I have found myself fast-forwarding or muting the coverage of the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico because if I see those pictures of dead fish, dying birds and a mortally wounded eco-system I start to cry. I am not alone, many people are unable to watch without falling into despair. Usually in a disaster, people react with urgency and energy – full of things to do to help, but this time we are in over our heads – literally and metaphorically. We are dependent on the expertise and equipment of unreliable people – a company with a proven record of lying to us and to the government. Even the best experts in the field don’t know how to fix it quickly and so we watch this strangling of our southern shores with helplessness and broken hearts. It is our helplessness that makes us despair and for our own spirits we must find things we can do to help. That’s why I am excited about Operation Squeegee.
In addition to changes to the regulations that govern off-shore drilling, stronger and more active oversight, development of clean-up and disaster expertise within the government and prioritizing alternative energy sources and conservation, we can support with the sisyphean efforts to cleanup and restore wetlands. Many SL merchants will be participating and events are being planned. For more information, go to the Operation Squeegee website.
If you aren’t comfortable participating in an in-world fundraiser – no matter the efforts made for transparency – you can still do something to overcome that feeling of helplessness. You can support The National Wildlife Federation’s Gulf Oil Spill Recovery Fund directly. You can also support Audubon Society recovery work. You can write letters to your Senators and Representative demanding that the wetlands be fully restored. You can eat less meat, drive less, use public transit. No, we will never be completely free of the need for oil, but we can take steps to use less so do not need risky and dangerous extraction.
I think we will all still cry when we see those images from the Gulf. How can we not? They break our hearts. But we can wipe away those tears and find big and small steps we can take to make a difference – and that is the path out of helplessness and despair. Despair is literally de (without) sperare (hope) and I won’t accept that there is no hope. So, big steps or little steps, I am going to leave despair behind and hope that however small our efforts, together we can make a difference.
One man’s hands can’t tear a prison down
Two men’s hands can’t tear a prison down
But if two and two and fifty make a million
We’ll see that day come round
We’ll see that day come round. (Pete Seeger)
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