Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Plumes of Despair


The satellite images are almost beautiful -- a swirl of indigo, dynamic,
graceful, as if a batik of inky color saturating silk with lines softly
bleeding. The reality, however, of the Louisiana disaster makes me feel more like a shorebird drenched in sludge -- my spirit is heavy, dark, poisoned, immobilized. There is no beauty, only the thick, toxic weight of despair.

I've started this column time after time for days now, trying to wrap my mind around this mess and what it means for wildlife, for the Gulf's already dying coral reefs, for energy policy, for the beaches five minutes from my house, and then another contradictory report comes out. The Top Kill is working; the Top Kill is not working. Or we don't really know yet if it's working, and if the mud plug doesn't hold, we'll revert to the ground-up golf ball solution (are they kidding?!). One day it's 12,000 to 25,000 barrels a day spewing into the sea; hours later the estimate soars to a million gallons a day. Enough to stretch milk jugs of oil from Louisiana marshes to Alaska's Prince William Sound, soiled site of the (only) 11 million gallon Valdez oopsie-daisy back in 1989.
I'm alternately seething and sad, and on the verge of exploding my own blowout
preventer. I open the local newspaper to find a photo of sixth graders hunched
over a science experiment, testing their innovative methods of clean-up, as if
BP has a big salad dressing problem on its hands -- the sticky issue of oil and
water not mixing. As if science is the solution. As if BP and their golf balls
and mud tricks can band-aid this "unprecedented" environmental disaster.

They'll pay off the families of the 11 dead workers, hire a shifty PR
consultant, double their arsenal of lobbyists, and keep on drilling on. Because
we demand it. We need it. Because I continue to drive my minivan to the grocery
store and to soccer practice. Because it's convenient, and quicker, and I can't
fit everything on my bike, and my house is six miles from my office, and our
town refuses to add bike lanes to make it safer, and it's harder to text while
biking, plus, I get all sweaty. Because I keep my AC at 77, and leave clothes
too long in the dryer so then they have to be refluffed. Because I am dependent
on oil, and complicit in this catastrophe.

Yes, I believe BP had an eye on profit and probably cut corners, and that makes
me mad as hell, but I also believe that there is truth to the fact that
accidents happen closest to home. And this one, though 5000 miles under sea, on
a distant shore, is right in my backyard, under my nose, and not just because I
live on the potentially soon-to-be slicked coast, in a state where on April
21, a state senate panel endorsed a bill expediting drilling off our SC shore.
This accident is in my lap, and in yours.

Mothers clean up spills -- it's in our job description (see page 4, if you missed
it). And yes, we occasionally get mad about the messes, maybe even cry over them
too. But we must do more than clean up this time. We must model for our children
and our neighbors that nonrenewable resources are to be used sparingly, with
care and caution. That riding a bike for transportation is cool. That turning
down the AC and sweating a little in summer is OK. We must drill baby drill in
the heads of our legislators that the solution for America's energy gluttony is
not found along a Deepwater Horizon (oxymoron that it is), but in clean, smart,
green alternatives. Wind. Solar. Water. That drilling in the ocean, removing
mountain tops in Kentucky and fighting wars in the Middle East are all untenable
acts of violence and defamation of creation.

Accidents happen closest to home, and revolutions begin there. I, for one, am
ready to retire my mop.

Stephanie Hunt lives in Charleston, South Carolina, with her husband and three daughters. Stephanie is a contributing editor to Skirt Magazine, Charleston Magazine, and SOMA Review. A graduate of Duke University and Vanderbilt Divinity School, she specializes in personal essays and profiles, and has published Peeking Under My Skirt, an essay collection. Learn more at her website.

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Sharp. Yes. Totally agree. Get out of the SUV and walk and bike. Tell your kids why. As my daughter said when we did, "I think Mother Earth likes it when we go on her like this. We're closer to her. We can see her details."
Thank you so much for putting my thoughts into words. I'm ready to revolt, I just can't figure out HOW.
Growing up in Gulfport, Miss, the Gulf was like a mother in many ways - we ate from it, played in it, and coming home from college, I always rolled down my windows when I reached the Salt Line, that point at which you can begin to smell the salt air coming off the Gulf - and that told me I was home. I am immeasurably saddened that, after Katrina and now this crisis, I will not be able to show my child the Coast of my childhood. As Elizabeth Spencer wrote, "If I could have one part of the world back the way it used to be, I would not choose Dresden before the fire bombing, Rome before Nero,or London before the Blitz. I would not resurrent Babylon, Carthage, or San Francisco. Let the leaning tower lean and the hanging gardens hang, I want the Mississippi Gulf Coast back as it was before Hurricane Camille." I feel the same - before Katrina, before BP.
Finally someone has put into print something of how I also feel about this. Just a note about solar power, however--too much of it on earth's surface adds to global warming. Solar outside the earth's atmosphere would be a better goal.
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