The ongoing catastrophe happening in the Gulf of Mexico isn’t nearly over yet and its effects will be with us for the rest of our lives. It’s difficult for adults to grapple with it... personally I cannot bear to watch or even listen to news stories about the many animals that have been soaked with petroleum. So how do we discuss it with children?
The National Wildlife Federation web site has a page where Ranger Rick answers kids’ questions about The Big Oil Spill. For parents and teachers, another article on the site has many good tips. They include how to talk with kids of varying ages and stay as positive as possible (e.g. about how people are working hard to shut down the leak, contain the spill, clean up beaches, and help wildlife.) An excellent suggestion is to foster children’s love of nature by taking them to parks and other natural areas. The NWF has a special web site called Be Out There devoted to that goal.
Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research is in the forefront of the response on behalf of wildlife. This page shows before and after pictures of an oily pelican that was cleaned up. I can personally attest that the process works—in the early 1980s before moving to Florida, I volunteered for a short time at Tri-State which is located in Newark, Delaware. It was a little tricky hanging onto an oil-slicked goose long enough to wash it, but with plenty of hands around the washtub, we managed. There were other stories, such as having to use the bathroom while a hawk perched on the shower curtain rod above. Solution? I held a trash can lid over my head in case he felt like taking an unscheduled flight. Looking at the photograph of the current facility, it looks like they’ve come a long way since those early days.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a multi-page story on its site about the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound that summarizes the spill, recovery efforts, and the extent of the area’s recovery. They need to update one fact on the site, though...the 1989 disaster is no longer the largest oil spill to occur in U.S. waters. Their FAQ page includes how spills spread, information about dispersants, how oil spills in rivers are different than those in the ocean, and science fair ideas on related topics.
In the coming days, what can we do to respond to this event?
Read about environmental issues
The list of winners of the Green Book Award has a variety of options from picture books to YA titles. A few titles specifically about oil spills can be found on Amazon such as Oil Spills by Peggy J. Parks (2006), Oil Spill! by Melvin Berger (1994), and Prince William by Gloria Rand (1994), about a girl who finds an oil-drenched baby seal.
Find ways to reduce your energy use
We can’t ignore the fact that we utilize petroleum directly or indirectly all day long, which is why drilling goes on in the first place. The least we can do is work to reduce our energy use.
Some relevant titles include Love Your World (DK Publishing, 2009), Why Should I Save Energy? and related titles by Jen Green (2005), and Easy to Be Green, by Ellie O’Ryan (2009). My recently released picture book The Shocking Truth about Energy has several pages of energy-saving tips towards the end of the book. Read more in this previous post.
Help those directly affected by the disaster
Tri-State Bird Rescue has many options from adopting a bird to adding a leaf to the Tree of Life in their lobby.
If possible, visit the affected Gulf Coast areas to support their tourist industry.
Last but definitely not least, don’t miss this inspiring story and video about Olivia Bouler, an 11-year-old girl who has already raised over $100,000 for conservation charities such as The Audubon Society by sending her beautiful bird drawings and paintings to people who donate. Check out her Facebook page and also Audubon’s Gulf Oil Disaster donation page.