As a “Millennial,” the constant bombarding of information on the web has become engrained in my daily routine. I am able to access news stories and reports in the blink of an eye. I can read my Twitter timeline for up-to-the-second information from various environmental groups. On the surface, this seems to be a clear advance in technology and a benefit for all Americans who wish to stay informed and aware of current events. I can follow an event for a little while, but when I get bored I am able to quickly toggle to something new and exciting. The whole world is at my finger tips…which is exactly the problem. It is near impossible to have a story stay relevant for more than a couple days. It seems to be one issue after another, factoid after factoid from website after website. If a certain story makes me uncomfortable or sad, I have plenty of others to choose from. I can control what I am exposed to; unlike a few decades ago when whatever was on a few channels of the TV was the only accessible news.
The plethora of information in the worldwide web creates an interesting dilemma for environmental news. Oftentimes, news that is reported is bad news. Environmental disasters make people uncomfortable. They force us to step back and look at the system that we have created…but now that uncomfortable feeling in the pit of our stomachs only has to last for a few days. We can easily follow other stories, happier ones, and push the images of oiled birds out of our minds. Out of sight, out of mind.
It has been over two years since the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill and it appears that there are only a few sources still covering the disaster. We need to find a way to make environmental issues relevant for more than a day, a week or a month so that real progress can be made. These continued updates must find their way to mainstream news, without bias from big industry.
Last week, it was announced that shrimping has been stopped along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. WEAR TV had originally reported that the closure was due to the deformities found in the fish caused by the oil spill and chemicals used to clean up the oil. The original post (on April 23) was titled: “Looming Crisis: Officials Close Gulf Waters to Shrimping as Reports of Deformed Seafood Intensify.” WEAR TV withdrew their original post, citing the smaller average size in shrimp as the reason for the shrimping closure.
It is frightening to me to grow up in a time when we have so much information at our fingertips, but the stories are being manipulated not by the media, but by industry and corporations. The general public of the United States needs to take a stand to not only demand coverage of more environmental news, but demand accurate and unbiased coverage. It is unacceptable for a respected TV station to blame smaller average size in shrimp as the reason for the ban on shrimping. The problems in shrimp populations began after Deepwater Horizon exploded and BP used about two million gallons of toxic Corexit dispersants to disperse the oil. “Grossly deformed seafood” has been found all along the Gulf from the Florida panhandle to Louisiana, although Alabama is the first state to close waters to the seafood fishing industry. All waters in the Mississippi Sound and Mobile Bay, plus some areas of Little Lagoon, Wolf Bay and Bon Secour have been closed to shrimpers.
Al Jazeera interviewed Darla Rooks, a woman who has been fishing all her life in Port Sulfur, Louisiana. Rooks reported finding shrimp with abnormal growths, without eyes, and female shrimp with their babies still attached. She has also seen shrimp with oiled gills: “We are also seeing eyeless fish, and fish lacking even eye-sockets, and fish with lesions, fish without covers over their gills, and others with large pink masses hanging off their eyes and gills.”
Two years later, the consequences of the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill continue to threaten the economic vitality of the Gulf Coast. I think we are at a turning point in the United States in terms of energy policy. We are at a fork in the road and it is time for us to turn to renewable sources of energy for not only the wildlife of the coastal regions, but the people and the economies they depend on.