Friday, 4 June 2010

Don't let disaster fatigue get in the way of giving a shit.

As someone who recently shaved her head for a good cause (see pic), I couldn't help but feel a natural affinity for those people in the US who were chopping their mops, butchering their barnets and shaving their pets, in order to donate the absorbent hair to the oil clean up campaign. Good for them I thought. As it turns out their efforts, though honorable, were sadly in vain as BP have not capitalized on these offerings (which were admittedly not a BP solicitation, rather that of not for profit organisation, Matter of Trust) and to this point have chosen to rely on Sorbent Boom, which works in a similar fashion and which they claim they have plenty of. I can only hope that this news, featured on the Huffington Post last weekend, hasn't done anything to dampen the spirits of those willing (and skilled enough) to help, both in terms of man hours and exposure for the cause.

For while the news today that BP have capped the rupture and are able to funnel around 1000 barrels a day (admittedly a paltry amount), might give a slight indication that things are starting to take a turn for the better, it is by no means a sign that anyone involved can afford to rest easy. As it stands we still have no idea what the long term consequences of this disaster will be, however one thing is clear, they will be felt long after the camera crews have left the scene and long after the daily pourings of outrage have disappeared from the pages of our newspapers and blogs.

Disaster fatigue, coupled with the short memories and somewhat fickle aspects of human nature, can be detrimental to any major incident that strives to remind people that things do not magically repair themselves when the rest of the world looks away. Have Thailand and Sri Lanka recovered fully from the Tsunami? Have Haiti and Chile put their countries back together after their earthquakes (don't be too hard on yourself if you can't quite remember what happened in Chile, it was only one of the largest recorded quakes of all time, killed around 500 people and left thousands homeless, but coming in the wake of Haiti the global media decided that we'd really all had enough of that sort of thing)? Well, have they? Have they knickers.

Anyone who has been following David Simon's wonderful Treme, set in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, will no doubt know what I'm getting at; the show depicts the lives of those who are left to pick up the pieces when their personal disaster is no longer the headline grabbing, media magnet it once was. I only hope that 5 years down the line it doesn't take another great TV program to remind the world exactly what happened on the Gulf Coast in the Spring of 2010.

To all the people who are working now and in the future to deal with the fall out from Deepwater Horizon and to those who have to live with the day to day impact,  I can only speak as an observer, typing from the comfort of my home thousands of miles away. But know this, when the spotlight is no longer fixed on you, there will still be those, myself included, who will be ever appreciative of the tremendous work you are doing.

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