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The Human and Social Aspects of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The Human and Social Aspects of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

April 30, 2012

The National Research Council’s committee on “The Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Mississippi Canyon-252 Oil Spill on Ecosystem Services in the Gulf of Mexico” met in Mobile, Alabama on April 25-27 to continue its work. The first day of the meeting, April 25, was held at NOAA’s new Disaster Response Center, a state-of-the-art training center, communications center, and stronghold against category 5 hurricanes and force 5 tornados (at least in the vaulted restrooms with IT support). The focus of this public session was to gather input from representatives of various social communities on the effects of the oil spill on their livelihood, way of life and outlook for the future.

The topics included:

  • Louisiana's Finest Ingredients; the Bayou Communities, Shrimping, Crabbing, Oyster Harvesting, and Charter fishing; Natalie Bergeron, Community Advocate
  • United Houma Nation Before and After; Maryal Mewherter, United Houma the BP Oil Spill Nation
  • Cultural Impacts of the BP Oil Spill on Vietnamese Fishermen in the Gulf; Khai Nguyen, MQVN Community Development Corporation, Inc.
  • What is not Known; Jackie Antalan, Operation Homecare
  • Identifying Social Impacts of the BP Disaster: The Tension between Good Measurement and Important Impacts; Shirley Laska, University of New Orleans, Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology

Each speaker brought new insights and details to the committee regarding the human conditions of the coastal communities of the northern Gulf of Mexico through continued natural hazards of hurricanes, continued coastal landscape loss, loss of fishery income from commercial and recreational fishing, volatility of the fishing industry, contaminants in areas near communities, cultural losses, and the additional stress of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Nancy Rabalais, LUMCON, and a member of the committee was especially pleased to have the input of Natalie Bergeron, who also is the U.S. Postal Service mail carrier to LUMCON and all homes and businesses south of mid-Chauvin down to Cocodrie. Ms. Bergeron has been engaged in the recovery of the communities from disasters by assisting in the rebuilding of families and homes through nonprofits and faith-based organizations. She is the Executive Director of Project Learn-LaTerre, a nonprofit providing community-based education services to adults on five bayous. Bergeron is a member of Houma Rotary, a Board member for the Terrebonne Parish Council on Aging and a member of the Class of 2012 for Terrebonne Leadership. Ms. Bergeron’s presentation truly engaged essential elements of the bayou communities. She is a tireless supporter of local citizens and communities in their efforts to maintain a way-of-life and thrive in a changing landscape of coastal Louisiana and economic times. So, next time you hear Natalie yell “MAIL!” from the LUMCON Marine Center lobby upon delivery, remember she is carrying many more messages than the ones in the mail container.