If British Petroleum were an enemy on a mission to despoil
our coastal waters, they are executing a perfect war plan.

BP has dodged regulations which could have prevented this crisis, yet ironically
has imposed its own regulations that hobble relief efforts at every level. BP is clearly
calling the shots, as the Coast Guard defers to their lead and the federal government
struggles to establish any effective command and control.

These are the experiences and reflections of one person who came to help this embattled area and was turned away...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

More Red Tape

I awoke to perhaps the most heart-wrenching images I have ever seen on TV.  Birds mired in black tarry goo, struggling to move, gasping for breath, dying right there in front of the cameras.  With a renewed sense of motivation, I called Jay Holcomb’s number, connecting to his voice mail box.  I mentioned that I was a veterinarian who had traveled down from Pennsylvania and that I was willing to commit considerable time and effort.  I asked his voice mail for some guidance on how to proceed, and currently await a response.  I also wrote a follow-up email to Dr Miller, thanking her for her time with me on Wednesday and reiterating my desire to roll up my sleeves and get to work.  Even if red tape/paperwork issues precluded me from being in the same facility as the wildlife, I could contribute my skills as an organizer/writer/other administrative agent – whatever they wanted.  I know that they are a contracted service, and certainly do not hold Dr. Miller or her staff at all responsible for the decision not to activate me.  I will continue to press; hopefully I won't cross the line and become "that crazy vet who keeps calling".

I sat in a café in the French Quarter, looking out the window.  The heavy rain turned to steam as it hit the streets and sidewalks.  At times like this I suppose it is easy to take things personally – to feel useless, and even indulge oneself in self-pity over the ego-bruising issues associated with that.  The rain had stopped.  I walked the along the wet steamy sidewalks alone in the thick humid air.  But one thought overrode all others - popping into my head with all the pain and force of a blow to the solar plexus.  The birds.  The gulf.  The people who not only love this area, but survive off it, and cannot imagine a life without that interdependence.  As long as I continue to think outside myself - forget myself - I think my mission remains worthy of my efforts.  It is ironic that my generally altruistic approach has necessarily become a network of obstacles that require self-focus - I need this document, that approval, those permits, etc.  And at my level as an individual level, I am beginning to understand the frustrations of moving any organized effort down here.

BP was hard at work repairing it’s image with a new 50 million dollar PR campaign, and essentially assumed control of all aspects of the recovery efforts in the gulf.  Their self-interest has so far trumped all other concerns.  I will continue my focus to be the antithesis of that.

I gave one last try – I went to the Anderson Cooper Live set again that evening.  I did not expect to find a kindred spirit – but outspoken Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser was there.  When he walked off-camera, I introduced myself and explained my efforts and my mission.  He took a keen interest, and we engaged in an interesting discussion about it.  He explained that the problem was not me - it was BP, and that he was still waiting for other volunteer efforts to materialize, such as skimmers.  The frustration in his tone was palpable.  He offered his personal contact information to me and asked me to call him directly the following morning at 11:30, which would come after his meeting with Gov Bobby Jindal and others.  He thought perhaps he could move things along for me.  My walk back through the quarter was lighter after that – the bounce in my step returned.  My happiness was relative - oddly tempered by the thought that as I celebrated this small victory, it is one that is all but overwhelmed by the tragedy it ultimately seeks to address.