THE HITS KEEP COMING: It hasn’t been a great year for British Petroleum (BP). There’s been some good news, of course. Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government’s point man on the Gulf oil spill, said over the weekend that a permanent cement plug had finally sealed BP’s broken well. But the firm must finish paying claims to all of the people affected by the spill, which promises to be a long, difficult and emotional process. Attorney Ken Feinberg, the so-called “claims czar” in charge of the BP-funded Gulf Coast Claims Facility, found that out the hard way when, according to a report in the Mobile Press-Register, he was cursed and insulted by angry residents who attended a public meeting in Houma, La., early last week. As if to add symbolic insult to injury, a new ranking by the firm Interbrand of the world’s most valuable brands shows that BP has dropped out of the top 100, according to an Associated Press report. BP will also have to pay hefty government fines for the damage their oil has done to the environment. Our next Green Brief offers some information about how that final tally is being determined by the feds.
BODY COUNT: Hundreds of biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are assessing the environmental impact of the oil spill on the Gulf Coast, particularly it’s impact on wildlife, according to an FWS news release. “We are recording every bird we see, including commonly seen species, those that might have been oiled by the spill or dead birds,” according to Mitch Sternberg, biologist with the federal South Texas Refuge Complex. “Obviously, birds die of natural causes, and these surveys help determine what is normal and what was because of the spill.” Dead birds are collected and necropsied to determine cause of death. The process establishes the damage to natural resources from an environmental mishap so the responsible party—in this case, BP—can pay to restore the impacted area. While birds are the primary focus, other federal and state agencies are conducting surveys of such resources as soil, water, vegetation, sea turtles and marine mammals. The Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) process being used in the aftermath of the spill was authorized under the federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which followed the disastrous 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.
AND NOT A DROP TO DRINK: According to Clean Water Action (CWA), which bills itself as the country’s “largest grassroots water protection organization,” the United States could be facing a national crisis in water quality and supply that could have serious effects on our health and economy. A news release from CWA recommends that we peruse a new report called “Charting New Waters: A Call to Action to Address U.S. Freshwater Challenges.” According to the release, the report identifies numerous challenges to the quality of our fresh water, including pollution, climate change and competition for water between urban and rural areas. The report’s recommendations include streamlining and better coordinating the responses of federal, state and local governments to the problem. For additional information about A Call to Action, visit the web site of the Johnson Foundation at www.johnsonfdn.org. Learn more about CWA at www.cleanwateraction.org
GET YOUR FRY ON: The Cahaba River Society (CRS) will hold a fundraiser, the “Cahaba River Fry-Down,” this Saturday, September 25, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., at Trussville Springs, located at 6655 Gadsden Highway. The event will feature a fish fry competition with live music, catfish and sides, youth boat and rubber duck races, nature hikes, water conservation education booths, lessons in fly fishing and rock skipping, children’s water-play area and river-related crafts. Admission is $20 for adults; children 12 and under will be admitted free. To find out more, call the CRS at (205) 322- 5326 or visit www.frydown.com.
MORE GREEN FUNDRAISING: Green Drinks Birmingham, an eco-themed social networking group, will host a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Light The Night Walk” at Rogue Tavern downtown on Tuesday, September 28, from 6:30-9 p.m. The event will be co-hosted by YPBirmingham. Each person who donates $5 or more will be entered in a prize drawing. YPBirmingham cardholders will receive an additional entry for each donation of $5 or more. Learn more about Green Drinks at www.greendrinks.org/AL/ Birmingham, AL. Learn more about the LLS at www.lls.org/hm_lls. The “Light the Night Walk” is scheduled for October 14 at The Summit.
I SEE DEAD PEOPLE: National wildlife refuges protect not only natural resources but cultural ones, including historic homes, archeological digs and even graveyards and burial grounds, according to a news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For example, the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia is the site of 34 cemeteries, some of which contain the graves of Revolutionary War and Civil War veterans. Among the national wildlife refuges that contain burial grounds is Alabama’s Key Cave National Wildlife Refuge, located near Florence. The area takes its name from plantation owner William Key, whose land is now part of the refuge, according to Wikipedia.com. A slave cemetery called “Key Cemetery” is located there. Key Cave Refuge also provides habitat for the Alabama cavefish, one of the rarest of all freshwater fish, and up to 40,000 endangered gray bats. Learn more at www. fws.gov/keycave. For information about other cemeteries and burial grounds at wildlife refuges, visit www.fws.gov/piedmont/cemeteries.html.
GET THE SKINNY ON FUR: Skin Trade, a documentary feature on the alleged evils of the fur industry, was released on DVD September 21, according to a news release from Evolotus PR. The film was directed by Shannon Keith, a Los Angeles-based animal rights attorney and filmmaker. According to the release, Skin Trade uses undercover footage—including hidden-camera footage from Los Angeles fur salons—to expose the “cruelty, fraud and deception” of fur farmers, trappers and retailers. Despite industry claims that fur is “green,” its processing uses lots of toxic chemicals, according to environmental attorney Jan Schlichtmann, who appears in the film and whose case against corporate polluters was dramatized in the feature film A Civil Action. Several experts in the film dispute claims that the fur industry supports the preservation of Native American culture. The film features interviews with Schlichtmann, U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich, fashion designer Todd Oldham and such “actor/activists” as James (Babe, Six Feet Under) Cromwell and Alexandra (Baywatch) Paul. The DVD is available for sale at www.skintradethemovie.com. There is also the inevitable Facebook page, and clips of the film are available at www.youtube.com/user/uncagedfilms.
GET OUT AND GIVE BACK: O.K., getting drunk, getting naked and getting laid during your spring break is fun (or so I’m told). OK, so it’s REALLY fun. But there is a way to have fun while also doing some good for the world. The American Hiking Society’s Alternative Break program provides the opportunity to connect with nature, meet like-minded people and work on a week-long trail- building project on America’s public lands. And you don’t have to have prior experience hiking or doing trail maintenance. The 2011 Alternative Break schedule offers a variety of project types, locations, accommodations and difficulty levels and can accommodate college groups or individual students. Tools, food and project supervision are included in the registration fee, and all trips provide free time to explore the surrounding landscape. And hey, maybe there’s enough free time that you can still get drunk, naked and laid. After all, why not multi-task? To view the 2011 trip schedule, visit www.americanhiking.org. To register or learn more about the program, please call (800) 972-8608.