August 13, 2010, 02:00 PM ET
How a Trip to the Gulf Activated Me
Following is a guest post by Geoff Livingston, co-founder of the consulting company Zoetica, a communications consulting company that works with nonprofit groups and other organizations that promote social change.
In June, I had the privilege of being a part of a four-person fact-finding mission to analyze how the oil spill has affected Gulf States. This fieldwork was just devastating, and it prompted us to create a series of efforts to activate national interest in helping the Gulf.
I've visited developing countries before in Latin America, Egypt, and the Caribbean, and, unfortunately, many of the communities in Louisiana could fall into the same category. Everywhere you go, you see poverty and a malaise resulting from successive crushing events. This area has been dealt many blows in the past five years, most notably Hurricane Katrina and the Deep Horizon accident, but also Hurricane Rita and the economic "great recession" affecting all of America, particularly workers with a high-school education or less.
The sites told the story. As soon as you tour the massive ghost town known as the Ninth Ward in New Orleans, you realize how bad it really is here. In neighboring Saint Bernard's Parish, it seemed like every third home was still abandoned.
From food lines and children running around shelters and community centers to devastated broken fishers wondering what's next and militarized action centers, the people of Louisiana seemed to be reeling. Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama were also negatively affected, but not as badly (at least to my eyes) as the parishes were.
There's a grim but determined survivor's attitude to the locals. They seem resigned to the plight and ready themselves to tough it out. No one really believes BP or the Obama administration will truly help the region. Instead, they believe they will be left to languish. And many feel the best thing both parties can do is get out of the way.
Unlike some of my friends, my heart is not conditioned to the rigors of regular fieldwork.
I felt compelled to act. To me, as a fellow countryman, it seems that we should do more. We cannot leave Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf region to deteriorate as a result of poor governance and corporate malfeasance. We can't solve the problem independently, but if we each address the Gulf issues that speak to us most, we can offer this region better days.