Linda Schuch is a business success story. She is the co-owner of the Island Seafood Market in St. Petersburg, Florida. In the year since its opening, the restaurant has gathered a steady following of locals. While the Market originally opened as a fish market that served the occasional sandwich, its tasty options and devoted ownership have led to a need to expand the restaurant.
Did I say Shuch is a business success story? Make that “was” a business success story. Because the Gulf Oil Spill is ruining her venture. Schuch speaks in the video of how proud she was to make a success of her first year in business but admits ruefully that a five year plan, for someone dependent on fishing in the Gulf, is probably a waste of time. She concedes that she may have to move back to Pennsylvania, where she was raised. Multiply her sad story by hundreds of thousands or millions, then add in the sad stories of dead birds, turtles, and alligators.
As long as I’m altering my wording, make that “Gulf Oil Gusher”, not “Spill.” A spill is something the baby does with his milk. Rick Roberts made that observation when he and Schuch and another Gulf Coast resident, Linda Hawkins, were in St. Louis. The three of them have been visiting various states under the auspices of Repower America, working to convince people that the Gulf Oil Gusher is not a regional problem but a national one and that, above all, we need a comprehensive clean energy plan.
Linda Hawkins, who was raised in the New Orleans Ninth Ward, who lost everything to Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and who saw the destruction of Katrina, spoke about the difference between those natural disasters and this much more destructive man made one. Then she described how Louisiana differs from the other Gulf Coast states. Texas is the only one of the five with a diversified economy. Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi, where most of the population is near the water, are tourist or retirement destinations. But Hawkins said that Louisiana’s beaches are working beaches. Cajun fishermen, whose forbears left Canada in 1755, bring in shrimp, oysters and blue crab. They are closed down now. Fishing and the industries that depend on the offshore oil rigs support the economy. Louisiana, like the tourist states, is reeling. Many people are talking about which spouse will have to leave the Gulf Coast for work in another state and which spouse will stay home with the kids. Suicides are up. Animal shelters are overwhelmed with pets that people can’t afford to feed.
All the recent damage done by BP to Louisiana is on top of damage already done by our need for oil. Hawkins points out that 25 percent of the oil the U.S. imports comes in through canals built in Louisiana–canals that have destroyed coastal wetlands.
Despite the horrors of the Gusher, the three Gulf Coast residents know that most Americans don’t see the problem as anything affecting them. They don’t understand how the ripples from the economic devastation will spread to them, and they don’t see that if the U.S. had focused on clean energy forty years back, we’d have avoided this Gusher–not to mention wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’d have saved the trillions lost to those wars and thus had more money to deal with the recession that the bank profiteers caused.
Hawkins, Schuch, and Roberts have spent time lobbying Congressmen for a comprehensive clean energy plan. I asked them what their sense of the reaction in Congress was. Rick Roberts, a fishing conservation advocate, responded:
“When we were in Washington, it was interesting because the people that we spoke to from Ohio said, ‘Well, you know, it’s the people in Missouri, it’s the people in Nebraska, it’s the people in Michigan, they don’t really see this as being a problem that they have.’ Right. If you can’t make them aware of that, then the solution is not going to happen because those senators will vote for anything other than spending money on our regional problem.
The sense I got of it is that November is rapidly approaching, and the Democrats are running scared. When we were there, I got the impression that that news cycle [talk about the oil spill] was gonna shift out of focus very shortly and that they didn’t want to light on it. So they didn’t want to, like, say ‘Yes, we’re very concerned.’ What they said was ‘we’re doing all we can’–all the time thinking ‘Well, in a couple of days this’ll be over,’ right?
No, it won’t. Not only will the damage to the Gulf continue, not only will those wasteful wars continue, but the planet will keep on heating up. While our senators dither. Paul Krugman’s recent column examines the failure to pass strong climate legislation, blaming it on the campaign by energy companies to derail anything that would interfere with their profits. He sums up with this:
Greed, aided by cowardice, has triumphed. And the whole world will pay the price.
A sign held by a protester outside an Exxon-Mobil shareholders meeting said: “NO PLANET NO DIVIDENDS.”
The oil companies refuse to face that. Their greed focuses their sights on short term profits. Claire doesn’t get it either. Her cowardice makes her focus on saving her butt in 2012. Apparently, whoever told Rick Roberts that the people in Missouri don’t see the Gulf Oil Gusher as their problem has taken a look at Claire McCaskill’s chicken hearted abdication to the forces of greed and ignorance on the paramount issue of our time.