Oil is a Powerful Thing…

Guest post by Callie Casstevens, LABB intern

Yesterday, sitting outside after work enjoying the breeze and the setting sun, my phone rang. On the other end was one of the many fishermen who have been impacted by the recent BP oil spill. In a soft voice he asked if he may ask a favor of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, the fishermen are scared. They are scared because Port Sulphur is surrounded on both sides by the Gulf, and now, they are surrounded on both sides by oil and dispersement. The federal agencies such as the EPA, DEQ, nor OSHA have informed the community about any of the health risks involved with living so close to such a mixture of chemicals. Instead, BP has paid the fishermen $5,000, and as the fishermen told me, “I don’t know really what it’s for, they won’t hire a lot of us to help clean up…many of us think it’s just hush money. They don’t want us to talk, the ones who have been hired by BP are so scared to talk because they don’t wanna be fired…they need the money.”

Pacing my shotgun apartment I listened to him, I think that is what many need, is just an ear, someone to talk to and hopefully get some answers. I asked him how he’s been doing since the spill, emotionally, and if there was anything we could do. He made a suggestion, many of the fisherman he explained, are not computer savvy, or do not own a computer, and he declared he was not comfortable with texting in any reports. Thus, many are not being heard, they do not know how to reach out for help, and when they call the help lines given, either no one answers or no answers are provided. Sighing deeply he stated, “I’ve been a fishermen all of my life…I started out when I was a kid and I’ve never stopped, now I have to. I think it’s too late to help anything…it’s just too late.”

Many fishermen are prevented from getting into the water, either because the area is closed due to oil contamination, or because certain agencies are as he described, “harassing us to leave.” In fact, he recently received two tickets by the Louisiana wildlife and fisheries department, one for not wearing a lifejacket, and the other ticket for being in a restricted area. However, as he explained, “We never had to wear life jackets before, we’ve been in the water all of our lives and they ticket us for that? Plus, we didn’t know it was a law, they never told us. The place where we were at we thought was still open but they said it had been closed a couple hours before he stopped us, how were we to know? They don’t tell us these things.” It is actions like this that have intimidated the fishing community from talking, asking for help, or believing that any solutions will be created that will actually help them. They feel invaded, their way of life is now suddenly stopped, they have no way to make money, and they wait by the phone for BP to call and hire them, so far, many have not received that call.

The fishermen have the areas they used to primarily fish, and ill will or negative feelings towards one another was not a part of their community before the oil spill. Yet, he declared that BP recently hired only the Vietnamese portion of the community, this has created a divide in the community where one did not exist before. Now, the other half of the community feels angry and frustrated with the Vietnamese residents. What is more, the Vietnamese signed English language contracts given to them by BP, no translators were provided. I wanted so badly to have a solution, to solve all of his problems, but I had none. But what I could offer was the Louisiana Bucket Brigade’s help, we have decided to go back into the community and set up a simple box, where the men and women can hand write their accounts and drop them in the box, this is a more personal way to receive information about the realistic concerns the community faces, versus typing it on a computer. He said one thing at the end of our conversation that has stayed in my head, like an echo I can hear his voice over and over again as I research more on the situation. He said, “Oil is a powerful thing I guess, it makes these companies lots of money…so what’s a bunch of fishermen like us compared to oil?” So BP, what are these men and women’s lives worth compared to oil?

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14 Responses to Oil is a Powerful Thing…

  1. Shannon Dosemagen says:

    This is such a perfect case example of divide and conquer, turning groups, where there is already an existing barrier, against each other to detract attention on the local level from the group (in this case BP) that is the actually doing wrong. My heart is sad and my mind frustrated, what do others think about this?

  2. Eva Stong says:


    we’re the customers.
    we’re the american citizens.
    we’re the ones who have mixed our sweat with the sand, sun, sea, and soil.

    they serve us. government and “authorities” included.
    we are the Public, and we are not to be taken lightly, or pushed around.
    We are willing to help.

    Best to have us as allies…Not Lackies, Not Pawns…and certainly not enemies.

    wishin i could be down there to help.
    take hope, and keep heart.

  3. SheGeek says:

    shared your post on FB, most I can do.

  4. Beverly says:

    I created a page on FB called “Mr. President: IT’S TIME TO FREEZE BP’S U.S. ASSETS” and it’s gotten a bunch of members in just a couple hours. PLEASE feel free to join it and post any and all info you get on it. I posted the above article already, though. Breaks my heart. Keep up the good work, and listening is one big part of it.

  5. relevart says:

    “Top Kill” is precisely what is happening in paradise today…. Everything up on top.
    There are certainly great injustices at work here.
    It is very important to recognize the ‘divide and conquer’ concept as real in order to see through it. We must keep communication open in order that fear, mistrust and suspicion not fester and spread like this rancid oil.
    On the East Coast of Fla., we have you so much in our hearts. We are bracing to do whatever we can here to preserve your sister wetlands.
    Please hold together. This site is great comfort throughout this whole unfolding horror. You are all that stands between what is absolutely true, and BP’s force fed spin on it’s own manufactured realities. Hang in there friends and neighbors – of little comfort I’m sure but on this site you are, at least, being felt and heard.

  6. Malcolm Wood says:

    “In fact, he recently received two tickets by the Louisiana wildlife and fisheries department, one for not wearing a lifejacket, and the other ticket for being in a restricted area.”

    Nothing like kicking a man when he’s down.Bastards.

  7. Jen. says:

    The part about BP only hiring the BP fishermen gave me chills. Along with the stories about how people helping with the clean-up aren’t given protective gear and are getting sick from the chemicals, it seems obvious to me that they hired the people least likely to fight BP when they end up with serious health problems like the people who helped clean up the Exxon Valdez did. OSHA needs to be doing SO much more!

  8. Jen. says:

    *sorry, meant Vietnamese – it’s too early.

  9. Muril Hart says:

    I don’t want to be harrassed by a bunch of anti American junk,or political propaganda against our government, but I am solidly behind movements to put companies like BP in their place. My sympathy is with those who want to avoid contaminating our countries shorelines for whatever their reasons, livlihood or pleasure. I want to do constructive things to ensure against future damage from corporate greed and callousness . I’m not sure of the correct way to do that.

  10. Rebecca says:

    For the last several years I have been waging a one woman campaign against the import of seafood into this country. I live in a coastal state (Alabama) and I cannot understand WHY we are expected to consume seafood imported from countries that have no environmental standards at all. I have also been concerned about the impact these imports have on the fishing industry in Southern coastal states. And now this? How are these fishermen expected to make a living? What good is $5,000 to someone who supports a family and has payments on his fishing equipment? I understand that Exxon has never paid one penny of the fine handed down to it at the time of the Valedez spill. Does anyone think BP will ever pay for this?

  11. Anne Craig says:

    Louisiana Bucket Brigade…Get on twitter!!! Makes it much easier to share your information to broader audience.

  12. Hi Anne, find us on Twitter at “labucketbrigade” we are working hard to keep all of our media outlets updated!

  13. Pingback: Below the surface of oil hemorrhage, Part 3 by Roxanne Amico « Dandelion Salad

  14. Jessica Jasper says:

    Hiring the Vietnamese only is called “Environmental Racism”. These companies practice it religiously. That is why the PVC refineries are in the poorest areas, that is why the community dump is near the poorest neighborhood. And the reason why they are hiring the Vietnamese is because BP believes they can use, abuse and throw them away. Subject them to the pollutants because they are less likely to say they are being poisoned! SO WRONG!

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