by Katy Snyder, JVA Consulting
If you’re anything like me, you may be finding the oil spill in the gulf a little hard to grasp. While I still have vivid memories of pictures of the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989, of birds and otters covered in oil, the current Deepwater Horizon spill somehow seems harder to connect to. The gushing oil pipeline of the current spill—shown in real-time on CNN and other major news stations—is alarming, but somehow doesn’t have the same emotional pull that dying animals do. This is a shame, as estimates put the amount that is currently spilling into the gulf at 35,000–60,000 barrels per day—equivalent to the Exxon Valdez oil spill happening over and over again every four to eight days.
The general lack of understanding of the magnitude of this spill was perhaps most clearly displayed in the much-publicized statement by the BP chairman, who said he wanted “his life back,” as if the spill was a bad day that could quickly be forgotten. This disconnect also brings with it a sense of hopelessness. While events like the earthquake in Haiti brought immediate and concerted efforts to involve the public in relief efforts, the lack of human connection and the fact that no immediate human toll (not including the deaths of the 11 sailors on board the oil rig that exploded and caused the spill, which also received little meaningful coverage) has been taken, seem to stymie these kinds of efforts. And in the fact the toll that this event will take on humans is not yet quantifiable. The Exxon Valdez spill took place in a remote, relatively unpopulated area, and even then the nearby communities were affected. We likely not know for years what effect this spill will have on the Gulf.
But there are still ways to help. While a recent blog post on Volunteer Match says that volunteer efforts for clean-up are preliminary because the spill is still offshore, its Web site and others do offer some ways you can help—and most don’t require a trip to the Gulf:
- Donate your hair. Yep, that’s right, hair: Matter of Trust, an environmental nonprofit, is collecting hair and fur from salon owners and farms to make innovative and absorbent booms that naturally absorb oil from the water. There are a number of Colorado salons taking donations, click here to find one near you
- Donate your money. The Gulf Relief Foundation is working to provide relief to the fishing community of the Gulf Coast and their families by instituting long-term programs to restore and protect coastal wetlands in the U.S . If you’d like to donate, text “GULFAID 10” to 27138 to donate $10 to Gulf Aid. Replace “10” with the number of U.S. dollars (no $ sign) you’d like to pledge. And there are many other ways to give—groups from the Red Cross to Second Harvest food bank to the Sierra Club are all taking donations.
- Deploy your grantwriting skills. The Florida Philanthropic Network has a great list of funders in the Gulf area that are activating emergency assistance funds to get money to nonprofits who are or will be providing relief to environmental clean-up or working with the people and animals affected by the spill. If providing these types of services is within your organization’s mission, you may be eligible to apply.
Even if none of the above ideas appeal to you, keep in mind that doing something—even if it’s just educating yourself about the disaster—is better than doing nothing.