It was not my first protest—it was my first arrest

It was not my first protest—it was my first arrest.

 Yesterday, I was arrested by the U.S. Park Police for failing “to obey a lawful order.”  143 demonstrators failed to obey a police order to move off the sidewalk in front of the White House. We were demonstrating our opposition to the construction of a 1,600 mile long pipeline that would transport a highly toxic form of oil extracted from the tar sands of Alberta to the Texas Gulf coast.

President Obama, who promised in his campaign to develop cleaner sources of energy, has the power to stop the pipeline and the attendant increase in the production of the dirtiest and most environmentally destructive source of energy.

 Mr. President – keep your promise.

 There are many reasons to oppose the pipeline. For me, the most compelling is that the people who live near the tar sands have been judged to be expendable. Studies have shown that arsenic, mercury, and other highly toxic pollutants are leaking from the tar sands containment ponds and adversely affecting the health of the people and wildlife, particularly fish and amphibians, in the area.  To produce the oil trees are bulldozed wholesale and the entire surface of the earth is stripped away. It’s even more destructive than mountain top removal.

The land has been judged to be expendable. Tar sands oil production threatens not only the life of the people but their entire way of life.  Transporting the tar sands oil by pipeline requires high pressure pumping. The proposed route would place it in the middle of the Ogallala aquifer, one of the largest fresh water aquifers in the world.  If a buried pipeline were to leak there who knows how long it would take it before it was detected? If it were a large spill, we would never get the stink out.

I feel obliged to add my voice to the voices of all the people whose health and way of life will be directly affected by the increased production of tar sands oil this pipeline would bring.  I feel obliged to add my voice to the voices of all the people whose land will be taken for the pipeline without their consent.  I feel obliged to add my voice to the voices of all the people whose water will be at risk of contamination by the pipeline. Their voices have been ignored or minimized.   Let us add our voice to theirs and demand,

Mr. President – hear our voices.


Rev. Craig C. Roshaven
Witness Ministries Director
Multicultural Growth and Witness
Unitarian Universalist Association

Interfaith Day of National Tar Sands Pipeline Protest Is the Biggest Day Yet


143 people were peacefully arrested, more than doubling previous days’ totals; Unitarian Universalists were the highest officially represented faith community of the protest

August 30th, 2011 – Washington, DC – People of faith from across the country converged in Washington, DC yesterday for the Interfaith Day of the two week long peaceful civil disobedience to stop the construction of the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline. The purpose of the protest is to pressure the Obama Administration, which has the sole authority to decide the fate of the pipeline. 143 people were arrested yesterday bringing the total number arrested to date to 522. It was the largest number of people arrested in one day thus far, more than doubling previous totals.

Of those representing a denomination, Unitarian Universalists were present in the highest numbers. Fourteen Unitarian Universalists were arrested, including two clergy, while an additional eleven served as observers and support, and one chaplain was present for pastoral care. Unitarian Universalists were called to participate by the denomination’s largest environmental organization and the national headquarters. One of those arrested is the Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA’s) Witness Ministries Director, Rev. Craig Roshaven.

Unitarian Universalists have historically been committed to environmentalism and racial/economic justice. In recent years these commitments have converged in recognition of the racial and economic dimensions of environmental issues, including our reliance on fossil fuels and the consequences of global climate change. Both nationally and globally, while wealthier communities consume a greater proportion of fossil fuels, the effects of the resulting pollution are disproportionately felt by poorer communities, and these communities tend to be predominantly of color. In the case of the Tar Sands pipeline, the resulting increase in the production of tar sands oil and the construction of the pipeline will devastate Native American/First Nation lands even though these peoples will not benefit from the pipeline and have had no say in its construction. Because of this, Unitarian Universalists see the construction of the pipeline and the nation’s continued commitment to fossil fuels as unjust and immoral.

