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Exxon Valdez Oil on Alaska Beaches – July 4th 2010

12:45 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Last weekend, while millions of Americans gorged on hot dogs, burgers, beers, cokes and fries, 2009 Alaska Muckraker of the Year, Jeanne Devon, 2009 Steve Gilliard Award winner, Shannyn Moore, and environmental writer-blogger Zach Roberts gagged on the fumes of oil that still reeks and seeps out of the intertidal zones on the shores of Knight Island, in Alaska’s once pristine Prince William Sound. Here’s Jeanne’s video:

Jeanne, Shannyn and Zach have all posted articles and photos at their blogs, and Shannyn will be talking about their experience on her radio program-webcast today, beginning right about now (12:10 p.m. PDT).

By the way, here’s a photo of the blighted denizen of Bligh Reef, the Exxon Valdez, uh – the Exxon Mediterranean, uh – the Sag River Mediterranean, uh – the Mediterranean uh – the Dong Fang Ocean. No matter how far the vessel can be distanced from its benighted name, Knight Island is still spoiled and polluted from the Exxon Valdez’s spewed cargo.

21 years and four months later.

Thousands Will Kill Themselves Over the Gulf Oil Spill

8:20 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

The reported suicide of a Gulf charter skipper begs comparison. There is no exact number, but many suspect at least 30 people in Alaska or who worked on or were ruined by the Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) killed themselves over the succeeding 20 years, one as recently as last year. I knew three of the victims, one very well.

Alaska had about 500,000 residents at the time of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

At least 11,000,000 gallons were spilled

Approximately 30 people killed themselves.

The gulf spill will likely effect areas with at least 40 million residents.

Unabated over the summer it may end up being 20 times larger than the EVOS.

Should that happen, following the Alaska model, there may be 48,000 suicides over the economic and emotional hardships brought on by the spill over the next 20 years.

I don’t claim to be a statistician, so maybe somebody here can help me out, because the number seems high. I suspect the number of suicides over this during the next generation will be more in the 4,000 to 6,000 range, but it is all just guessing.

I’ve been thinking about this for days, but my own EVOS PTSD has held me back. I figure there have been other suicides over this already, that haven’t been reported in context.

Saturday Art – Shadows

8:16 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

In late 1992, as bronze sculptor Peter Bevis finished his forensic impressions of animal victims of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, he asked me to compose a sonic background to his upcoming Anchorage and Seattle showings. I told him I thought the background should have the words of people involved in the spill, and in the gathering of the dead animals he had cast. He agreed. I commissioned Alaska poet Ann Chandonnet to write four verses that were inter-related. Peter’s show opened at the Alaska Gallery of Contemporary Art in March, 1993. I dedicated the work then to Rick Steiner, who wrote his first post for firedoglake Friday.

If you click on the title of each of the verses, you are taken to my garage band page. Click on the green forward arrow. A new window opens. You can then go to the old window, and click back and read the words, as the music plays:


by Ann Chandonnet

1. Mechanism/Organism

Waves of memory.
Welding things together.
A wake for a wake.
Waves breaking on black rocks
around Bligh Reef.
A thrum of engines.
Breaker, breaker.
It’s Valdez back.
It’s Valdez back.
No matter where you went it was black.
Slick waves breaking.
A thrum of engines.
We’re leaking some.
Going to be here awhile.
Waves breaking black and thick.
We’re going to be here awhile.
And if you want to say you’re notified.
Russian roulette.
It’s not a matter of “if.”
It’s a matter of “when.”
Slick waves breaking.
Dark rocks.
Dead on the beaches, all curled up.
Some of those still alive are blind.
Russian roulette.
It’s not a matter of “if.”
We’ve fetched up,
And we’re going to be here awhile.
Sad is too mild a word.
The high costs of being here.
But we’re going to be here awhile.
Slick rocks,
Waves crashing.
Dark foam, dark rocks, slick.
No matter where you went it was black.
Dead on the beaches, all curled up.
Organism against mechanism.
Sad is too mild a word.
Hundreds of variables.
A thrum of engines.
Awake. Hundreds of variables!
A wake, a spreading pool.
Russian roulette.
Thousands of possible scenarios:
night, engines, ice;
single hull, dark waves, a reef beneath.
The cry of gulls.
Rock against metal,
hands against a flood,
organism against mechanism.
Should be on your radar there.

