An oil spill streams into the Gulf at more than 40,000 gallons daily. Tomorrow it might be reported as more, since earlier authorities had claimed the number at 1000 barrels and growing. What has the bloodsport for oil and gas meant for Louisiana?
It could be Louisiana and the three other states at risk from the oil spill in the Gulf might dodge the bullet this time. They are racing to contain it even as I write this. But as things look to environmental scientists now, the risk to the shoreline looks very great.
Oil has been the mainstay of the Gulf near New Orleans, with rigs lined up in the waters outside Louisiana's flagship city. Like a fighter that gets pinned to the mat after many rounds in the ring, Louisiana gets bloodied by the desperate fight for oil but might not last the final round if greed continues to drive the state into environmental ruin at great cost to the health and lives of its citizens.
Gas is part of the hip-hurray of north and central Louisiana, as the big oil and gas men with pockets filled with green take license for the land and may just turn it red with blood in much the same way has occurred in south Louisiana. The red could come with hydraulic fracturing, known by people in California and other areas of the country as potentially damaging water systems.
Has oil and gas profited the ordinary guy who lives in Louisiana? Not if we look at the numbers. The fact is Louisiana figures at the bottom in education and health and has one of the highest crime rates in the nation. Poverty numbers are high, and politicians known for corruption. So has the bloodsport oil brought prosperity and goodness to the state? The facts and figures say otherwise.
The cancer corridor from the Gulf to Baton Rouge and Lake Charles is something most people in Louisiana soon learn with families and friends who get cancer. Louisiana State University Medical Center tells us cancer claims 180 people/week in Louisiana. But in Natchitoches Parish in north central Louisiana, the cancer figures are also high, among the highest percentages in Louisiana. The water never fully meets quality standards. Will the new drilling processes do damage to the ecological systems?
Decades ago Louisiana made its money picking cotton, that slaves brought from the fields, that put them in their bloody graves long before their prime and helped catapult the state to civil war over a system that kept cotton growing and plantation owners prosperous. Are oil and gas the cotton of today, and has Louisiana simply traded one greedy path for another?
On every other street in many Louisiana towns, one can hear the people praying. Ministers talk about giving to God, and heaven as escape from despair. This was the "gift" sold to slaves who worshiped apart from white masters and found a haven in song and in God. Today that haven embraces all races, as churches sing praise but salvation as well; but what about heaven on earth that is taken by bloodsports and pain, that impacts the poor now the worst?
Louisiana, God love her, is beautiful country with sensitive, friendly souls who reach out, with food unlike any other, the best music, art and festivals one can find. To preserve it might take some courage, the courage to stand up and say, "This is my home, and I won't trade it for the blood of my brothers and my loved ones."
Then look for other avenues that might preserve the future for the people of Louisiana now and its children of tomorrow.