The Unitarian Universalist Association’s 2006 statement on “The Threat of Global Warming/Climate Change” remains one of the strongest on the moral dimensions of climate change made by a religious denomination.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact croshaven @

Reflections on Water

Puddle Picture
Puddle Picture by "raindog808"

Early on Saturday morning, I was rushing to pick up coffee for an event. Rain lightly drizzled, and I ran across the parking lot. A friend was with me, and I called him to stop. “Look at that puddle,” I said.

That puddle, like almost every puddle except on the cloudiest of days, reflected the trees and the shops around us. As we walked around it, we could see the reflections change. Nature. Buildings. Penny, candy wrapper, and dead leaves at the bottom of the puddle. The magic of reflection amazes me every time and noticing puddles has become a spiritual practice of mine.

How often do we stop and notice water? The puddles, the rivers, the ocean? The showers, the washing machines, the toilets, the sprinklers? In industrialized nations, we have largely forgotten just how dependent we are on water. In most places in the US, we can turn on a tap, at any time of any day, and have clean, potable water flow until we turn it off. That is amazing!

These past few years, with hurricanes like Katrina, natural disasters like the tsunamis in Asia, and anthropogenic disasters like the BP oil disaster, I have been reminded of waters abilities to both give life and to take life. I am reminded that we cannot survive without water, as I hear about the deaths of immigrants crossing the deserts in the Southwest. And I am astounded when I hear statistics about how in Boston, people of color are four times more likely to have their water shut off. I once lost water for a day, and I became quickly aware of what it meant to not be able to flush my toilet, to not be able to turn on the sink. I can’t even imagine what this must be like to be struggling AND to have my water turned off.

Unitarian Universalists (UUs) all over are thinking about water justice, from the UU Legislative Ministry of California’s campaign to pass legislation on the Human Right to Water to congregations in New York examining the impacts of natural gas hydraulic fracturing on watersheds. As UUs, we are called to respect the interdependent web of all existence and water is a common thread. For Earth Day 2011, UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) is asking congregations to celebrate the sacred waters that sustain us all and to commit to 40 days of actions that will make our world more just.

I am making a commitment to water for 40 days, to take some time to deepen my reflections on water. To see the holy in the every day. And to move my actions a little more closely in line with my values of justice for all.

This past year, I have held the BP oil disaster heavy in my heart. I understand that the three main industries along the Gulf Coast are oil drilling, seafood, and tourism–and all three were devastated by this disaster. People live off that water, more closely than I ever have, and likely ever will. And yet my own demands for oil, for transportation, for heating, for my plastic watch, my plastic pens, my plastic lunch container, my plastic toothbrush…produced in oil-using factories and transported by oil-using vehicles. How am I complicit in this disaster? How much oil do we really need?

For the 40/40 Earth Day Challenge, I am trying to avoid plastic as much as possible for 40 days. It’s certainly impossible in my life right now for me to avoid it all together, but I am starting with awakening to the pervasive presence of plastics in my life and am going to see what I can do to reduce my dependence on oil.

More Resources

Meeting with Monsanto

Last November, Rev. Nate Walker, the minister of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, wrote a sermon that was an open letter to Monsanto, voicing concerns based on his research about the company. He Fed-Exed a copy to Hugh Grant, the CEO of Monsanto, a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. What followed was a series of ongoing conversations and visits between Rev. Nate and Monsanto. Rev. Nate would like to see this company adopt an oath to “do no harm” and play a leadership role in getting the entire field of biotechnology to adopt a similar oath. This process led to a dialogue this past Thursday evening at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, between two senior directors of Monsanto, about a dozen leaders within the congregation and a few others like me, who are particularly interested in and knowledgeable about food issues and environmental justice. We came from a range of backgrounds, including an organic chemist and a ministerial candidate who focuses on issues of food justice.


