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The Animals of the Gulf Coast Oil Spill: A Guest Post by Alyssa Biber

Posted Jun 07 2010 4:52am
I've chosen to postpone my Ninety-Five giveaway announcement and interview with Annie and Dan Shannon of The Betty Crocker Project   for a very important reason. This past weekend, a friend of mine emailed me out of deep concern over the recent Gulf Coast oil spill with the seed of an idea for a post. Below, you'll find the words of Alyssa Biber - a person, like so many of us in the KMIV community, who deeply wants change for animals in need. In this case, it's for the innocent animals who are suffering due to the oil spill, and I feel humbled and privileged to share Alyssa's eloquent, heartfelt words about this overwhelming situation. Please read on...

You put the coffee pot on and pick up the morning newspaper.  The picture on the front cover tears your heart strings. A full grown Brown Pelican covered in crude oil; his beak wide open, his wings flailing. The latest victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  You put the paper down, shaking your head sadly.  How do these terrible things happen in the world in this modern age?  But don’t walk away just yet. The coffee can wait a few minutes today.
There are rumors and promises interchangeably floating around about BP or the government footing the bill for this disaster.  We’ve seen how that happens – it could take years before any money changes hands.  While politicians and financiers lock themselves in conference rooms and sign documents there are ecosystems disappearing that can’t be brought back by dollars and apologies.  A future settlement payment from BP is not going to help that Brown Pelican when he’s covered in oil right now.
Brown Pelicans have slowly been making a comeback since pesticides decimated their population in the Gulf in the 1960s.  Only last year were they taken off the endangered species list.  These majestic fishers are now at risk again from the Oil Spill.  According to a veterinarian with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, birds that have been coated in oil that are not found quickly are likely to drown, die of starvation, or over exposure since oil deprives them of their feathers’ natural insulation.  Although one of the most frequently photographed, they are not the only animals at risk.  Every creature from plankton in the ocean who cannot photosynthesize with thick layers of oil blocking the sun up to beloved manatees, dolphins, and sea turtles are at risk.  

Even animals that do not directly come into contact with the oil may find their food source or homes contaminated.  This is why acting now is critical.  We are bombarded by images from the coast and feel the urge to do something, but what?  What can you do if you’re not by the Gulf Coast?  You have plenty of options. 
1.    Volunteer for the Clean Up Efforts: Flying down to the Gulf without a specific volunteer commitment and/or approaching injured animals is unanimously discouraged.   Without proper training and equipment you should never directly approach and oiled or injured animal because it might lead to harm for both of you.  That said, there are other ways to get involved.               
    1. If you are in the area you can volunteer to help spot injured animals through the National Wildlife Federation or download the Project Noah app to your mobile device to document and notify rescue group of injured animals (link launches in iTunes). 
    2. If you are not in the area you can still volunteer to assist with administrative work, phone calls, flyer distribution, and other important tasks.  The Audubon society has an easy form you can fill out online to find out about volunteer activities in your area. 
2.    Use your brain:
    1. If you are an engineer or even just have a really good idea on how to clean up the oil you can submit it to the EPA through this form .
3.    Use your voice:
    1. The National Wildlife Federation has posted a form letter you can use to send a message directly to President Obama .
    2. If you support the effort to half all ocean drilling you can use the Sierra Club’s form letter on their webpage.
    3. Write to your Senator, Representative, or Governor.  Let them know how you feel about the situation in the Gulf.  Find your representatives here .
4.    Put your dollar to work:
    1. If you can’t go down to the Gulf to volunteer yourself, you can volunteer your dollars and help out with the efforts.  Several great organizations could really use your financial help in their relief effort to save the animals and habitats of the Gulf region.  These are just a few of the hundreds of worthy organizations you should consider. 
    2. Sun Coast Seabird Sanctuary - http://www.seabirdsanctuary.com/   The largest wild bird hospital in the US.  Preparing to take on thousands of birds from the coast. 
    3. Audubon Society https://loon.audubon.org/payment/donate/OILSPILL10.html
    4. National Wildlife Federation https://online.nwf.org/site/Donation2?df_id=16662&16662.donation=form1
    5. Save Our Seabirds - http://saveourseabirds.com/ A smaller organization that goes out and cleans up birds on the front lines. 
It’s important to stay informed and look for opportunities to help as the situation grows and changes.  As of when this was written there is still oil gushing into the Gulf every day.  Crisis Camp has set up a Twitter feed with information and interesting articles about conservation and news in the Gulf.  I haven’t quoted figures about the numbers of dead or dying animals, the number of gallons of oil spilling into the Gulf, or the gallons of dispersant sprayed on the oil, the effects of which we may not know for generations.  I have not even begun to discuss the human toll of this tragedy.  What I am trying to do is set the stage for action.  It’s so easy to get bogged down in the facts, figures, videos, and pictures when we should busy working to save our oceans and wetlands. With so many different ways to help, it’s hard to say “I can’t.”  Because really, we can’t just leave them alone.  

Sources (In addition to the sites linked throughout the post):
John Collins Rudolf and Leslie Kaufman “Pelicans, Back from the Brink of Extinction, Face Oil Threat” The New York Times. 6/4/2010:  US News,  Accessed 6/5/2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/05/us/05pelican.html
Pictures from the Associated Press.  Taken from “Gulf Oil Spill (PHOTOS): Animals in Peril” The Huffington Post. 5/21/10: Huff Post Green. Accessed 6/5/2010. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/03/gulf-oil-spill-photos-ani_n_560813.html#s96622
Maura Judakis “10 Things You Can Do to Help Clean the Oil Spill” US News & World Reports. 5/3/2010: Money. Accessed 6/4/2010.  http://www.usnews.com/money/blogs/fresh-greens/2010/05/03/10-things-you-can-do-to-help-the-gulf-coast-clean-the-oil-spill.html

Thanks to Alyssa Biber for this beautiful, honest post. 

P.S.

My friend Molly G. says:

" PATH (People Protecting Animals & Their Habitats) is a vegan organization doing critical work in the Gulf. It is a small organization, so every dollar makes a huge difference for the life-saving work they are doing! For more info or to donate, visit www.ppath.org ."
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