Dolphins in a dying Gulf


June 17, 2010

Greenpeace’s team on the Gulf Coast has been taking independent scientists, media teams, and local grassroots organizations out into Barataria Bay, one of the areas hardest hit by the oil disaster, to help assess the full scope of this tragedy and the true cost of our reliance on fossil fuels.  Every day we have been out on the water here, we have been joined by dozens of dolphins, sometimes playing in the distance and sometimes swimming right alongside the Greenpeace boats.

I have spent most of my life living near the ocean, I grew up on the coast of California and also lived on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Watching diving pelicans and leaping dolphins has always been a joyful reminder of the wonder of the marine environment, and swimming in the sea gives me a sense of what it means to be a part of this wonderful planet.  But as the oil spreads throughout the Gulf, these have been turned into sad reminders of the immense damage that is being done.

Every time I see a pelican dive for fish here, I wonder how much oil is in the water, and how much is in the fish that it will take back to feed its nesting chicks. Seeing so many dolphins doesn’t give us a joyful feeling; the sad reality is that all these dolphins we are seeing here are being pushed up against shore as their habitat is destroyed by millions of gallons of oil, as marine biologist and Greenpeace oceans campaign director John Hocevar explained to the Associated Press on one of our trips.


It gives me a sinking feeling when I think about what it means that seeing dozens of playful dolphins is actually a sign of disaster. It’s the same feeling I get when I think about how nice it would be to cool off in the water – but of course the oil on the ocean surface reminds me why we can’t. What does it mean when you can’t swim in the ocean?

I don’t think anyone entirely knows how to deal with an environmental disaster that just keeps getting worse with no end in sight. Certainly we should stop drilling for oil offshore. But the problem goes deeper than the drill that BP drove into the seabed. Our reliance on fossil fuels like oil and coal isn’t just devastating a few ecosystems and local communities, it is driving global warming and acidfying the oceans, threatening the funadmental systems that sustain life on our planet. 

A clean energy revolution could move us away from fossil fuels, but it is going to take more than a speech from the oval office to get us there.  I hope we all take the lessons from the Gulf of Mexico with us as we push for an energy policy that puts people and the planet first and holds polluters accountable for the true cost of dirty and dangerous energy.


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