Environmental Justice and Spiritual Insecurity

As a follow-up to Rowan’s post on Mountain Top Removal  Coal Mining in West Virginia, I want to share the process and one result from a recent theological reflection. As background, you should know that for the last several years Washington Office staff have met approximately once per month to contemplate our views on a particular policy issue or arena.  A few weeks ago, together with a few special guests involved in the partnership between the UU Ministry for Earth and the UUA, we focused on the subject of environmental justice.

We used a reflection process learned in seminary by a colleague; I’m sorry to say that we don’t have more proper attribution than that.  It consists of five questions (and could easily be used by any congregational social justice group wanting to go deeper!):

1. What’s the problem?

2. What’s the source of the problem?

3. What’s the solution?

4. What’s the source of the solution?

5. How do we get there?

One thing from our discussion stuck with me in particular. In the course of discussing the source of the problem, someone used the phrase “spiritual insecurity” to describe one of the factors which drives materialistic overconsumption.  We speculated that this insecurity comes from a lack of connection, whether that be to God, humanity, nature, or what have you.  When we’re not grounded, we tend to treat everything and everybody–including our own selves–worse.

I identify as a religious humanist, and I can definitely attest that I feel most spiritually secure when I feel connected to other people.  I am grateful for the family, friends, colleagues, and congregants in my community. Yet I also feel a sense of connection with all people in the world, based largely on my ethical and Unitarian Universalist beliefs about the commonality and value of all people.  Thus other people’s suffering is also a source of spiritual insecurity, which can be overcome only by my actively working to end oppression.

What does spiritual security look like for you?

Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining in West Virginia

This past weekend, I joined a dozen members of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church in Charlottesville, Virginia on a trip to West Virginia to witness mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining.   On this trip, we visited Larry Gibson on Kayford Mountain and spent time with the UU Congregation of Charleston, WV. The stories we heard were incredibly moving and made me reflect more on the source of our energy and how disconnected we are from it. It is by the grace of coal that I am writing this blog entry right now.

MTR is just one method of mining coal, but it is the most devastating to the land. The land is exploded to make easier access to the coal, and the rubble and byproducts are pushed into valleys and stream beds as “valley fill.” Heavy metals, such as selenium, are exposed and get pushed into the watersheds, causing health issues for people near the mines and downstream. The concentrations are high enough that just downstream from the mountaintop removal mining on Kayford Mountain, fish have both eyes on one side of their heads.

Larry told us that they recently started adding tetrol to the mining explosives. This is a chemical that was banned back in WWII, but the US had stockpiles of it that needed to be depleted. Now, this is in the air and the water people rely on to live.

Who owns the land? How did they get ownership of the land? Why does mountaintop removal coal mining happen, when there are other ways of mining coal that aren’t as destructive to the land, to jobs, and to the health of the people? Why don’t more people know about this, if so much of the country is powered on coal, some of which comes from MTR practices?

I think part of the problem is our disconnection from our resources. Energy comes from so far away, that we don’t see the devastation or feel the effects nearly as strongly from a distance, if we feel them at all. Even so, we our destroying our country’s heritage and some of the oldest mountains in the country. Sacrificing the people of Appalachia to power the rest of the country. We’re seeing this acutely now with the Gulf Coast and oil as well.

I encourage you to read more about MTR. More information can be found on, which is maintained by Appalachian Voices. In 2006, UU congregations passed an Action of Immediate Witness to End Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining. And before long, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church intends to take a show on the road to raise awareness about MTR and move toward action.

May we renew our connection with our planet and extend our idea of caring for our neighbors. May we reduce our energy consumption and raise our awareness about the sacrifices made to fuel our lives. May we move swiftly and as painlessly as possible to a clean energy economy. And may we celebrate and support life for all.

40/40/40 Campaign Ends

Meg: Cutting Out Cane Sugar
I made it!  I learned a lot about how I use sugar to overcome exhaustion–ironic because of course it wears me out!  Now the trick is to keep myself from reverting to old, bad habits.  Interesting that I don’t crave sugar now –I hope I can keep it that way!

