A Personal Message to BP from the Wetlands

 You are responsible .

We are watching.

We are angry.

You and those who have enabled you will be held accountable.


Special Thanks to JA Lovell for permitting use of  Plato’s image.  The Brown Pelican, of course, is the State Bird of Louisiana.
I met Plato on Judy’s site, Janthina Images, a collection of exquisite and wide-ranging photography.  Confronted by his stare, my first thought was, “I’d like to send him to Congress and the corporate boardrooms to say what needs to be said.” This post is my way of doing that.
 As Varnish John said, “You start where you can start, and do what you can do.”
Comments are welcome.  To leave a comment or respond, please click below. 

19 thoughts on “A Personal Message to BP from the Wetlands

  1. I am grieving,but I am strong enough to grieve.

    “You start where you can start, and do what you can do.”

    My eyes are watching.
    My camera is waiting.
    I am so very angry.

    I am registered w/Surfrider/Skytruth to report my findings.
    I am on call with our local Marine Sanctuary.
    I have the haz clothes, muck boots, masks, and kayaks.
    I have over 30 years of “trespassing” history (getting to the secret fishing spots) to get to the shoreline and photograph – no barriers for me.
    I am grieving, but I am capable and I will be strong.
    I will be a voice for the Lady of the Gulf.
    I will not let her suffer in silence.

    MotherEarth is hemorrhaging – I will do my best to protect her in her hour of need.

    Apologies for the uncensored emotions – I started to really cry this morning, so I came here for some “good think”. Then promptly wrote & printed out my “vow”. I think I needed my own declaration. Now that it is written, I feel empowered. Time to Walk My Talk.


    I understand perfectly what you mean when you say “I needed my own declaration”. Clear, straightforward speech is part of what’s needed now, even when we’re speaking only to ourselves.

    Would I have the courage to stand up in a room of BP, Halliburton, Cameron and Transocean execs and say exactly what Plato says here?
    You bet I would. Now, we’ll see what else I have the courage and discipline for.

    I suspect all of us are going to need a good bit of courage not to turn away.


  2. How does one cry out loud on a keyboard? Just now some silent tears.

    I ain’t religious, unless you count reading Lao Tzu. But what comes to mind, the way I remember it anyway:
    Forgive them, Lord. They know not what they do!


    A bayou woman whom my readers will meet in the coming days coined a wonderful phrase: “tenacity over tears”. Thinking of the losses that already have come and that surely will grow exponentially in the coming days is a cause for sorrow as well as anger. Sometimes the two become joined – tears of anger isn’t an oxymoron, after all.

    But we’re called to more than tears, and more than anger. I’ve had my own moment of anger here. Now, it’s time to move on.

    Your quoting of those famous words is appropriate – even though I have a deep suspicion that “they” knew precisely what they were doing. In the most neutral terms I can think of, they took unconscionable risks, betting they never would suffer consequences. It was a significant miscalculation.


  3. Sometimes words escape me….this is one of those times.

    You start where you can start and you do what you can do is a great mantra for everyone to say…..to just about anything. Just think if every ‘single’ person just started….and did…..just think what we could do.


    Exactly. And it’s very interesting to see the different forms that “starting and doing” can take.

    I’ve been listening to the outdoor show on Houston radio since early this morning. Many of the callers made the same point, from a rather unique perspective. Fishing charter captains who are seeing their trip numbers go down because of media coverage of the spill are concerned with the inevitably one-sided nature of the coverage, and doing what they can to balance it out. It’s a simple fact that the print and electronic media always will prefer one oiled bird to miles of clean ocean. But it isn’t the whole story.

    The guys on the fishing show are “doing what they can do” by telling the other side of the story. They’re trying to save their livelihoods, of course – and it must be galling to have people canceling trips because they assume the entire coast is covered in oil.

    But there’s a larger point, made by one of the callers. As he put it, if everyone thinks everything is dead already, they won’t try to save what’s alive. Exactly so.

    And it’s worth noting that many of these guys aren’t just sitting around griping. They’re licensed captains, with knowledge and skill, and they’re going to Venice and Mobile and other places along the coast to drive the boats that are struggling against the oil.


  4. You are responsible .
    We are watching.
    We are angry.
    You and those who have enabled you will be held accountable.
    ~ Linda

    “MotherEarth is hemorrhaging – I will do my best to protect her in her hour of need. ~ Evy

    I echo the sentiments as voiced by Linda and Evy. My heart is crying and bleeding for MotherEarth and the harm done her because of the environmental disaster caused by money gluttons whose only goal is to stuff their pockets with unbridled profits. Profit gluttons who refuse to accept responsibility for their unbridled, conscienceless, and deliberate negligence.



