This week, CAP’s Brad Johnson traveled the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Pensacola, learning how the people of the region are preparing for the oil disaster growing off their shores. Here’s what he learned in Biloxi:
Over two weeks have passed since BP’s “safe” Deepwater Horizon exploratory rig exploded 40 miles off the Louisiana coast, killing 11 workers and unleashing an unstaunched undersea torrent of oil. Scientists shudder to think of the potential ecological catastrophe, and previously pro-drilling officials are scrambling to respond to the disaster.
Meanwhile, the residents of the coast express a mixture of resignation and determination. The people are tied together by the effort to rebuild from Hurricane Katrina, whose devastation is still evident all along the coast. Once-thriving seaside resorts are quiet, backwater communities decimated, and the joyous spirit of New Orleans still has a somber current, five years after the global-warming-fueled storm scoured the Gulf Coast.
The Biloxi NAACP has its headquarters on Main Street, next to a Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen. Biloxi NAACP President James Crowell discussed his city and the threat of the BP oil disaster with the Wonk Room in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. He described how the oil’s destruction of the sea puts the culture of the city “” from the fish called “Biloxi bacon” by locals to the shrimp boils at every family gathering “” at risk. Crowell also discussed the health, economic, and environmental dangers of this catastrophe, which will hit the most vulnerable residents the hardest:
A lot of people have health problems now, from Katrina. We’re likely to see more health problems with the oil coming in to the waters of Biloxi. There’s still people suffering from mental cases of anguish because of that Katrina. This just doubles that, something else for them to worry about.
Watch the interview:
Biloxi, MS, is a city of sharp contrasts, from mega-casinos on its white beaches to the endemic poverty of Main Street a few blocks away. With the Keesler Air Force Base, casinos, and the port and fishing industries providing an economic engine, Biloxi has some of the best elementary schools in the state and a highly-trained blue-collar workforce. But as the seas rise and storms strengthen, the peninsular city is on the front lines of global warming “” it has lost 12 percent of its population since Katrina, and home insurance rates have become ruinously expensive. Biloxi also suffers the fate of being in a state run by Gov. Haley Barbour (R), a corrupt oil-industry lobbyist who fights on the side of pollution and tried to reject the federal stimulus.