Orelia: Local/Sustainable Meat
This weekend, even though the experiment was almost over, I was camping and succumbed to my meat cravings a couple of times.  I was pretty sure that this meat was not locally or sustainably raised.  I wasn’t wracked with guilt, but I was a little disappointed at my own lack of resolve and how easy it was for to justify the slip ups to myself.  I think there’s a lesson here about falling off the proverbial wagon.  I heard this lesson again in a yoga class I took while camping.  The teacher kept repeating, “It’s not how many times you stop, but how many times you start again.”  So at the moment, I’m just working on observing myself and my inclinations and desires, including my wish to live a life that is authentic and sustainable and satisfying.  I’m grateful for the start that 40/40/40 has given me, and I am looking forward to continually starting again.

Rob: Fair Trade Coffee
What stands out as I reflect on my 40/40/40 commitment is the “pregnant pause” that came after I asked a business or friend if their coffee was fair trade. In that brief moment, it felt like everyone (including me) was evaluating the extent to which my request was legitimate and the extent to which it was annoying. I will continue to reflect on this dynamic, and especially how asking for justice can often seem “impolite”. There’s a place for decorum, of course, but perhaps I need to be more comfortable with creating tension for the right reasons.

Rowan: Saying Grace
It was fascinating to see how this played out for me–the messaging I told myself, the time it takes, and the effects of eating with others, and the impact it had on my buying habits. When I focused on gratitude for everything that brought me the food, taking the time was much more enjoyable. It was hard to enjoy my food when I was outraged about everything that I don’t know about the growing methods and how the workers were treated, or the fact that my banana coming from South America cost less than my apple from New England. I found myself paying more close attention in the supermarket about my food choices and growing methods. Sometimes, in a rush, I would think a grace to myself while preparing my food or running around, and I sometimes found it more challenging than I would have expected. Saying grace was a practice I most appreciated when sharing food with friends–good food and good company. I’ve learned that it’s only as powerful as the mindfulness I bring to it.

Susan: No Red Meat
My family gave up red meat for the 40-40-40 campaign. To tell you the truth I felt a bit guilty as I thought we were picking something very easy since we rarely eat it and even more rarely cook it at home. We were surprised to learn that the occasional times we have bacon with our eggs or decide to grab a steak sub rather than cook at all some nights were more frequent than we realized. The capper came when we were attending the local annual May Fair and decided not to get the Indian food we often get that contains red meat. Instead we went to the organic green food both and got falafel salads where we saw among posted factoids the statement that a vegetarian driving a hummer has a smaller carbon foot print than the meat-eating Prius driver. Well I went on the web to learn more about that and found out that particular fact is inaccurate but my research headed me towards a lot of other great perspectives. Here is one I’d like to share My family can’t claim to be vegan bicyclists yet but the spiritual practice and mindfulness of participating in the 40-40-40 with other members of our congregation (First Parish Cambridge) led us to start being mindful in a lot of different ways about our environmental impact. We’re all biking even more and saying no thanks to the hamburgers!

40/40/40 Update – Day 22

Eric: Intentional Gardening
I’m off to a slow start to my 40/40/40 commitment because of some traveling. This past weekend was my actually my first chance to have some quality time in the garden. I was able to be in a good spiritual place when I entered and exited, feeling gratitude and hope. And, most of the time that I was digging, weeding and planting I felt “present”. In the couple days since then the seedlings have needed some care to avoid frost, and that felt spiritually nurturing. On the down-side, I’ve got some of the typical aches and pains that come from gardening and I’m trying to understand them in spiritual context. So, its just the beginning for me, but it feels like I’m off to a good start.