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Artists as Environmentalists – The Spreading Gulf Tragedy Begs A Nationwide Call to Action

11:38 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

As the oil hits the reefs, offshore bars and beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, are we faced with another Exxon Valdez catastrophe? Yes. Can we learn from that disaster in how this ongoing tragedy is documented by artists? Absolutely. Here is some of how we can do it. You may add your suggestions too.

I. In 1989, the internet did exist, but not many people had access. Graphic interfaces that led to the many free web browsers were limited, and didn’t do much. Few people had cell phones. The cable news paradigm as we now know it didn’t yet exist. CNN was there on Prince William Sound, but not in a big way. National and Anchorage newspapers were much healthier then than now, and made earnest efforts to cover events. The same was true of NPR and Alaska’s outstanding Alaska Public Radio Network. The influence of AM talk radio was much more primitive than it now is. Blogging was pretty much limited to what were called "newsgroups."

In 1989, when local Alaskans and interested independent journalists descended upon the scene, they were limited in methods they could use to document the ongoing tragedy by technology, communication and basic logistics. The technology was bulky, and mostly analog. The communication grid at the sites of the spill was limited to VHF and Single Sideband maritime and aviation-based radio. The logistics of getting there in late winter, miles from the ports of Valdez, Cordova, Whittier or Seward, was convoluted, and most charter boats and planes were already chartered or overbooked for the cleanup by the third day of the spill.

Environmentalists were mostly limited to helping in efforts to save individual animals once the animals had been brought to Valdez, Seward or Anchorage. There was no real time coverage of the growth of the spill by any parties outside of the mainstream. From the beginning of the spill, Exxon and the USCG attempted to attenuate and spin how the outgoing flow of information was handled. Over half the people Exxon flew into Alaska or Valdez on the morning of the spill were attorneys.

From the moment of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, I was involved with artists who were or are also ecologically motivated. In the ensuing years, I’ve worked with several artists who documented aspects of the EVOS (Exxon Valdez oil spill) through visual, graphic and audio art. In the early 1990s, I toured with bronze sculptor Peter Bevis, as we presented his compelling castings of victims of that and other spills. We called our presentation "Artists as Environmentalists." There have been tenth and twentieth anniversary gallery shows in Alaska that have looked back on this. The most recent, produced by Homer’s Bunnell Street Gallery, SPILL: Alaskan Artists Remember, toured several communities last year.

In this collaborative process, I’ve learned a few things that might help those who hope to create visceral, living art about all the dying that is beginning to occur. Here are some suggestions:

II. In covering the Gulf tragedy, artists should attempt to capture the essence of what this is – a massive wave of death. There will be many compelling stories of people who manage to deploy a boom or clean an oiled bird, or come up with an innovative idea that might actually have a beneficial local effect. Documenting these instances is a good thing, but try to present the small and heartening victories in a realistic overall context.

As often as possible, artists should try to partner with local ecologists and environmental activists, from the areas where damage is happening. Try to understand these people as individuals, and visibly show them physically performing their tasks.

Avoid contacts with national environmental organizations. They do not understand what motivates independent artists. If you don’t make cute watercolors or coffee mug logos for brochures, fundraisers or auction events, they don’t understand you. Nor do they want to.

Try to find venues that can help you live stream what you are documenting. Hopefully, viable nodes for dissemination of images and artistic impressions of this will develop over the coming weekend. When they do, spread the word, possibly steering artists and other documentarians toward those sites that are becoming most effective.

Seek out folk musicians, rappers, slam poets and other artists who have a following among the very young. Develop some new collaborative co-ops for the purpose of truthfully recording what is going down.

It is likely that the spill will hit Cuba. If you are or know an artist with Cuban connections, you might consider getting your travel permissions going right now, as it sometimes takes a while to get all the papers in order.

BP, the USCG and Homeland Security will all give dozens of dog-and-pony shows in communities either in the line of fire, or recently slimed. Attend these events, and record the impressions of locals who came to them, especially right after they’ve been fed the inevitable total line of crap, such as "we will make you whole again."

III. Please add any further suggestions you might have in the comments.

Artists can uniquely portray ecological catastrophe. They can partner with ecologists, environmentalists and community activists, to give perspective on what has happened that nobody else can.

Here’s a remembrance of animals, from the EVOS disaster.