Roadtrip to Alabama Gulf Coast Oil Spill

A few years ago I took a trip to Africa, where I lived in South Africa for a summer. It was one of the single most defining moments of my life, changing the lens through which I view the world. Although it’s not to an overseas country like South Africa, I’m taking a trip next week that I believe could have similar effects on me: the Gulf Coast. This would typically be just another trip for me, but April’s oil rig explosion and subsequent oil spill has the Gulf Coast reeling.

My trip to Mobile, Alabama has been in the works for a couple months. Originally it was just to visit the Courtyard Marriott at Spanish Fort and spend time with friends. And then I got an email last week saying that the hotel had become somewhat of a basecamp for environmental agencies, volunteer organizations and government officials. This was simply an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I know what you might be thinking: “you’re just another journalist trying to capitalize off this tragedy”. This is NOT about money. What articles I have lined up for this trip will be lucky to make me break even. This is about living costs. Like many people, I’ve sat bewildered as I’ve watched the reports daily come in and wondered what, if anything, I could do. Yes this has financially hurt the U.S. economy. And yes it’s devastated the typically bustling tourist economy of the Gulf Coast. But what about the living costs? Can you put a price tag on the oil spill’s effect on humans and animals? Boats go out early each morning to find and try to rescue oil-covered animals. Fishers who have lost their jobs due to the BP oil spill are now running crews for BP, just so they can put food on the table.

Next Friday afternoon I’ll find myself in somewhat of a conundrum: filling up my gas tank to go where my dependence on it has resulted in a travesty that we still don’t know the full effects of. I don’t know what I’ll find. I’m going because I want to know what’s going on. I want to know the environmental and human costs. Strapped with my digital camera, HD Camcorder, Blackberry and rubber gloves, I’m going to talk to residents, business owners and volunteers to find out what the price tag really is on a life. In doing so, I’ll be posting photos, videos and commentary via Twitter. For live updates Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you can follow me on Twitter at @spencerspellman. I’m going to do everything that I can to upload as quickly as possible tweets that include quotes from people I talk with, interviews and photos. Follow the hashtag #gulfa on Twitter for live updates. At the end of each day I’ll do a recap here on what I find.

So what is the price tag of a life, whether animal or human? I go down to the Gulf Coast hoping to find out, knowing that my question is probably fleeting. What is it that you want to know about what’s going on in the Gulf? Are there questions you have for residents and volunteers that you would like answered?