Rob: Fair Trade Coffee
Since none of the coffee shops closest to the office brew fair trade, I found myself asking: how far would I have to go? The good news is: not far. With help from the locator tool from Transfair, I discovered that the national chain Caribou Coffee (with a location two blocks away) will brew cups of fair trade. The somewhat significant catch is that it’s french press style (taking 8 minutes) and costs $3 for a large cup. Thus the award for the closest, cheapest cup of fair trade coffee goes to Bruegger’s Bagels, who offer fair trade (in French Roast and Peach varieties) as part of their regular line up. I’ve never heard of peach coffee, but sometime soon I’ll go have a cup on principle.

Meg: Eliminating Processed Refined Sugars
Halfway through and I’m learning a lot about myself. I had thought I might suffer physical withdrawal from sugar but in fact I’ve seen that it’s much more likely that I want sugar for emotional support, not because it’s a physical addiction. I have learned that alternative sugars (I don’t do the sorbitol route) like syrup or honey make products incredibly more expensive, and a lot of them don’t taste that good either. I’ve realized that making my own stuff is the best way to guarantee that I know what’s in them, so my old college-days health food cookbooks have been out a few times. It’s been fun to bake. Interesting to see the correlation between eating sugar and moving quickly and mindlessly, vs. cutting it out and being more conscious and slowing down.

The real question is: What about when the 40/40/40 challenge is over? Will I stay mindful? So far, I’m ambivalent! It really helps to know that so many other people are challenging themselves during these 40 days.

Orelia: Sustainably and Humanely Farmed Meats and Animal Products
As my venture into eating more sustainably and humanely farmed meats and animal products continues, I find myself often feeling ambivalent and opting to just eat vegetarian rather than expending the effort to get out to the farmers’ market. I really have no excuse. There are several markets throughout the week in the D.C. area, many of which are convenient for me to get to, but I still find it easier to eat and prepare vegetarian food. At the same time, if I’m around other people who are eating meat that doesn’t meet my criteria, I feel like I’m depriving myself and start craving it. I’ve only slipped once, at a communal meal that I was grateful I hadn’t needed to prepare anything for. I think I have a general apathy towards shopping and cooking lately. It doesn’t help that I injured my knee and ankle over the past couple of weeks, and it’s been hard just to get around on foot and bicycle like I usually do. I know I’ll feel better when I actively work to plan make meals that I’m excited about, and when I can get more exercise in general. I’m thinking a lot lately about how food, activity and mood are all connected for me and what really drives my inclinations to make sustainable and healthy choices, and how far I’m willing and able to go to support those choices. And this weekend will surely include one or more trips to a market somewhere in town.

Rowan: Saying Grace before Eating
Now that I’ve been doing this for three weeks, it has become much easier to remember to pause before I eat.  I’m finding that the more that I think about where my food comes from and everything that it took to get it to me, I am appreciating my food so much more and eating more slowly.  I find that when I’m in a rush and don’t think as much about it, I wolf down my food without the same gratitude.

As I’ve explored different topics for grace–the labor, the geographic source, and now the growing methods, I’m finding that like anything, the framing of my intentionality makes a huge difference.  When I expressed gratitude for all the people involved, I enjoy my food so much more than when I spend my moment wondering where my food came from and how it was grown.  The latter is pushing me to eat foods with simpler ingredients (less questions left unanswered!) and to go to the Farmers Market.   The fresh produce is inspiring my cooking once again.  I am reminded both of how little is easily known about most foods found in the grocery store–or a restaurant–and how much actually thinking about these questions regularly can help me align my behavior with my ideals, though it’s not always perfect.

Reflections on the Oil Spill from Rev. Melanie Morel-Ensminger

Written by Rev. Melanie Morel-Ensminger, minister of First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans, on May 5, 2010.  Cross-posted at

The explosion on the high-tech oil rig leased by BP nearly 50 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico happened April 20th. Immediate word was that there had been casualties, but some workers had been able to evacuate in time and were saved. Local news showed footage of the fire in the Gulf, and anxious relatives being ferried to a hotel near the airport to await their loved ones — or word that their beloveds were among the lost. More reports later focused on the funerals of the men (they were all men — for whatever reason, oil rigs are not known to be havens of gender-inclusivity).

