BP oil spill has far-reaching impact

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The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is turning out to be one of the worst environmental disasters on record. The leak is spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, threatening wildlife, the fishing industry and jobs.

The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is turning out to be one of the worst environmental disasters on record. The leak is spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, threatening wildlife, the fishing industry and jobs.

Too often, those of us who live far away from those locales only glance at the news and see the oily sludge choking the shoreline and quickly move on to some other problem – like unemployment or poor education or taxes.

But just because the oil is spilling in the Gulf of Mexico does not mean we should not be concerned. And it is not just the kind of concern spoken by Rev. Jesse Jackson this week in front of a downtown Chicago BP gas station. Rev. Jackson warned against rising gas prices from BP (while generally gas prices are dropping) so that the company can pay for the cleanup effort in the Gulf.

It is estimated that cleanup will cost the company $5 billion, and the company still has not come up with a way to stop the leak, despite several botched efforts.

But we have a historic stake in saving the environment. We come from agrarian cultures for the most part, and we brought those cultures with us. It is that culture which built the South and fed the nation. It is that respect for the land, and for the air, which fueled the growth of that region and the growth of this country.

We have a stake in making sure that pollutants, whether from an oil spill or from auto emissions or from belching factories, do not ruin our planet.

Too often, the Black community has been described as silent, or, even worse, disinterested when it comes to the environment. It is not true, but our efforts often go underreported or, even worse, ignored.

But we see that we must be vigilant and have corporations and the government take heed of environmental justice, so that our communities do not become the dumping grounds for health-robbing pollutants and other substances.

The problem certainly comes home with a financial impact. The sludge which is now caking on some inland birds and ruining some of the marshes, also means no one is going shrimping or fishing in those waters.

Since America gets 40 percent of its seafood from the area, you will see the impact at your grocery store soon, if you have not already. It will affect tourism in the area, since those waters are now toxic, and, as witnessed over the weekend, fire hazards.

We applaud Rev. Jackson for turning up the environmental heat on BP. “It’s time we found a new meaning for BP,” Rev. Jackson said Monday.  “It is clear that the corporation is not moving aggressively enough to save the Gulf, so it’s time for us to move from anger to action.”

When it comes to the environment, we should all be activists. The Black community can bring its legacy of activism to saving our environment, and the BP oil spill is a wake-up call.

Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender.

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