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Hartselle Enquirer

Technology owes the ecology an apology

Every day around 2 p.m., Chris Williamson heads to the public pier in Gulf Shores to do a little fishing. He’s not a professional fisherman, just a guy who finds time to do something he enjoys when he’s finished with his shift at work.
“Guess I will have to find something else to do now,” Williamson said last week, shortly after we met him on the pier. “It’s sad to look out on the water now.”
That’s the sentiment almost everyone we encountered last week expressed to us. We were in Gulf Shores for a conference, arriving just as the first oil from the broken drill made its way to Alabama’s beaches.
It’s a surreal experience to look out and see people in Hazmat suits walking the shoreline.  Seaside, red flags fly, typically a sign of hazardous surf conditions but now with more ominous meaning. There are signs everywhere advising visitors not to get in the water, due to “hazardous chemicals.”
There are other signs, too. “BP now stands for Beach Polluter.” “BP needs to do the right thing.” And “technology owes the ecology an opology.” Those signs can be found on poster boards outside people’s homes and on business marquees.
The anger of those living and working at the shore is palpable. It boiled over last week when BP, previously chided by officials about not hiring local workers to help with the cleanup, employed a large number of Orange Beach residents. Donning white suits and armed with cleanup equipment, the newly hired workers gathered in a beachside parking lot to await instruction.
No one from BP ever arrived. The mayor of Orange Beach took to the airwaves the next day to complain about the lack of coordination.
And that’s what’s most obvious when you’re at the shore now. No one seems to be in charge. The transitory nature of the disaster makes predicting what’s going to happen impossible. No one has any answers on how to stop the leak, what its effect on the environment will be and who will help those people whose livelihood are gone.
The only thing we do know is there are a lot of apologies to go around. I don’t think the people of the Gulf Coast are holding their breath waiting for them, however.
I think they realize the worst may be yet to come.

Eva

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