Announcements were made on April 21st or 22nd (hard to remember now) that the oil well was being capped as it blew, so (the announcement, presumably from BP, said) there would be minimal leakage of oil into the waters of the Gulf. As I packed for my New York trip on April 23rd, the news seemed to be changing. There WAS a spill, but it wasn’t too bad. When I arrived in New York on the night of April 24th, the media was in full retreat from earlier stories. There WAS a spill, and it WAS bad, it was very bad indeed. It might even be the worst ever.

Storms in the Gulf not only dropped rain on Jazz Fest revelers, it sent the oil slick moving rapidly toward the ravaged Louisiana coast. By the second Jazz Fest weekend, April 29-May 2, some folks in Irish Bayou and even Slidell, claimed they could smell it on the wind. (It may or may not have been the reason that the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin gave to Jazz Fest officials about canceling her set, even though her tour bus was already in New Orleans, and nobody was claiming to be able to smell it from there.)

Folks at Jazz Fest lined up in record numbers to get raw oysters, joking sardonically that it could our last raw oysters for 5-10 years. (If the seedbeds of Louisiana oysters are disturbed, new seed oysters will have to be obtained after the beds are cleaned and then carefully nurtured. it would take between 5 and 10 years to be able to harvest from such new beds.) While they made remarks steeped in disaster-humor, their eyes were alternately angry and sad. Hearing that Halliburton contractors had been involved on the rig, one man said, “Let Cheney pay for the clean-up.” The lead singer for Pearl Jam, on stage at the Fest, suggested that the children of BP executives spend their summer breaks working on the clean-up. He was wildly cheered.

Whether you live here in poor belle NOLA or anywhere else around the country, I know that all of us have been deeply affected emotionally and spiritually from this disaster, and the slow pace and inadequate scope of clean up. I know that all of us, young and old, well-off and struggling, want to do something, but we don’t know what. We know something of what this disaster means in terms of our lives and livelihoods and delicious food and our beautiful marshlands and fragile coastal areas, and the strange and wonderful wild things that live in those places, but there is still a mystery in terms of what happens next, what might happen next.

Here are some concrete ideas for things that can be done, right now, right away, to have a positive effect on the spill clean-up. And if there are those of you who read this who know of other things we can do, please do let me know so I can help spread the word.

#1 It is well-known that the containment booms for oil spills are filled with waste materials like hair, fur, and old nylons. (Check-out the YouTube video clip entitled “Hair Soaks Up Oil Spills“.) Collections of hair clippings from barbers and salons and fur clippings from pet groomers would be of tremendous assistance. A local hotel is working with a local environmental organization, Matter of Trust, to coordinate donations of old hosiery, pantyhose, stockings, clipped hair, and fur from pet groomers; that is the Ritz Carlton Hotel, 921 Canal St., NOLA 70130, 504-670-2817. Packages must be clearly labeled, such as “PANTYHOSE” or “HAIR CLIPPINGS”. If you live in New Orleans, you can drop off labeled packages of your old stockings right at the valet entrance of the hotel. You can also call your hair salon and dog groomer and request that they save all hair and fur for this important cause.

#2 If you are financially able, you can contribute to help the people who are hurt most. A fund has been set up by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund, to collect money to benefit local communities (in Plaquemines, St. Bernard, and lower Jefferson parishes) most adversely affected by the disaster, who are mostly poor/economically marginal, Islenos, Vietnamese, or African American). Donations can be made online, and more information gathered, at

#3 If you are able and willing to, you can volunteer to help.  In-person volunteers can register with the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, or through the Sierra Club. Recovery from this, as from Katrina, will be a marathon, not a sprint. We will need a lot of help for quite some time to come.

