The Common Good

Voices from the Gulf: Besieged by Depression

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Editor's note: "Voices From the Gulf" is a series of posts from people experiencing first-hand the devastating effects of the worst oil spill in American history. Check back often for more stories each week.

One piece of the oil spill story that doesn't get told very much is the psychological piece. My partner, who grew up in beach communities on the Gulf Coast and has a deep emotional connection to these landscapes, has become extremely depressed as the oil spill has unfolded. Watching the news coverage is almost unbearable for him. He feels helpless and frustrated.

For me, the issue is anxiety. I know the wetlands are our primary hurricane defense. When healthy, they soak up and absorb storm surge waters and protect inland areas from flooding. Hurricane season is upon us, and this season is predicted to be active. Every day, I worry about having to evacuate again, and I think about all the God-given natural protection we're losing.

The other psychological issue for many people has been how to make sense of the pure greed, criminal indifference, and laziness of a corporate giant like BP. I can only describe the effect this is having on many of us as parallel to a struggle with the demonic -- a sense of being besieged by dark powers actively undermining justice and trying to harm the well-being of all creation.

In terms of hands-on responses, ordinary people are very limited in what they can do without either HAZMAT training (required for wildlife cleaning, sand/beach cleaning) or a boat with skimming equipment. This is tough for many here to handle -- not being able to provide immediate, hands-on cleanup help.

But people of faith are doing what they can here: protesting, writing to legislators, supporting those whose livelihoods are on the line, boycotting BP, praying for justice, and trying to give a voice to the dignity and value of voiceless creatures: wetland grasses and trees, shrimp and fish, birds of every kind.

Other people of faith can join in this. To the extent that people hold any investments in BP, they should immediately divest. They should scream to anyone who will listen (government, industry, whomever) about the environmental injustice unfolding in the Gulf. They should organize donation drives to groups like the Coalition to Protect Coastal Louisiana or faith-based groups like Episcopal Relief and Development. They should hold vigils and letter-writing campaigns and rallies. Anything to say "no" to what is happening!

Kelly Brotzman lives in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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