How to Help in the Gulf

How to Help in the Gulf

A guide to volunteering and to taking political action to make another spill less likely.

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More than two months after the BP oil spill began in the Gulf of Mexico, there are still countless unanswered, yet critical, questions. How much oil is actually out there? What will it take to bring the spill under control? What are the long-term consequences of the dispersant chemicals being used? Can the damage ever be undone? What can we do?

The online publication Tonic — "a digital media company dedicated to promoting the good that happens around the world each day" — recently published a very good survey of groups offering effective volunteer opportunities to help clean up the Gulf. Some of the groups mentioned below were drawn from this good list.

The Louisiana Gulf Response is a coordinated effort bringing together the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, the National Wildlife Federation, the National Audubon Society and the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. Volunteers are needed to assist with a variety of tasks, including assisting oiled wildlife, monitoring and photographing oil movement and providing a boat and driver for response activities. No specific training or experience is necessary though certain tasks, such as washing oiled birds, may require specific certifications or skills. Pre-veterinary students, veterinary technicians and anyone with experience in dealing with wildlife handling, rehabilitation, or hazardous materials are especially valuable as volunteers.  Click here to sign up.

In addition to serving as a core organization in the Louisiana Gulf Response, the National Audubon Society has created a National Oil Spill Response Center in Mississippi to serve as the hub for its recovery effort throughout the Gulf. The group’s planners estimate that some 13,000 volunteers will be needed for a thorough coastal bird survey; to assist with the transport of injured and oiled wildlife throughout the coastal region; to make nets and cages to assist professionals with oiled bird rescue efforts; and to staff the Bird Hotline. Go to Audubon.org for more information and to sign up.

The Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service has already registered more than 4,500 volunteers, which it is actively deploying. "Currently we have not seen impact on our actual beaches, but once oil reaches the Mississippi shoreline, we anticipate a need for additional volunteers to assist in the oil spill response," says Emily Wilemon, public affairs specialist for the commission. Volunteers are still needed to keep watch for oiled wildlife and assist nonprofits and individual residents along the gulf coast.

The Sierra Club is mobilizing volunteers for a range of responsibilities on its website and via a new Facebook page where you can find volunteer opportunities and updated spill information. The venerable environmental non-profit is also partnering with Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Foundation to hold hundreds of house-parties nationwide during the week of June 28th, where people can talk with their friends about how to mobilize the political power to move the US beyond an increasingly debilitating oil dependency.

The National Wildlife Federation has established volunteer Gulf Coast Surveillance Teams to track and report on the impacts of the oil spill, support wildlife rescue and rehabilitation efforts, and restore damaged delicate coastal ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico.  There are important roles for anyone to play but people with skills in wildlife observation and tracking (bird watchers, naturalists, or hunters) and those who know many of the species of birds, fish, turtles, marine mammals and other animals that will be at risk from the oil spill are especially valuable. Donations are also critically important. You can send contributions specifically earmarked for the National Wildlife Federation’s efforts on-the-ground in the Gulf.

Greenpeace is urging people to use this moment as an opportunity to wake up the country to the perils of a deepening oil dependency and the importance of investing in clean energy alternatives. Spread the group’s new report, Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable USA Energy Outlook, a blueprint for building the clean energy economy of the future, join Greenpeace’s call for a ban on all new oil drilling to avoid another spill disaster and make a donation to support Greenpeace’s work combating the BP spill.

The NRDC is also asking supporters to urge their senators to support and pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation that will cut our dependence on oil, put a firm limit on global warming pollution and prevent future oil spills.

Please use the comment fields below to let us know about other worthwhile opportunities to help salvage the Gulf.

Research assistance provided by Aaron Ross.

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