#4 If you live or visit near the Louisiana-Mississippi coast, and need to report damaged wild life or shoreline, these are the numbers to call: for oiled wildlife 866-557-1401; for damaged coastal areas 800-440-0858.

#5 Write and call your elected officials at the federal level. Demand clear procedures for emergencies in the Gulf. Demand accountability for when inevitable accidents happen. Demand immediate federal aid for the coast line, the wild life, and the human communities affected by such disasters.

Finally, we can all pray/meditate/send good thoughts when gathered in our faith communities. We can support and comfort each other in our rage and grief over this new disaster. We can use the work of our hands and the power of our minds to make this better and prevent its recurrence.

To all of you out there standing in solidarity with us in South Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Explosion in the Gulf

Rev Jim VanderWeeleRev. James VanderWeele is minister of Community Church Unitarian Universalist New Orleans and serves on the board of the interfaith community organization Congregations Acting Together.

The world has once again gasped at news from the Gulf, not the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Mexico. We are not threatened by a hurricane this time but the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon. This rig was at the cutting edge of oil-drilling technology. It drilled, then capped, then drilled again. Its floating platform was held in place by a global positioning system.

Dawn of day one
The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on fire

Transoceanic (BP’s renter) was closing a drilling site, preparing to move. There are many safeguards, and all are used before shut-off valves are needed. But this fire surged swiftly. No alarm buttons were pushed. I see a swoo-ooo-ooosh of FIRE, rising 300 feet about the water, …in an instant.

Life was lost; human life on the front end; fish, animals, birds, plants, and Gaia are waiting in line.

Many local groups, including the Sierra Club, called for volunteers. Weather kept relief efforts in the bay for several days. Fishermen, who risk losing their fishing grounds, shrimp and oyster beds, await BP (and the Coast Guard) for approval of a local plan. They want to place booms across the river mouths. Barrier islands (and a few of them still remain) will blunt the impact of the oil on the swamps and marshes further inland but any oil that enters a stream will spread to the interconnecting waterways, channels, and canals emptying into the stream. The current ask (from those who stand to lose their livelihood) is for the fuel (and BP should have some of that) to initiate their coastal protection effort.

At our Sunday morning worship service we have a time for joys and sorrows. Our first three candles were lit for those who died, for the people trying to contain the slick, and for all the creatures that live on our coastline. We are deeply concerned, mostly for our coastline, for the fish and birds that live there, and for all who live in the entire Gulf Coast region. Part of our angst is tied up with governmental/bureaucratic/corporate red tape, colored by the fact that President Bush was ineffective during and after Katrina–while the people suffered. Now we wait to see if President Obama’s administration will manage the clean up effectively.

Early in the morning of the second day of the fire

For several days we thought this was Louisiana light crude, a thinner oil that breaks down quickly when exposed to sunlight and bacteria. But a weekend report said one chemical test showed it may be raw material for asphalt—a heavier oil, impervious to chemical and natural degradation. Yet, other reports say chemicals are being shot by robot subs into the oil’s flow a mile below the surface. These chemicals have broken up the oil, causing a reduced residue to fall to the ocean floor, minimizing the amount of oil that reaches the surface, or so says the latest report.

Any hope for a minimal environmental impact was shattered this morning (May 3rd). Jellyfish and sea turtles have washed up on the Mississippi shores. Some of these turtles are on the verge of extinction. This may be the final straw for them. Oil is already in the coastal currents. This current carries water down the western edge of Florida. The Florida Keys may soon see oil on their beaches.

Oil on the ocean surface burns

One more thought. The plates of our planet are moving. Earthquakes and volcanoes may well be a signal. Yet we puncture Gaia’s epidermis with our most modern syringes. We drain out our earth’s fluids then throw it into our atmosphere and seem to expect our eco-system will not respond. May this be a warning, a warning we will remember, long after the news-cycle has turned, long after the Gulf returns to health.