Kids and the Gulf Coast’s Future
By Terry Ippolito
There are lots of conflicting opinions about oil drilling. Some people are really against and some are in favor of oil drilling. Did you know there are some people who think a moratorium on oil drilling could actually have harmful effects in their communities? Before you wonder how anyone could think that, let me tell you about some kids who feel that way….
A group of action-oriented teenagers from Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes in Louisiana have formed a group, Future Leaders of America’s Gulf (FLAG). They are living with the day to day impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill but they are also listening to and talking with people to exchange ideas about the Gulf Coast’s future. FLAG members are learning about the importance and hazards of deep water oil drilling and how the fishing and oil industries on the Gulf Coast impact so many lives in so many ways. They are sharing what they learn with others through social networking and in-person meetings.
These high school students know, and remind others, that THEY are the future. While the Deepwater Horizon oil spill may be off the front pages of most newspapers and not getting top billing on the national television news telecasts, FLAG members know the spill will impact their futures. They aren’t planning on leaving the Gulf Coast area. No way! They are planning to stick around and stand up for their communities. The Gulf Coast culture and traditional industries are a part of their future – they plan to remain in or return as adults even if their education and early career training take them elsewhere.
One student, James Michael, sums it up: “I’m worried about five years from now when I’m in college – 15 years from now when I have a family. The oil industry and the fishing industry are intertwined. They help each other to prosper.” Knowing that their culture is tied up with the environment has made them aware that “everything is connected to everything else.” And they plan to do something about it.
About the author: Terry Ippolito has worked at EPA for 22 years. She currently serves as the Environmental Education Coordinator and is a former science educator. When she was 10 years old, she organized the kids on her block to do a clean up thus setting the stage for an interest in community and the environment. She lives in New York City and is still picking up litter on her way to the train in the morning.
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