This Disaster Moves in Slow Motion: Thinking of New Orleans & the Gulf Coast Oil Spill
By Tina Antolini
It was only weeks after the SOTRU team was in New Orleans that the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico began sending millions of gallons of oil on a slow creep towards the Louisiana shore. We spent much of our time in the Crescent City talking to people about the slow, painstaking work of recovery from the winds and floods of Hurricane Katrina—and here they are, facing another natural disaster.
But this one, unlike the dramatics of a hurricane, is moving in slow motion. You can’t fill sandbags or board up your house to protect against waves of oil-tinged seawater lapping up against the Gulf Coast. But the fallout from the oil spill may well have a devastating impact on New Orleans, a city that not only relies on the nearby ocean for its celebrated seafood-filled gumbo and tourism industry, but depends on the vulnerable coastal wetlands for protection against future hurricanes.
Figuring out just how dire the situation is is, right now, a game of watch and wait. I looked at these images of the oil spill’s progress towards the shore with a growing sense of dread. So many of the people we interviewed in NOLA spoke about the city’s future with a man-can’t-keep-you-down sense of hope. They talked about the feeling that with the Saints Super Bowl victory and five years of day-after-day resurrection of city life behind them, New Orleans was on the verge of a new era. Will the oil spill change that? I sure hope not. And, however fragile the city’s recovery may seem sometimes, I don’t doubt for a moment the resiliency of spirit that New Orleanians possess. This is a city with a longstanding ability to infuse even struggle with celebration and joy. Whatever washes up on their shores, however deprived they may be of the oyster and shrimp po boys they love, the people of New Orleans will figure out a way to get through this mess, too. And, in the meantime, while they’re waiting to see what happens next, they’re stocking up on seafood. 20 lbs of crawfish in your freezer should either last a little while… or make for a damn good party.
You can listen to SOTRU’s New Orleans episode here…