No need for missionaries.

Remember that post I wrote a few days ago about giving and getting?  About how the arrogance and superiority of some well-intended folks ends up alienating and insulting the group they are trying to help?


“30 Oregonians with a wealth of compassion, community service experience and technical expertise, will show the nation what the Gulf Coast disaster looks like from inside the Gulf.  We will shine a sustained light on what our neighbors need to survive and what the environment needs to recover.”

Yes, a group of folks from Portland and it’s surrounding universe are headed to New Orleans!  (No offense to beautiful Portland and our friends doing wonderful things out there, this just happens to be where this group is coming from.)  In any case, these folks are coming here to do 6 days of visits to Gulf Coast communities which:

“…will culminate in the production of a graphic travelogue of what we saw, learned and felt.  Our experiences will be represented through the arts of drawing, writing, filming and making music.  The images and voices we capture will be engaging, powerful and influential.  And, most importantly our final documentation will contain a roadmap for individual action to minimize a second occurrence of this type of catastrophe.  The proceeds from the sale of our book, and any other money raised, will be contributed to Gulf Coast and national efforts to educate children about this catastrophe and how we can do the best possible job of cleaning up after ourselves, plus prevent this from ever happening again.

Also, they are trying to raise $60,000.  You can donate on their website.  But no, the money isn’t for the Gulf… it’s to finance their trip.   So that they can come to the Gulf, visit as “caring neighbors arriving to help,” spend 6 days capturing images and voices, and then put them in their book.


I showed this to my graduate students earlier today in class.  In the words of one of the students: “I’m not even from the Gulf Coast and this insults ME.”

Check out their website.  What do you think?

Here are are some lessons that these undoubtedly very nice, wealthy-with-compassion-Oregonians should have considered:

  • The disaster is not about you!  No, really.  I’m not kidding.
  • Please travel to share technical expertise where you are invited to share technical expertise.
  • If you want to “show the nation” what is happening in the Gulf Coast, then work locally to build partnerships with Gulf Coast organizations, and find places within your communities to make those voices heard.  There are plenty of organizations, plenty of stories, plenty experiences — all existing without your collection, reorganization, and authority.
  • We also have artists.  Many artists.  Who have and can continue to creatively express the experiences of this region in a multitude of forms.  We even have spaces to support them.  They are very much able to “shine the light” on these communities, and would probably be interested in collaboration and partnership on projects.
  • Taking other people’s stories to publish in your book takes advantage of people who are suffering in a very unique and powerful catastrophe.  Particularly when mischievously veiled within the scope of a “local gathering to break bread.”
  • Six days to “experience” the Gulf is tourism.  You’re tourists.  Good news — this is a fantastic place to be a tourist.  Enjoy the area, tell your loved ones, friends, your contacts on your social networking sites about your experiences visiting this area.  Just please don’t position yourself in a place of authority based on 6 days of tours.
  • If you want to contribute to Gulf Coast communities through service, then contact organizations and let them find ways to use your skills.

These folks are coming here with an agenda that is their own, focused on their own needs, their own desires.  This does not help a situation, it only makes it more difficult.

(Hat tip to local bloggers, who found and shared the website.)

Life in New Orleans

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Photos from Hwy 90, July 11th

Driving back from Mississippi this afternoon, we decided to take more scenic US 90 into town.

The photos below come from less than a quarter mile southwest of Fort Pike. (The “A” marks Fort Pike.)

Here is the map closer in — the photos come from about where the “90” is on the map, between Lake Saint Catherine and Lake Pontchartrain.

For orientation, the I-10 bridge over the Lake is visible in the background of several of these photos. These were taken over a span of a few hundred feet along US 90.

I’m not an expert in environment, oil, or marshland ecosystems. Nor was I searching for a smoking gun. But this does not look right to me.

This part of the marsh looked a lot different than the rest.

Tell me it’s a normal look.  Tell me that the green isn’t there temporarily (these photos are not photoshopped).  Can someone who knows more about these things tell me that this is a healthy marsh?  I honestly don’t know.

Life in New Orleans

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BP, rethought.

My fellow Louisiana blogger and friend, the lovely Painted Maypole, posted an exchange we had regarding British Petroleum, the oil company that put profits over public safety.  We think BP should stand for something else.

Here are a few of mine.

  • Base Proprietors.
  • Beastly Possessors.
  • Brash Predators.
  • Belligerent Pretentiousness.
  • Bamboozling Punks.

Any suggestions?

Life in New Orleans

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The Big Deal.

For the last 24 days, one of the worst environmental disasters in our history has been unfolding.

Hello?  Is this thing on?

Right.  Okay.  Did you catch that?  You know, that there is this Very Big Thing happening in the United States, RIGHT NOW, that happens to be one of the worst environmental disasters in the history of our country?  And, that it is STILL going on?

Here’s a video.

Actually, that video shows ONE of the two places where gas and oils are pouring out into the Gulf of Mexico, about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

You know, Louisiana.  Remember?  The State that has the city of New Orleans?  Where the rest of the country looks to boost their ego, find something to pity, and generally feel superior?

Oh.  You remember now.

Okay, I know that I’m sort of being a bitch here.  I’d apologize and hold my punches, but seriously?  I’m pissed off.

It’s mind-numbing, but I can think through the fact that more than 200,000 gallons of oil are  rushing into the Gulf each day — and have been for over 24 days, making the estimated volume of oil more than 5 million gallons.

It’s frustrating, but I can think about and make choices regarding the toxins I’m breathing in — the ones that have made my eyes red and burning and my children cough.  Kate had a birthday on Sunday and got a bicycle… and you know what?  She hasn’t ridden it outside yet because the air smells and I know that this is the smell of H2S and VOCs.  Too low a concentration to say, kill us in minutes, but enough that my eyes are red and my son is coughing.