    Ah – I see the Red Ant is up and about early this morning. ;-)

    I understand as well as anyone that accidents happen. I’m the one who went flying off a dock into the water, after all. It simply happened.
    Lack of attentiveness born of lack of experience was the culprit. I learned my lesson, and no real harm was done.

    In this case, more than simple inattentiveness or lack of experience clearly was involved. Blow out preventers exist because blow outs happen. The means of testing cement exist. Knowledge about the nature of oil and gas and how to control them has been gained over the decades since Spindletop. Unfortunately, the warning signs in a multitude of areas – hydraulics, cementing, pressure – were ignored and simple maintenance wasn’t done.

    Now, while multinational corporations collect their insurance checks and try to control the flow of information, people are watching their lives and a world be destroyed. You’re the classics scholar – which circle would Dante place them in?


  5. Oh Linda,

    I am late getting here and just now seeing your message to BP.

    While I was enjoying my book about the Louisianna Wetlands, I noticed the book was printed in 2005 right before Katrina came through so those beautiful pictures and information was before one horrid natural disaster.

    I could not help but think, those wonderful people and their beautiful wetlands were going to have a man made disaster on them soon that would make Katrina look like easy stuff to fix.

    I love everything about your message; the great photograph and the way you get to the point.

    And I “ditto” the voices that came here before me.

    Thank you,


    I think part of the horror for so many people is knowing that hurricanes, while destructive, are part of nature and recovery is possible. This event is not natural, it has been caused by humanity. We have done it to ourselves, and we may have changed our world in ways we won’t understand for decades.

    I understand the urge to minimize what’s happened, to say it’s only a little oil in a great big ocean. But as they say about the hurricanes, even in a slow season, it only takes one if it’s landing on your doorstep. More people and more of the natural world than I like to think will be finding this on their doorstep – and to some extent, perhaps all of us are responsible. We need to pay more attention, ourselves.


  6. Well, since you asked, here is my answer:

    Inferno, Circle 9: Treachery!

    Treachery against MotherEarth and humankind for lucrative purposes.

    The betrayers would be in the company of Brutus, Cassius, and Judas. One mouth of Lucifer would be chewing on Brutus, the other on Cassius, while the third mouth would be chewing on Judas and the betrayers of MotherEarth. Just like Judas, the betrayers would be placed in Lucifer’s mouth headfirst, their back skinned by the devil’s claws.

    My ‘scholarship’ is aided by “The Complete Danteworlds, a reader’s Guide to the Divine Comedy”, by Guy P. Raffa.


    I’m not certain whose engravings or woodcuts I’m remembering, but I can see so clearly the scene you describe. We did spend a good bit of time with Dante when I was in school, and though most of the details are gone now, the basic outline and certain references seem embedded forever.

    One of my blog friends has joined a Dante “read-a-long” . You might be interested to read the entry, and I might even think of joining in.


  7. Corporations should not be allowed to go unchecked & unpunished when they cause the mass disruption & destruction of the health and well-being of people and all nature of our planet.

    Since corporations only understand the language of economics – a worldwide boycott of BP is in order.


    I understand the impulse toward boycott, and pondered it myself. One of the realities of life is that BP’s income stream has very little to do with retail consumers. Another is that their world-wide presence means that even a total boycott by US citizens would hardly affect them.

    My own impulse is to begin with Washington, and with the oil industry as a whole. We need to examine and clean up the permitting process, inspection procedures, safety requirements and protection for corporate whistleblowers.

    At the same time, finally committing the country to a real search for viable alternate energy sources, examining the whole premise of deepwater drilling and reducing our own use of oil-related products are equally important.

    This is going to be a long slog, as my dad used to say.


  8. Thanks for the message to BP. That’s kind of how my face looked while I was typing my tirade last night.
    Bayou Woman

    PS Thanks for the encouragement, but they’ve intruded upon my beauty and now they want to invade my privacy by requesting my US Federal Tax Return? I still don’t think so.


    What you wrote was too well reasoned and dispassionate to be called a tirade, although I can understand how it might have felt that way.

    If I were in your place and facing so many concrete decisions I’m not sure what I’d do. Whatever decisions you make, you know we’ll be supportive and help however we can.


  9. Reluctant to come here now. I see a bit of the future. My advice: Back off.

    I loved catching up with you just lately and the hope that gave me. However I am sticking with my advice above:
    get your head down now ’cause we are going to need you in the next “go around”.


    I’m not certain what I should back off on. Surely a simple expression of anger, frustration and despair over the situation isn’t out of line.

    There are people who bear responsibility for this, and the world is watching. Far more knowledgeable people than me in the oil industry, the government and the environmental advocacy movements have demanded an accounting of BP and others involved in this situation. It seems appropriate.


  10. I’m so sorry, so sorry this has happened again. When will it be the end of it? (I’m shouting)


    How very, very kind of you to stop by. I’ve been watching events in your own country over recent months, and been sorry to see the tumult there.

