ACTIVIST POST INTERVIEW: Getting Dirty in Louisiana with Gulf Activists — Dirty Cajuns

23 Jun

ACTIVIST POST

We conducted an e-mail interview on June 22 with Mike Baldwin who details the latest from his area of the Gulf.  For more information about Dirty Cajuns and contact information for how you can become involved, please visit their PROFILE PAGE.

What are the current conditions in your area, and how have they changed since the spill began?

As far as the area where Drew (founder and main contributor of dirtycajuns.com) and myself live: we haven’t been affected directly by the oil. We’re further west and inland from where the oil is currently hitting shore. Drew has been traveling to coastal communities and documenting what is happening there, and you can see the conditions as we found them at the time at The Dirty Cajuns YouTube Channel. What we have seen locally is shifts in supplies of seafood and that will affect jobs and prices here. Obviously these pale in comparison to what’s happening in the coastal communities that are bearing the brunt of this disaster, as their way of living is being eradicated by polluted waters and politics.


What is the primary concern among people in your area?
I think the primary concern is: what are the long term effects going to be? We’re all talking about the health ramifications; and especially if a hurricane hits any part of the state people are concerned about the aftermath of that. Job prospects are another grave concern. Louisiana’s economy stayed relatively strong after the banking collapse in 2008, but that was largely due to the fact the economy here is driven by oil and natural gas production. I know in the 1980s Lafayette experienced an exodus due to job relocation to Texas; while I don’t believe it will be as dramatic as it was then, no one is really sure what’s going to happen next. The economy here has diversified since then, but is it enough? Time will tell.


Have you been receiving any cooperation from government agencies?
As an organization we’ve been focusing on reporting how local workers and citizens are reacting to the aftermath of this disaster. We really haven’t had too much contact with government organizations yet, but it’s obvious that the US Coast Guard and USGS are out there; we just haven’t dealt with them yet. For the most part, they’re unwilling to talk to us because of the current litigation.


What is the primary goal of your organization?
Our primary goal is to show the public what is going on and how people feel without the limits that are typical to traditional media. We see ourselves as a new media outlet for what’s going on the Gulf Coast and how people feel about it. We aim to bring stories that are often not heard for more than 5 seconds because of time limitations in a news package. We hope that by showing real people and allowing their stories to be told, people will see the personal side to the stories and not just what traditional media deems fit for publication.


Is there an issue that you feel is not being reported by the mainstream media?
There are a lot of issues at hand that the mainstream media hasn’t touched for whatever reason. Singling out a particular one is hard to do because issues seem to be rising faster than can be reported. What doesn’t help the cause is that BP is starting to do media blackouts resulting in that the real stories aren’t told. So I don’t necessarily blame the traditional media for not telling the whole story because I think their access is being limited by BP who have realized that their public image is only getting worse.


What is the best way people can contribute to your efforts?
I think the best thing people can do is to reflect on what skill sets they can contribute to this recovery process. Dollars and cents to the cause is definitely a great start, but I think action speaks louder than that. Because the extent of the damage hasn’t been assessed, and some areas are too hazardous for untrained citizens to work in, I think people need to start getting creative about what they can do. Keeping politicians accountable to their promises is a start, but overall I think if more people voiced their opinion and acted on it, a lot more could be accomplished.


Do you have any personal statement you wish to add?
Overall, as an organization we are committed to documenting what is happening for posterity and awareness. We hope that the work we’re doing will inspire others to not turn a blind eye to the disaster and actually take action to change the current conditions.

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