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Planning the Response: Establishing the Impacts and Identifying the Parties at Risk

09/28/2010 3:00 PM E14"674
Amy Glasmeier, Department Head, Professor of Geography and Regional Planning, DUSP; Wyman Briggs, Preparedness Specialist, US Coast Guard; Earthea Nance, Assistant Professor, Department of Urban Studies, University of New Orleans) ; James Thu (Dien) Bui, Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation

Description: The Deepwater Horizon disaster spread through not just a vast coastal ecosystem, but into diverse human communities lining the Gulf, many entirely dependent on the sea for their livelihoods. These three panelists describe their involvement in quite disparate response projects, which began shortly after the oil began gushing, and in some areas, continue today.

Working for the federal government, Wyman Briggs observed firsthand the massive resources brought to bear on the 4.9 million barrel spill: 48 thousand responders from 500 agencies and 20 different countries working at the peak of the emergency; 870 miles of boom and hundreds of skimming vessels deployed; 411 controlled burns of oil, and 770 thousand gallons of dispersant deposited. In spite of this armada reining in and attacking the mess, the technology (much of it unimproved in decades) left 26% of the oil unaccounted for. Scientists believe it is traveling in a "significant plume" deep in Gulf waters, says Briggs. And armies of people are still "working in marshes and walking the beaches" scooping up tarballs, sampling water, studying the effectiveness of dispersants and burning, and mapping out restoration and remediation

The spill made one thing clear, says Earthea Nance: the "relationship between economic development decisions and the impact on the environment." She frames this disaster in terms of "shrimp vs. petroleum," and as "the latest in a cumulative series of cascading disasters" for coastal communities rocked hard by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and the 'great recession.' Nance organized hearings where economically struggling residents voiced great concern about the "loss of a way of life and culture, which is based on the environment." They also worried that their air, water and soil are contaminated. Nance brought groups from Alaska affected by the Exxon Valdez spill to talk about their multi"decade trauma with legal claims, and the demise of fisheries. Gulf communities, she says, want to be more involved in monitoring the impacts to their environment. There is a major opportunity here, Nance believes, to train the long"term unemployed for new, green jobs.

When the BP rig blew, the timing could not have been worse for the 4,500 Vietnamese "Americans plying Gulf waters for shrimp, says James Dien Bui. Katrina left these seasonal workers saddled with debt, and the loss of another income"producing spring proved devastating to these family businesses. Bui led hundreds of focus groups from Alabama to Louisiana to discuss the challenges of Vietnamese" American communities, and found them craving "access to accurate and timely information," in language and forms they could understand. Some of these people are victimized by "predatory lawyers" offering instant cash for entering class action suits. Most of all, they want their jobs back. Bui is focusing on two priorities: helping residents with disaster claims; and creating "one"stop business centers" for job training and placement in such sustainable projects as an aquaculture park. One recent success: catering locally sourced food to create healthy meals in a New Orleans charter school.

About the Speaker(s): Amy Glasmeier was previously on the faculty at Penn State and the University of Texas at Austin, and was the John Whisman Scholar of the Appalachian Regional Commission. She holds a B.S. in Environmental Studies and Planning from Sonoma State University and an M..A and Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley. Her publications consist of more than 50 scholarly articles and several books, including Manufacturing Time: Global Competition in the World Watch Industry, 1795"2000 (Guilford Press, 2000); and From Combines to Computers: Rural Services and Development in the Age of Information Technology with Marie Howland (SUNY Press, 1995). Her most recent book,An Atlas of Poverty in America: One Nation, Pulling Apart 1960"2003 (Routledge Press, 2005), examines the experience of people and places in poverty since the 1960s, looks across the last four decades at poverty in America and recounts the history of poverty policy since the 1940s.

Host(s): School of Science, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences

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