It’s just a little thing, but I can sign up for Volunteer Service for Oil Clean Up (yep, and I did, with two different sites).  I can also read the news and dig up monitoring data and do whatever I need to do to feel on top of the information about this incredibly terrible disaster.

But I can’t take the bullshit comments from idiots.

“Yeah, it’s bad, but it’s not as bad as the Valdez,” says a commenter on’s fantastic photography site, The Big Picture.

Oh.  Okay.  If tomorrow there is a tsunami in the Indian Ocean, and it kills 150,000 people in less than 5 hours, will you minimize it?  How about another earthquake in an incredible poor, vulnerable, urban city that “only” kills a half a million people?  Are disasters not important or news worthy or attention grabbing unless they play on some pathetic measure of trumping the last?

And then there’s the guy who says “The ocean will fix its self. It’s not as big a deal as the liberal media will have us believe.”

Oh, totally.  5000+ gallons of oil pouring out daily for 24 days with no sign of stopping, covering hundreds of miles of endangered coastline, impacting waterways and ecosystems that supply roughly 25 percent of ALL domestic seafood and 75 percent of all seafood harvested from the Northern Gulf.  Millions of gallons of oil right off of hundreds and hundreds of miles of United States coastline.

Sure.  This is absolutely no biggie.

But just how BIG is something that is no biggie?

Hmmm.  Well, a week ago, May 6th, THIS is how big the oil slick had grown… 2500 square miles.

Gulf Oil Spill, May 6th:

On that map, you’re looking at the Eastern Louisiana Coast, the Mississippi Coast, the Alabama Coast, and the Florida Coast.  No biggie.

But it’s still not really clear, is it?  It’s just sort of out there in water.

What if that spill were covering another part of our country?  Maybe New York?  Er, rather, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut?

What if it covered Boston?  Oh, and 2500 miles of places around Boston.

What about the Bay Area?

What color would the Golden Gate Bridge be if it was covered in reddish dripping oil and tar balls?

Don’t want our neighbors feeling left out, either.  Vancouver?  How would one protect all those tiny islands?  What would the forest smell like, if oil dripped through the canopies and seeped into layers of earth?

Ooh, la la!  Paris?  Do you think that the lights on the Eiffel Tower could still be seen if they were covered in oil?  Would you still be in the mood to sit outside and eat bread and cheese at the friendly sidewalk cafe?

You know, what if it were right on Capital Hill?  Can you picture the oil, splattered in blacks and reds, on all our beautiful white monuments?  Senators slipping on tar as they walk up the steps to the Dome?  Tourists getting stuck on the muddy pathways through The National Mall?  Maryland and Virginia wouldn’t be left out.

And these pictures represent what the oil spread was like one week ago.  One week and more than 1.5 million gallons ago.

And many consider those numbers — the 210,000 gallons a day — to be low estimates.

What is happening here is a BIG DEAL.  Maybe one of the Biggest Biggies Deals that we — yes, we — as a country, we, have ever had to deal with.  Because it will impact all of us.  More than just fishermen and sea birds and shrimp, this growing storm is coming at us.

Let’s talk about it.  REALLY talk about it.

For starters, if you’re talking about it, link your post here.  I’ll focus a section of our Just Posts to focus specifically on what regular folks are saying.  I want to know that people in Vancouver and San Francisco and New York and wherever … are thinking about this.  It’s maybe selfish to ask, but really, I’m asking.  Because it would make me feel so much better about it all.


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Recent additions to the family dictionary may explain.

BP.  Proper Noun. Big Oil company who sought out Gulf Coast fisherman and families reliant on the biodiversity and abundance of the Gulf Coast and wetland areas, offering to pay them sums of $5,000 for waving the right to sue the company shortly after an offshore rig exploded and days before it was confirmed by media that oil was actually pouring out of the well and into the sea.

Celebration of Service.  Proper Noun, in certain circles.  Big event for local nonprofit.  May occupy mind of program director for months and completely consume life for weeks.

Dispersants.  Noun.  Chemicals used to break up oil in the sea.  Use stems from catastrophic events, which occur when big business decides personal profit is more important than public safety.  Exact chemical compositions are considered “trade secrets” to minimize the ability of scientists (and others) to assess the impact on health and the environment.

DIBELS test.  Noun; that thing where capitals imply words that describe the test.  A test done in English that requires each student to spend 15 minutes alone with the teacher, during which time parents are asked to sub.  Test has significance somewhere and is likely related to some requirement.  Jazz Fest (see entry, below) may impair parents’ ability to process significance of testing.  Or else, the experience of subbing for a class of 1st graders may destroy the brain cells holding that particular set of information.

Jazz Fest.  Proper Noun.  AKA: Fess.  Like most things about New Orleans, highly misunderstood.  Seven days over two weeks, hundreds of musicians, artists, and food vendors.  This is not your Northern California “Jazz Festival” where erudite folk sit around and sip wine from fancy glasses while listening to the gentle smoothness of elevator music.  It’s more like Woodstock sobered up just enough to put on pants and then hooked up with a Louisiana girl who knows how to cook.

Pink tea. Noun.  AKA: Crystal Light.  Made for child’s birthday play-date/tea party.  Easy to clean up when spilled on crinoline and other costume material.  Served with petit fours and fruit salad.

Race Day.  Proper Noun, according to school emails. Day(s) when students are hauled out to open space to run long distances which increase with age.  All kids finish, all kids win, emphasis on participation, exercise, and drinking lots of water afterward.  Usually happens right in the middle of Jazz Fest, see entry above.

Life in New Orleans

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