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April 20th, 2011 AILIN DARLING | News Stories
 

Where There’s A Spill, There’s A Way

What one group of Oregonians learned from the BP disaster one year ago.

news7_spill_3724CLEANING BIRDS: This pelican was one of many victims of the BP oil spill. - Image courtesy of Bob Sallinger
Last July, Mike Rosen led a 22-member expedition from Portland to document the aftermath of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, on the anniversary of the April 20, 2010, spill, the group is sharing some of what it learned about the environmental disaster.

The first product from the nonprofit known as PDX 2 Gulf Coast is a 30-minute film called Beyond the Spill, which will premiere at the Alberta Rose Theatre at 7 pm on Wednesday, April 20. One year ago, the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon allowed about 200 million gallons of oil to spill over five months.

Among other effects, the film examines the toxicity of some short-term cleanup efforts.

“Beach cleanup is an industrial operation,” says Rosen, a City of Portland watershed resource manager. “If you run a beach through a washing machine, it’s clean, but it’s also dead.”

Included is footage from visits to a bird-cleaning facility, an experience Rosen says affected him deeply.

“There is literally a cottage industry that goes from spill to spill, cleaning up birds,” he says. “The physical trauma of being cleaned often kills more birds than it saves.” (Also showing April 20 on HBO is Saving Pelican 895, a documentary by Portland filmmakers Irene Taylor Brodsky and Peter D. Richardson.)

Rosen says his comments to a friend on the pointlessness of a “Fuck BP” T-shirt led her to send him a list of relief organizations working on the Gulf Coast, along with a message reading, “Let me know when you want to load up the van.” (See “Peek Oil,” WW,  July 14, 2010.) And he acted on that challenge—accompanied by 22 local journalists, artists, documentary filmmakers and activists. Over nine days, the group flew to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Their documentary film will be made available to schools, released on DVD and submitted to environmental film festivals.

The group’s other efforts are gaining momentum as well. Just Below the Surface, an educational series of essays and learning tools sponsored by the Northwest Earth Institute, has already attracted interest from local high schools and college environmental groups. And Oil and Water, a graphic novel written by The Oregonian’s Steve Duin and illustrated by New Yorker cartoonist Shannon Wheeler (Too Much Coffee Man), hits shelves sometime this fall. But Rosen sees this week’s anniversary of the disaster as a key time for the group’s efforts.

“The anniversary is the next, and maybe last, time we’ll acknowledge the oil spill,” says Rosen. “So much oil was released. It’s in the environment and moving in a way we don’t understand.” 

 
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