    When will be the end? I don’t know. But we will work to save what we can now, and try to prevent more of this in the future.
    El mar es un gran consuelo. Ahora, tenemos que consolarla.

    con un abrazo,


  11. “You and those who have enabled you will be held accountable.”

    From your lips to…

    After stopping the flow of oil and getting this mess cleaned up, my greatest wish is to see responsible parties forced to pay a mighty price. I could rail against this for hours, and I do. I can’t stand to think about how long it will take for the delicate balance of the coast to be restored.

    Your assessment of the media is dead on. I’m so sick of seeing that flume of oil spilling out. I understand that it’s the largest man-made disaster to date, but they need to talk about what remains untainted and tell tourists to take heart – even suggest that one way to help is to make reservations.

    I wish you and your fellow workers the greatest good luck in the cleanup, Linda. My thoughts are with you daily.


    It was so interesting for me to read your account of your brother’s business, and the way in which the Gulf disaster has been a bit of a boon to him, all the way up there. (I’m presuming the Chesapeake.)

    I’m no scientists, but there are a few bits of science I use to understand more than the physical world. Newton’s three laws of motion come to mind, particularly, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. I see it at work in your brother’s situation. It will be interesting to see how it affects the future for BP, et. alia.

    It’s becoming clear as details emerge that the regulatory process itself is as much at fault as pursuing profits at the cost of safety. Those on the very fringes of the industry have laughed now and then at the fact that the “old boys’ network” sometimes looks like the “little boys’ network”. Put a hard-hat on a certain sort of white-shirt-wearer, fly him out to a rig in a helo and let him “do something”, and you’ve got a friend for life. Or death, depending.

    I hope the grownups can take control.


  12. Why don’t you form a float of ships on the proximities of the spill and use radar noise to make the animals go away to a safer location. Also, use trained dolphins, to announce the other animals to go away from the largest dangerous zone you can do. My best wishes for you to succeed in stopping the spill and to save animals.


    Thanks for your good wishes – for the people, and for the animals. It’s very sad to think about the turtles, dolphin, birds and fish that will be affected by this – have been affected. Thank goodness we have people skilled in helping them while the engineers try to shut down the well!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, and for thinking on behalf of the victims of this!


  13. Bravo. We ARE watching.


    And we need to be, as more and more restrictions are placed on journalists and photographers by BP and the Coast Guard. What BP “allows” us to see is far from the whole story, and the government’s protestations of having been involved from “day one” providing agressive and effective prevention measures is simply not true.

    We need to watch actively, not passively, always questioning the images put in front of us and asking, “Where are the local people? What are the fishermen seeing? Why is there boom laying on docks and long stretches of oil soaked beach with no responders present?”

    There’s more to be written about all this, but the comment section isn’t the place to do it. ;-)


  14. Wow, Linda. In times of crisis brevity works. A lot of words just give loopholes.

    Your four lines say it all.


    Now, if only BP could be persuaded to speak with the same clarity, and if only the government wouldn’t imagine speeches are the same as action.


  15. Recent changes to regulations/ business as usual around here:

    Vancouver Oil Tankers

    Timely, eh?


    Timely, indeed. Of course, living in petro-chemical central and seeing tankers in the Houston Ship Channel every day induces a certain confidence in the ability of the captains and pilots to ply their trade safely. Those are some seriously competent people! But accidents do happen – as we’ve so recently learned.

    Just a note – if you enjoy ship photos and are interested in such things, check out OneEighteen’s photostream on Flickr. The photos belong to Lou Vest, a Houston pilot. He has time lapse videos of the Ship Channel posted as well as the most wonderful ship/industrial photos you could ever imagine.


  16. I recently stumbled on your site and enjoyed it very much. The portrayal of blogger as a digital age essayist is compelling, and your sharing of your early months along this path have encouraged me to look again at its whole potential.

    I live a long way away from the Gulf on the other side of the Atlantic. And from here the view is different, as always. I am sure that if I stepped out of my front door one morning and smelt the pungent odour of crude oil washing up on my local coastline, I’d be furious. I’d be looking for someone to blame. I’d set out on the path of revenge armed with with grief and righteousness in equal measure. But without understanding the roots of my problem, how can I hope to seek permanent change?

    In Nigeria, the Niger Delta wetlands have been suffering this kind of pollution for decades (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/30/oil-spills-nigeria-niger-delta-shell), with no strong voice to fight for them. And at the heart of our abuse of our Earth is our addiction to carbon-based energy. When I drive my car, when I switch on my a/c or my heating, eat that exotic Asian fruit, or even tuck into a quarter-pounder, I pollute. And in a competitive economy, I encourage my carbon suppliers to maximise their returns at the risk of our Earth.

