Lafayette, Louisiana — It’s a steamy, early-summer day in Southern Louisiana – expecting the “heat index” to top out today around 108 degrees F! – but it’s good to be back on the ground here. I’ve been coming every few months for the past two years, producing a documentary film, and it’s started to feel like a second-home. One with really good food … and music.
Yesterday, evidence of the impact of the oil spill came home when I went in search of an oyster po-boy. At the first couple stops, café owners apologized for not having any … a first in their lifetimes … because the oyster beds have been shut now for more than five weeks. When I finally did find one, something didn’t feel quite right, so I asked: The oysters came from … somewhere else, outside Louisiana, was all the server could offer with a shrug.
While the spill is conversation number one (with World Cup football second), I can feel a kind of creeping frustration/resignation settling in.
In Lafayette, which has more oil-industry jobs per capita than anywhere other than Midland, Texas, there’s a fair amount of rumbling in the bars and on the street corners about the deepwater drilling moratorium, with a majority believing the New Orleans’ federal judge’s decision to start up again is a good one.
There’s lots of concern about where all that oil waste is heading. A few people have brought up concerns about the health of the workers involved in the clean-up; apparently BP is against the workers wearing respirators on the job because 1) it looks bad on camera and 2) they’re afraid people with their faces covered are going to overheat and collapse.
There’s concern too that while BP appears to be saying all the right things right now in regard to its long-term commitment and willingness to pay all “legitimate” claims that six months from now, a year from now … locals will be locked in fights with the mega-company for their money.