This morning I watched a sunrise over beautiful Pensacola Beach. Most of the people taking their morning walk on the white sand are here on vacation; I am one of the fortunate who lives and works here. Joined on this particular stretch of beach by a few seagulls, a great blue heron, and a surfer hugging his board, I paused to enjoy a salt breeze blowing out of the south.
We are all following the story of the BP oil explosion on April 20, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. As a resident of Pensacola Beach, Florida, I will have a front row seat to the ecological and environmental impact.
The trajectory maps predict the oil is less than eighty miles away and in some communities along the Gulf Coast the smell of salt water has been replaced with the stench of petroleum. Sadly, the seabirds, the dolphins, and all of our wildlife are especially vulnerable and while they may know something is amiss, they have no knowledge of the imminent danger. As federal waters are being closed to fishing, scores of cancellations for vacations and charter fishing trips are being received. Damage has already been done to the commercial fishing industry, and the poor who have to fish to eat.
As the river of oil continues to flow, threatening our environmental human rights, we are also watching philanthropy’s response to a manmade disaster as opposed to natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes. In the coming days, as we read stories of blame and responsibility, and see media coverage of oil covered pelicans, there will also be stories of philanthropy from compassionate people motivated to be socially responsible and help asses and protect our coastal communities and endangered species.
Federal agencies, local businesses, nonprofits, and assemblies of volunteers continue to prepare for the worst, and hope for the best - for our environment, our heath, and our livelihood.
Brenda Camper is the executive director of the Greater Escambia Community Foundation, Inc.