have just returned from a week in the Gulf. A marine biologist and a marine geologist, I grew up on a tidal creek in the South and knew when I was 10 years old I wanted to be a scientist who helped preserve marshes and the coast.  For decades I have devoted my life to preserving marsh and ocean environments. I have kayaked and sailed the oceans and tidal creeks of the Southeast all my life. For me, to be near the ocean, an estuary or a tidal creek is to reaffirm life itself and find the peace and spiritual solace that is so difficult to find in our contemporary world. Even as a child I would spend hours sitting and just watching the marsh along the creek.  Only in nature have I ever felt at peace and in harmony.

One of my graduate degrees involves the geochemistry of a salt marsh. When the disaster happened, two of my former grad school colleagues and I decided that we had a moral obligation to help if we could. It’s so easy to do nothing, but to do nothing would be unthinkable. I could never have lived with myself had I done nothing.

 I, the salt marsh geochemist, adapted current groundwater/soil remediation techniques to a salt marsh environment; Jeremy, a coastal engineer as well as a coastal geologist, put together the delivery system, while Rob, also a coastal geologist, calculated transport processes and shoreline profiles.

Our system worked on a micro-level and in a limited fashion. Our purpose was to design a pilot test and turn it over to someone who had the resources to implement. On that level we succeeded. But at such a cost. I felt as if my heart had been ripped from my living body –each day was an unending agony that never ended.

How to describe Ragnarok and Armageddon combined? There are no words. The Gulf is a scene of endless devastation destruction and death.  A Hieronymus Bosch nightmare landscapePhotographs cannot capture the reality-a panorama of dead and dying creatures against a background of black sand, black marsh, black sea. I took no pictures because the images are forever in my heart.

The smell? Not the fecund smell of a marsh, or the clean smell of a sea, but the stench of dead things, dying things and the nauseating smell of petroleum.

So hot, so terribly humid. A salt marsh is a physically fragile environment. Delivery was/ is the issue-the salt marsh is so fragile that all work has to be done by hand. We walked through the marshes and along the shore-and my heart broke and I felt the very fiber of my soul tear. I wept and could not stop. Jeremy and Rob wept. We, who have each devoted over 30 years to the environment watched this one die. But of course we persevered. I could never live with myself had I not persevered.

Because to quit is to let BP win. And I won’t do that.

It upsets me more than I have words to describe to think about it. As I write this I have tears running down my face. Each morning we would get up only see a brand new panorama of death. Day after day of unending death and devastation-of birds struggling to free themselves of the crude oil, fish gasping and dead on the shore. Endangered species dead. Sea turtles and dolphins dead.  

What of my favorites? The organisms I loved so much as a child and in school? What of the comb jellies, living light and bioluminescence?  What of the nudibranchs, living dragons of the sea? What of the blue crabs? Dead. Along with everything else.

Keith Bayha, Ph.D. Student, University of Delaware

(Image attribution unknown)

Photo by Carol Cramer-Burke, Courtesy of St. Croix Environmental Agency

Death. Death of an eco system. Death of an environment. Death of a sea. Death of a way of life. Death of prosperity.

And why? Because of greed. Corporate greed and lax government oversight. Corporate greed-contractors doing substandard work and using substandard materials because they could; BP ignoring the contractor  shortcomings, and the workers themselves shortcutting safety precautions. All because doing so would increase profits and vested interests. 

And the government. Government officials ignoring possible environmental repercussions. No decision maker cared what might happen. No decision maker cared if people lost their livelihood. No decision maker cared if an eco-system vanished. No decision maker cared if countless creatures lost their lives in a heart-breakingly horrible way. No decision maker stood his ground and protected those things that were his responsibility to protect.

What will happen now? Sooner or later the media will tire of showing pictures and the public will find another cause to champion. Please don’t forget. Contact every legislator you can and urge that BP fund remediation and restoration. Contact every legislator you can and urge that offshore drilling will never again be permitted.

~ Jen B.

To contact your House Representative and your Senator, you can go to:

And write to your President at:

Please remember that old-fashioned concept (which my Irish grandmother ground into my soul with a sandblaster) that you get more flies with sweet than sour and that short and sweet is better still. Whatever you write, edit it down to 50% of the number of words and you’re good to go. Imagine you're speaking to your grandparent and you'll have the right mindset for putting forth your cause. They may be (supposedly) "older and wiser" but they do not see. Help them. Make them realize YOUR VOTE is contingent upon finding some better way to fuel our future.

Please share this post with your email, Facebook and Twitter friends. It's a first person account about what happened to a corner of YOUR world. It isn't someplace far away, it's here, in your world. Talk about it. There's no excuse not to pass this info forward. It's your environment's future. And that of your children's or nieces or nephews. Let them read about what a friend of a friend actually did and saw there. Don't let BP or the federal government or the beholden media tell you about what it's really like there... Don't let them define your idea of what happened to this corner of our earth.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

1 comment:

  1. Horrible and nightmarish, and just... I mean, there aren't really words, are there?