As a cap has temporarily stopped oil gushing from the broken BP rig, students and residents are left to wonder what to do now – especially as oil has already washed ashore in Pensacola and on beaches in other Gulf Coast states.
Local marine experts are unsure whether oil will also reach the Bay area. There are possibilities of winter winds or hurricane gusts pushing oil to nearby Florida areas – but the likelihood of either scenario remains speculative.
Between the uncertainty of the spill’s direction and the training required for many volunteer jobs, it can be tough figuring out even the most basic ways to offer a helping hand.
The Oracle suggests four simple tips for pitching in this summer to the spill’s long recovery haul.
Volunteering opportunities will be difficult for untrained students to find – veterinarian and safety-trained students will take up the actual oil-cleaning tasks.
However, Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful is organizing an emergency volunteer list. If oil is approaching Bay area beaches, then these volunteers will be called to clean up trash and marine debris before the oil can make them dangerous.
Eager students can also volunteer as “beach watchers,” checking that no oil or tar has washed ashore.
Beach watchers should not touch any oiled wildlife or debris, though – if found, wildlife should be reported by calling 866-557-1401 and any tar by dialing #DEP on one’s cell phone. This is because crude oil washing ashore might carry harmful chemicals.
USF’s own Occupational Safety and Health Administration Training Institute Center is even holding 40-hour summer seminars detailing oil-cleaning safety.
However, this $800 class is expressly for safety workers and not curious college students out for the summer.
One easy, early way to help Bay area beaches – in case oil does eventually reach local shorelines – is to keep them as clear of oil-absorbing litter as possible.
Fortunately, local beach cleanups have been held every weekend this month. Last Saturday, Keep Pinellas Beautiful volunteers participated in a “dry run” for potential oil spill cleanups, picking up trash and debris
around Belleair Beach.
This Saturday, Barefoot Wine is sponsoring an all-ages trash pickup at St. Petersburg’s Upham Beach from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., with a wine-serving party afterward for those 21 and older.
Another cleanup will be offered at 9 a.m. on July 31 at Clearwater’s North Shore Beach. St. Petersburg College’s environmental clubs are hosting the event – which means that USF students will have the opportunity to make connections with another school’s green-conscious members.
For students too busy to volunteer or attend a beach cleanup, a donation to a needy organization can provide a similar benefit – with a few groups even located within the USF area.
Indian Shores’ Suncoast Sea Bird Sanctuary is still accepting donated items to help treat oiled birds – towels, carriers and gas gift cards are among the objects being collected for the sanctuary.
Some donation options merely require pocket cash and a text message. Tampa mobile company Mad Mobile created an “Oil Spill Relief” campaign where cell phone users can send $10 to the Waterkeeper Alliance and SaveOurGulf.org by texting GULF to 50555.
Louisiana non-profit organization Gulf Aid offers a similar setup where phone users can text GULFAID 10 to 27138 and also send $10, but that numeric value can be changed to any amount a person wants to donate.
Above all, potential contributors should be sure to research any group before donating money because those funds can be spent on anything from a pelican to a fisherman.
They might not have the obvious impact of volunteer jobs or donations, but even artistic works or online habits can prove useful in addressing the oil spill.
“UnspOILed: Writers Speak for Florida’s Coast” comprises the work of 38 writers – including USF students – decrying the idea of offshore drilling and was written before the BP oil crisis. After the spill, it earned a higher profile and was covered by the St. Petersburg Times.
The book’s release event later raised money for the Suncoast Sea Bird Sanctuary.
Mainstream and independent musicians have written songs about the spill and hosted benefit shows, too.
Yet even if you can’t express yourself artistically, you can still send a message through social networks. National Wildlife Federation suggests that supporters retweet any messages with a #NWF tag or “donate” a Facebook status for messages promoting the group’s Gulf Coast work.
A well-written blog post expressing your feelings on BP’s response to the crisis can attract hundreds of comments, and even a Google Alert set to “oil spill” and your hometown can keep your senses sharp during these slow summer months.