Oil!

 
 
June 1, 2010
      I hosted a small party last night. I fried some speckle trout filets for a few close friends, calling the occasion “The Last Hurrah.”
      Actually, we revised what we called the evening to “the penultimate hurrah,” as it happens that I recently also caught a 29” red, which our friend and good cook, Donna, has consented to use to make a Court Bouillon.  She will do this as she has time, and so there is no certain date. But, as the days roll by and the oil droplets appear, as they are doing even today at Waveland, according to the Sea Coast Echo, that sad day will come over the horizon.
      Maybe it won’t happen, but I do not at my age prosper on false hopes. Children may do that, and adults might even encourage them.
       For those of us who have loved the coast all our lives, we must prepare ourselves psychologically for the day.
       How bad will it be? The other day, a long-term memory presented itself, without volition on my part: it just came to me from many years ago. (That happens frequently at my age.) It was about a town somewhere out West, a dried-up silver mining town, a veritable ghost town. There were buildings and streets, just no people, except for the man who ran the general store, where one might buy a coke or some trinkets.
       It was sad.
       Could that happen to Clermont Harbor, Waveland and Bay St. Louis, or what’s left of them since K. Everybody knows what that stands for. Maybe in the future people will just talk about O. At least it might not cause as bad a mental image as the word Oil!
      I ask myself legitimate questions. If people cannot go in the water, cannot lie on the sand beaches, cannot enjoy a delicious Gulf breeze, cannot fish or crab or shrimp, cannot find local seafood on which to dine, will these towns decline to the point of becoming virtual ghost towns?
      Can the area eventually recover from a real invasion of oil? The answer is yes, but I think it will be like watching a glacier melt. I don’t have the time. Maybe my grandchildren will.
 
       It is not as though we have not been aware. We – all of us – could have done more. I remember taking a course through the Nature Center of New Orleans more than twenty years ago. It was conducted by a pair of marine biologists. At one session, we were shown overlaid projections of the reduction of land in Plaquemines Parish. I don’t recall the year projected (it seemed like a long way into the 21st century at the time, but it probably was about the second decade, i.e. soon) but the forecast was that there would be no more Plaquemine Parish. Like Nostradamus they were not. One might wonder how they might have been so prescient, but they were not dealing with guesswork: they had the aerial maps to make them better than ordinary soothsayers. 
       And all south Louisiana fishermen had to know, at least any who launched out of the Empire Marina. In the early days of my offshore trips, there was a straight, ten-mile run to open water. Then, a few years went by and I went back. No sooner than we were underway, I looked to the west and there was open water. Ten miles of marsh had disappeared in the interim.
     And what about anyone who has ever been on a plane that came past the south Louisiana marshes on the way to MSY. One look out the window would disclose a network of hundreds of crisscrossing canals, all made by the oil industry. We didn’t say much: we needed the oil companies and all of their suppliers. It was taxes and employment and plenty money to go around in the principle of the multiplier.
      Now we are faced with the multiplier in reverse. And yet, we have those crying for continuance of deep-water drilling, and there is the advertising to support their appeals. And of course, the lobbyists.
       
      Strange. While I visualize the ghost town out west, I keep hearing an old refrain, “Is that all there is? Is that all there is? If that’s all there is, my friends, then let’s keep dancing, dancing….” I think I hear Peggy Lee.
 
rbg