Children playing on the beach at Mamaroneck Village’s Harbor Island on Tuesday, June 8 were a poignant reminder that the Sound Shore has been spared the destruction being visited upon communities along the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of a massive oil spill from a damaged BP oil rig.
The children and their parents were participating in a local vigil to mark the 50th day since the deep water well began discharging oil into the Gulf. To date, efforts to cap the well have slowed but not stopped the spill.
Nicole Butterfield, a local member of MoveOn.org, organized the event and encouraged families to walk or bike to the park. She said, “The government and BP clearly need to take action, and perhaps we, as consumers, need to rethink our dependence on oil as well. What if we could create a world wide demand for alternative fuel?”
Approximately thirty people, including several children with homemade artwork and signs, joined the vigil. The group gathered on the playground and then moved down to the beach, where they observed a moment of silence before hearing more about the oil spill.
“As we see communities in the Gulf devastated, and evidence of damage to wildlife and ecosystems continues to pour in, we’re calling on Congress to take a hard look at our dependence on oil, and seek viable alternatives,” said Ms. Butterfield. “Until we end our dependence on oil, disasters like the BP spill will keep happening. Our children deserve a different future.”
Some children read facts about the spill and several adults read stories of Gulf Coast residents whose livelihoods have been devastated by the spill.
As the children listened to the readings, they began to run and play on the beach. They caught a small crab and brought it up the beach for all to see. “Is it dead?” one asked. “No, it’s alive,” another answered.
At the end of the evening, the children pulled a live horseshoe crab out of the harbor and celebrated their discovery by taking turns holding it.
“I think everyone here can agree that children swimming, playing and discovering sea life along every shore should be a goal for the next millennium,” commented Ms. Butterfield. “I hope this vigil will give us an opportunity to reflect on what has happened, and to model for our children that we can not simply stand by and let this kind of devastation happen anywhere.”
Below are some of the facts read by the children:
• The fishing communities threatened by the spill produce 30% of America’s seafood and the shrimp, oysters and crabs that New Orleans is famous for. One-third of the Gulf of Mexico fishing grounds are closed. (Source: Gulf Restoration Network)
• As of June 4, 278 dead sea turtles have been found. Most were found washed ashore, either dead or in distress. (Source: Gulf Restoration Network)
• This is a prime nesting season for Louisiana’s state bird, the brown pelican. Louisiana has about 20 brown pelican nesting sites. And eggs appear to be picking up oil from incubating parents that swim through oil. The oil could be deadly to the 100,000 chicks that will begin coming of age in the coming weeks. (Source: New Orleans Times Picayune)
• Sperm whales are an endangered species, and the BP spill is located in a canyon that is a prime feeding area for the whales. Biologists say that even if the whales could move from their prime feeding ground, they might not be able to survive. NOAA estimates that if even 3 sperm whales are killed by the BP spill, their recovery as a species will be in jeopardy. (Source: Gulf Restoration Network)
• Because of a federal law passed right after Exxon Valdez, BP’s legal liability for the spill is capped at $75 million. The total damages from the spill will easily reach the tens of billions. BP is the fourth largest corporation in the world. They made $239 billion in 2009 alone.
• Since the beginning of 2009, BP has employed 49 lobbyists at a cost of $19.5 million. Of these 49 lobbyists, 35 –or 71 percent — previously held federal positions. They’ve also spent $200 million a year on their “Beyond Petroleum” advertising campaign. (Source: Public Citizen)
• There is little knowledge of the side-effects of the dispersants being poured in the Gulf, though over a dozen workers have reported health problems such as dizziness, headaches, chest pain, and nausea. Over 700,000 gallons of the chemicals have been dumped into the water. (Source: Gulf Restoration Network)