    Without my carbon addiction and my unwillingness to pay a real price for carbon, your wetlands would be safer. Perhaps they are the necessary sacrifice to do what the peoples of the Niger Delta are powerless to do: bring home to the American people, the world’s greatest carbon addicts, the true cost of our addiction. We are all responsible, and to blame others is only to escape from that unpalatable truth.


    Thank you for your kind words about my site, and thank you, too, for making your point with such graciousness.

    I especially appreciate the link to the Guardian article. Until I began reading more widely after the Deepwater Horizon incident and began following discussions at sites such as The Oil Drum, I had no sense of the historic scope of BP’s questionable activities, first as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and then as the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Stories of water fountains marked “Not for Iranians” are only the beginning, but they certainly point to an arrogance and contempt that still is being exhibited toward US coastal residents.

    On the other hand, as you rightly point out, BP is not the only company that has involved itself in despicable activities. Your linked article is a good introduction to the situation in Nigeria, which I’ve learned about only since the Deepwater explosion. For us, the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater, however horrible, have been isolated experiences. In other parts of the world, living mired in oil is a way of life.

    There is no question all of us share responsiblity for the situation – not only because of our use of oil, but because of our unwillingness to hold these companies responsible. BP’s behavior here has been cynical, bullying and shot through with duplicity. Whether we will be able to lay bare the truth remains an open question.

    But we’re going to try to hold them accountable. It’s a first step.


  17. Lately I find it too difficult to address the insanity that passes for civilization. The devastation caused by BP in the Gulf is beyond criminal. But of course it is not truly BP’s fault. It is our fault as a people for thinking that our comfort, ease, pleasure and way of life is so much more important than that of any other species on earth.

    If only birds and fish could vote and pull triggers! If only!.

    I truly despair. An article from the Associated Press, appearing in the Lansing State Journal, 7 July 2010, said, “27,000 abandoned oil wells exist in the Gulf.” It went on to say that, “No one–not industry, not government is checking to see if they are leaking.”

    If only birds and fish could vote and pull triggers! If only! If only!

    I have absolutely no faith left in our government. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, they are all on the take–the oil industry, defense contractors and pharmaceutical companies own them all. Democracy–it’s only a word in the dictionary.


    You never will hear the words “it’s not truly BP’s fault” pass my lips. Of course we are complicit, and the government’s regulartory agencies even more so, but BP has a track record, and none of it is good. I’ve had personal and direct experience of two of their little episodes. The windows and doors at my house rattled when the Texas City plant exploded in 2005, and a marina near and dear to me was the recipient of BP’s usual treatment when confronted with wrong-doing. Their attitude is “We’ll out-spend, out-litigate and out-wait you, and we don’t give a flip how you’re affected.” Welcome to the world of Deepwater Horizon.

    I’m not in favor of anyone pulling any triggers, but I would be greatly in favor of people voting. A good number of our problems could be reasonably addressed if not solved if only people would take their responsibilities seriously when it comes to governance and our national life. One of our problems is that the basis for our government – representative democracy – has been eroded, transformed and misrepresented. The move toward direct democracy and the refusal of elected officials to truly represent the views of their constituents need to be addressed. When I hear a Senator or Representative say with absolutely no shame, “I don’t care what you think – I’m voting my convictions”, I feel like my head is going to explode.

    The role of the corporations – and unions – certainly can’t be denied. Beyond that, the cold and calculating willingness of politicians to say whatever is necessry to get elected and then to act in ways diametrically opposed doesn’t instill confidence. I’ve had the experience of voting for several people who shaped-shifted within six months of the election, and it enrages me.

    Still… I do think there are some politicians not on the take. I know there are BP employees who are ashamed of their company. There are whistle-blowers throughout the oil and gas industry, and people working their hearts out to try and repair the damage that has been done. Those are the ones I try to focus on – I have to.


  18. One thing has lead to another, Linda — quite literally — as I’ve followed links from your latest post, back to an older one, and then right back to this one because of your reference to Judy’s photograph.

    I hope there will be no more tragedies like this. I can imagine this superb image of Judy’s being used in an environmental campaign, for sure. (I’ve since visited her site, too.)

    1. My goodness. Plato looks just as threatening today as he did then! I found him while I was doing a Google image search. That led me to Judy’s site. I emailed her asking permission to use the image, and the rest, as they say, is history.

      I’ll say this: I learned an extraordinary amount about oil exploration and production, and the intricacies of modern technology through this entire event. It was amazing to discover that the same people who developed the technology for dealing with the well also work in space – once you know the connection, the analogies are obvious.

      Whatever effects linger in the environment, they certainly continue to affect communities along the Gulf Coast. I’m assuming that, even through we’re no longer privy to the video feeds, submersibles or other technologies are being used to monitor the Macondo well. We’d not want to go through that again.

      (By the way – how’s that for a connection? Macondo is both the name of that BP well and the name of the village from “One Hundred Years of Solitude”!)


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