I'm torn, so torn, about posting this update. I realize that photos like this can discourage people from visiting our Gulf coast, our region's favorite beach destination, and my childhood stomping grounds. It might cause a few people to cancel their trips. That's not what I want.
On the other hand, an image like this makes me want to help. Taken by a reader and Pensacola local on Pensacola Beach yesterday afternoon, this photo woke me up out of my long-distance denial and made me look for ways that we can contribute. I hope it does the same for you.
From what I've gathered so far, there seems to be very little people can do in terms of hands-on volunteer work. You need formal training to handle toxic waste cleanup.
“It’s not like after a hurricane, where you can go hand out food and water," says Emily Mitchell, a Pensacola resident who spoke with me over the phone. (Her dad, Hal Hudson, took this photo yesterday.)
"You’re kind of paralyzed. It’s a real helpless feeling.”
The difficulty in finding a way to help has frustrated thousands of
would-be volunteers. OilSpillVolunteers.com, a site attempting to coordinate help, went inactive June 15,
explaining, "after six weeks of effort, we've reached the conclusion
that there is simply not a significant role for volunteers in the BP
The one thing we CAN do is direct our dollars. Donate to an organization that can help the Gulf. Go to the beach and use it as a teachable moment that instills in your children a profound respect for the environment. Find other fun things to do at your beach. Support the businesses you love coming back to; if you don't, they might not be there next time.
Whatever you do, please think twice about canceling your vacation. The Gulf and its people need you.
And though times are tough, consider donating something. Anything. If you are thinking about one not listed here, beware scams and see these tips on vetting reputable charitable organizations, and list of nationally soliciting charities.
More later on specific organizations to consider when making a donation.
Photo: Courtesy Hal Hudson, Pensacola local