From Gulf to Gulf

After Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on Earth Day 2010, Earth Day Network decided, as part of our on-going dialogue with local officials, to evaluate its impact on our own oil-producing region. I mentioned in my earlier posting that I spent a week in the Persian Gulf discussing with Mayors the various sustainability efforts they can take to green their schools, and to improve the livelihood of their communities. I learned a great deal about the region, one surprising factor was that a liter of gasoline was cheaper than a liter of water.  (You can read my blog post about the trip here.) Coincidentally, my brother decided to take me on a brother/sister birthday fishing trip off the coast, to  Gulf Shores, Alabama.  At the annual Gulf Shores Shrimp Festival, Mayor Robert Craft was proud to tell me about the various sustainability measures the city has instituted, including a recycling program on the beach and for the festival.  Now that’s exciting news! He also wanted to let us all know the work the city of Gulf Shores have done to protect their beaches from any permanent damage from the Deepwater Horizon blowout. (Please see below to watch interview.) Afterwards, I joined hundreds of Alabama coastal residents in savoring Gulf Coast shrimp (yes, I braved the risk!) and celebrating their heritage with some local country and classic rock music and dancing.

Nonetheless, it was sobering to see just how strongly the local economy is dependent upon, and yet vulnerable to, oil production. Oil revenues heavily support the community, but rig explosions and oil spills putting its fishing and tourism economies in danger.  Despite that risk, many of these communities remain apprehensive about shifting to an oil-free economy because there are few sources of revenue as large as oil production. We must consider this reality as we strategize how to structure a new green economy to benefit these communities as they transition from an oil dependent economy to a clean energy future.

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