Time to Return: Reflections from the Gulf

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unreported oil and natural gas spills every year around the world, including in the Gulf of Mexico. Deepwater Horizon

On the 105th day since the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, the Ocean Futures Society team has discovered yet another aspect of the dark side of our need to pursue an unsustainable energy source--the fact that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unreported oil and natural gas spills every year around the world, including in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sheen from the broken oil cap in Bayou St. Denis, Louisiana There are over 4,000 offshore oil and gas platforms and tens of thousands of miles of pipeline in the central and western Gulf of Mexico, where 90 percent of the country’s offshore drilling takes place. Just last week the Ocean Futures Society team filmed a geyser of oil and natural gas from a broken cap in Bayou St. Denis, one of areas that continues to be heavily impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The insult of spilled oil on one of the richest marine environments continues even though the Deepwater Horizon is now capped. But for over 85 days, 100 million to 200 million gallons of oil mixed with 1.8 million gallons of toxic dispersants gushed out of the Deepwater Horizon well, making this the worse human made disaster in U.S. history.

We all, as consumers, must take some responsibility for this disaster in the Gulf. And we must ask ourselves, how can we live more sustainability so this will never happen again? Fossil fuels are an unsustainable resource and as we explore and extract every last barrel, we are imposing tremendous negative impacts on our life-support system, planet Earth. There are sustainable options, but it takes the will of the individual, communities, businesses, and governments to create the change we need to move toward a more sustainable future.

It won’t happen overnight, but we can all make it happen over time.

After a full month, the time has come for the Ocean Futures Society team to return to California so we can regroup and strategize for our next filming venture to best capture the magnitude of this catastrophe. For me personally, I am hurrying home to my most important job, being a mother to my six-year old son Gavin; but I am leaving behind amazing people whom we met over the course of the last few months, people who have to live with this tragedy on a daily basis for years to come. And we are leaving behind millions of animals, large or microscopic, whose world will forever be altered. Our film will not only be about the long-term negative ramifications up and down the entire food chain of the productive Gulf ecosystem, but also about the hardship that will be felt for generations to come in all the communities located along the Gulf coast.

In the meantime, over the coming weeks and months, OFS is dedicated to bringing you the personal accounts and visual images of what we must all take to heart by witnessing the largest oil spill in U.S. history; everything is connected. In the four weeks I was in the Gulf, I personally witnessed communities coming together during times of hardship, losing everything they know as their way of life. I was humbled to be surrounded by people capable of expressing joy in the midst of tragedy and who really appreciate life. If people who are losing everything can have moments of happiness, then we must all stop and take a deep breath and be thankful for what we have. We must realize we are all a part of the community of planet Earth. There is nowhere else to go. It is about time we embrace what is good in our lives and live for a future that we are proud to leave for our children and theirs, a planet healthier and more productive than what we inherited from our parents. We cannot rob future generations of the richness of our blue planet. We must better conserve, reuse, reduce, and recycle now, not only for ourselves but also for all of those who are still to follow in our footsteps.

As we depart Louisiana with so many unanswered questions, and so many more sequences to film, we at Ocean Futures Society feel a moral obligation to continue to educate and inform through media and hands-on education the need of us all to strive towards a more sustainable future. To all our friends we met in the Gulf, we will be back! We will continue to bring your stories to life through films and educational programs. We will continue to advocate for more environmental regulations and enforcement so this type of catastrophe never happens again.

As a marine biologist and marine educator, my job is never over at the end of the day. Working for Jean-Michel Cousteau, a man who embraces ocean stewardship, I take my job very seriously, not only professionally, but also very personally. Even so, Gavin, I’m happy that I am almost home!!

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Warm regards,

Holly Lohuis

Holly LohuisHolly Lohuis
Research Associate
Ocean Futures Society

First Photo: Last week the Ocean Futures Society team filmed a geyser of oil and natural gas from a broken cap in Bayou St. Denis, one of areas that continues to be heavily impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. © Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society
Second Photo: Oil sheen from a broken cap in Bayou St. Denis. © Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society