Georgianne Nienaber: Shortly after the Transocean/Deepwater Horizon wellhead exploded, Benjamin assembled a volunteer group of technology and web design experts, journalists, legal and business professionals and ordinary individuals who wanted to help with the spill crisis.
Georgianne Nienaber: LaDuke slammed the Minnesota Ottertail Power Company for being “punitive” in its refusal to allow the White Earth Recovery Project to supply its own power and have some to sell to the rest of the grid. Minnesota has the strictest electrical inspection standards in the United States.
Georgianne Nienaber: Journalists have a responsibility to examine the science and it will not be easy. The public has a responsibility to learn more about their environment. It is obvious that government is not looking out for Gulf Coast residents. Communities will be forced to step in and do independent monitoring.
Georgianne Nienaber: There is a deep distrust of anything British Petroleum has to say here in south Louisiana, and the President’s claim that 90 percent of the flow will be stopped by the middle of July is being roundly criticized. If the number came from BP, there is good reason to be incredulous.
Georgianne Nienaber: The boom material used by British Petroleum to contain the massive river of oil that it flowing into the Gulf of Mexico is not working. So, ask yourself why BP is unwilling to use a product that seems far superior to the bloated, filthy, broken “sausage” absorbent boom that is washing up along miles of sensitive marshlands on the Louisiana Coast.
Georgianne Nienaber: Dawn offered a grand sunrise, and as our skiff skimmed over relatively flat seas, the endless sky was a counterpoint to the sickening sheen on the water’s surface, blobs of red-orange light crude, and worse yet, bubbles of foam and oil that indicated controversial dispersants had done their job, suspending oil in the water column, making the water opaque and denying sunlight to the organisms below.
Georgianne Nienaber: Haiti is not waving at America. Haiti has the professional expertise to help itself, if only given the opportunity and monetary support to do so. Yes, accountability is needed, but for USAID to suggest that “aid professionals” are the only entities that can accomplish this is not true. Haiti is not an abandoned infant, needing a savior. Abandoned by the international banking community, yes, but fully capable of taking care of her people if given the resources to do so.
Georgianne Nienaber: Amidst additional news that British Petroleum has been slow or negligent in the release of flow data and videos of the catastrophic rupture of the Transocean/Deepwater Horizon wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico, there is another story that is crying for attention. A revered Chief of the Chahta Indians, the youngest brother of the Neville Brothers Band, and a Catholic nun know the stories of the dispossessed Indians, shrimpers, fishermen and women, oysterers and business owners deep in the wetlands and bayous of south Louisiana. They want to be heard.
Georgianne Nienaber: Writing about the shattered hopes and dreams of the Haitian people is like trying to describe the movements of a symphony to a hearing-impaired person. How does one separate the elements of the whole, the hundreds of conversations, pleas, and stories that assault the senses, while explaining to an indifferent world that they must open their eyes because the cries of the Haitian people are certainly falling on deaf ears?
Georgianne Nienaber: In an unbelievable lack of planning and haphazard distribution of “aid,” a Potemkin Village of white tents courtesy of USAID’s implementing partners, World Vision and OXFAM, now adjoins Camp Canaan. Look beneath the surface of this flagship Haitian government project and one realizes that the residents of “Camp Corail” are really no better off than the residents of Camp Canaan, except for the fact that their tents do not leak–so far.
Georgianne Nienaber: As she knelt with her back to the writer, the Grandmother stopped the smoothing, stopped the straightening, and grew very quiet. Her shoulders began to heave and it was obvious she was wracked with sobs. The task was hopeless and the Creole cries were soft at first and then became a wail. Not knowing what else to do, the writer sat down in the water and touched the back of the elegant Grandmother.
Georgianne Nienaber: The Institute for Southern Studies (ISS) features a compelling video on its website that documents an overflight at ground zero of the British Petroleum oil catastrophe resulting from the explosion of the Transocean/Deepwater Horizon well platform on April 20. This is the view that cannot be seen from sanitized satellite photos and composite maps depicting the direction and extent of the massive river of oil threatening entire ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico. Tar balls have already been reported on pristine Dauphin Island, and the damage is escalating daily.
Georgianne Nienaber: It has been five years coming, but Susan Cowsill’s second solo CD, Lighthouse (Threadhead), is a triumph over life’s uncertainties in the wake of natural and personal disasters. The album’s lyricism offers hope and inspiration that life indeed goes on if one carries fire in the soul, hope in the heart, and a belief that we are all here for a reason
Georgianne Nienaber: Health care in Haiti before the earthquake was inadequate. Now many health care workers have been killed, others have left the country and those that remain are overwhelmed not only with delivering care, but also with putting their own lives back together and dealing with friends and family who lost everything in the quake. So what happens? Predictably, the international NGOs roll in and force the closure of part of the established infrastructure. Why? One would suspect so that they can garner a part of the billions in funding promised by the UN donor conference.
Georgianne Nienaber: “The problem with public affairs reporting in poor nations is that for the western media there is no news unless horror is ongoing. Real media has vanished.” Let’s hope that the infants in Haiti can miraculously avoid the looming horrors. If they begin dying by the thousands, rest assured mainstream will be there, detailing every last dying breath and the valiant attempts of their celebrity doctors to save lives.
Georgianne Nienaber: Dr. Wilson is pulling no punches and is predicting the possible outbreak of infant diarrheal disease within 30 days. There is no time to waste and it seems unconscionable that CARE would issue a press release, picked up by Reuters (with a disclaimer, but no follow up) that all is well with sanitation in Haiti.
Georgianne Nienaber: Relief efforts are limping along. There are thousands of foreign NGOs on the ground, but no overall organized effort to distribute aid. Compounding the problem is the fact that IDP camps are springing up overnight, and rural areas face a different set of problems than those faced in the city of Port-au-Prince.
Georgianne Nienaber: Needs are many. Temporary classrooms are a must, but tents are impossible to come by here. The current school will never be used, but the field is secured at 83 Delmas Road. She needs $20,000 to pay it off completely. Haitian officials have promised tents, but it is doubtful they will arrive.
Georgianne Nienaber: While Leogane is completely overrun with NGOs, Fayette gets visits from the occasional scientist, and the only camera lens focused on the village is aboard NASA’s EO-1 satellite. Villagers told us they have not seen any aid workers since the quake. Nestled in fertile, natural surroundings along the Momance River, the local population is self-sufficient. They are not requesting money, food or water, but they do not want to be forgotten, either.
Georgianne Nienaber: So, the writer does what writers do and steps back, walking alone and searching for vowels and consonants that might describe what is unseen and impossible to understand. Then something happens that challenges the morality and duty of the writer. There is something on the ground that does not fit the pattern of stones and vegetation. A pelvis attached to a spinal column is lying in the open. Pieces of ribs, a wrist and a forearm are nearby. The writer knows it is human but wants it to be something else. It is familiar and something she has seen before.
Georgianne Nienaber: Regine Simon-Barjon, speaking for the Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce as the CEO of Biotek Solutions did, and she courageously faced off against a room full of companies, some well-intentioned and some not, who were poised to get paid lots of money to provide “aid” to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.