BP Spill: Drilling for Good News 4 Years Later

oiled turtle-2 Blair Witherington

Oiled turtle
Blair Witherington

Four years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster it’s hard to find irrefutable good news. Billions of dollars and countless numbers of scientists and project staff are focused on understanding and fixing the large and lingering damage. Predictions about the future are cautious to non-existent. What’s clear is the Gulf and the creatures that depend on it are still struggling.

Food, habitat, next generations

CC seafood plateWhile tourists and locals in a news video shot in New Orleans said they had no health qualms about eating Gulf seafood, an oil industry worker/sports fisherman in a Fox News clip bemoaned the disappearance of red fish in his home waters. In a Reuter’s piece last week, Jules Melancon, “the last remaining oyster fisherman on Grand Isle,” says all his leased oyster beds are barren. Seven fishing grounds off the Louisiana coast remain closed.

Cat Island in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, once a teeming pelican rookery, is devoid of stabilizing vegetation. It’s wasting away. The oil/dispersant mix that soaked into the soil poisoned mangroves and all the other plants. The muck is still there, destroying any chance new vegetation will secure a toe-hold. Restoration has begun in some areas hit by the spill, but it’s expensive and slow-going.

A Jules Verne visit below

Researcher/oceanographer, Mandy Joyce of the University of Georgia is part of a team, making the first dives in four years to the Macondo well blow-out site.

U.S. Navy submersible, "ALVIN" used by the research team this month. Creative Commons photo

U.S. Navy submersible, “ALVIN” used by the research team this month.
Creative Commons photo

Where nothing survived four years ago, this week she saw eels, skates, and a vampire squid. Conclusion: recovery is happening. However the sea floor is covered in an inches-thick oiled layer. The long-term effects are unknown, and while heartened she cautioned not to extrapolate the positive signs across the entire area affected by the original spill.

Human health studies

The National Institute of Health (NIH) is in the early stages of its 10-year study on the human health impacts to those who lived in the area and worked on clean-up. This two-part NIH interview by Laurie Wiegler of the Examiner/New Orleans News leaves the impression it will be a long time before the true results are known, if ever. Many of the sick, lacking health insurance, can only wait and hope their claims survive the complicated bundle of paperwork and court battles between the government and BP.

Environmental monitoring group, Gulf Restoration Networkreports oil is still appearing on Louisiana’s Grand Isle beaches. They collected “thousands of tar balls” there April 9th, 2014. BP denies they are from the Macondo well, saying the tar balls are no threat to human health. (Reuters)

Compensation

BP has spent tens of billions of dollars in fines, clean-up, and compensation. That figure has almost doubled in court fights, the company attempting to overturn or delay payments. Locally, rifts have developed between claimants who have received settlements and those denied or still waiting. Lawyers have claimed a lion’s share. 

A failure to improve

In the meantime, BP has successfully bid on 24 blocks offered for lease in the Gulf of Mexico. These are the company’s first new U.S. offshore leases in two years, which include government approval for deep-water drilling.  

Creative commons photo

Creative commons photo

According to a disturbing New York Times OpEd article (4/17/2014) nothing has changed in terms of engineering refinements on any deep water operations. The Obama Administration “…still has not taken key steps recommended by its experts and experts it commissioned to increase drilling safety. As a result, we are on a course to repeat our mistakes. Making matters worse, the administration proposes to expand off-shore drilling in the Atlantic and allow seismic activities harmful to ocean life in the search for new oil reserves.” (Liz Birnbaum, former head of the Minerals Management Service, industry regulatory agency at the time of the Macondo blow-out and Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for U.S. Oceans at Oceana.)

New leases for deepwater drilling are handed out to companies every year, yet improved regulations and design requirements on blow-out preventers promised four years ago remain non-existent. “The N.A.E. (National Academy of Engineering) report warned that a blowout in deep water may not be controllable with current technology,” the N.Y.Times piece concluded. 

Business as usual.

OKAY, TODAY’S GOOD NEWS! 

I was at a low ebb this afternoon after researching articles for this post, when in came an e-mail from Adrienne McCracken. She’s the Field Operations Manager for Loggerhead Marine Life Center in Juno Beach, Florida. Adrienne’s Kemp’s ridley hatchling is the eye-catching baby turtle on the cover of my novel, Elizabeth’s Landing

Sea turtle crawl track, Juno Beach FL 4/20/2014. Photo by Adrienne McCracken, Loggerhead Marine Life Center.

Leatherback sea turtle crawl track, Juno Beach FL 4/20/2014. Photo by Adrienne McCracken, Loggerhead Marine Life Center.

She said, “Happy Easter! We had our own version of an egg hunt this morning with a leatherback and a loggerhead nest…” Whoo-hoo! Life goes on, and as Maria the biologist in the book tells Elizabeth, “It’s a one-turtle-at-a-time job.” This morning Adrienne and her group enjoyed two, with hope for 200+/- hatchlings in a few months. Thank you Loggerhead Marinelife Center, and all sea turtle conservation groups for being on the beaches year-round.

Loggerhead Marinelife Center Field Staff, Shelby, flagging a Loggerhead nest 4/20/2014.

Loggerhead Marinelife Center Field Technician, Shelby, flagging a Loggerhead nest 4/20/2014. Photo by Sarah Hirsch

The second piece of good news, at least for me, came yesterday from the Nautilus Book AwardsElizabeth’s Landing earned a 2014 SILVER award for Young Adult Fiction. Last year, Nautilus GOLD and SILVER award winners included three authors I love: Barbara Kingsolver for Flight Behavior, Louise Erdrich for The Round House, and Brene’ Brown for Daring GreatlyIn April, Elizabeth’s Landing was awarded FIRST PLACE in Fiction in Writer’s Digest’s 2013 “Self-published e-book Awards. I am deeply honored by both awards and hope they help bring more attention to the desperate plight of all sea turtles.

NAUTILUS SILVER - YOUNG ADULT FICTION 2014

 

It’s spring, and with it comes new energy and possibility. Bloom where you can.

Delphinium nudicaule Photo: Katy Pye

Delphinium nudicaule
Photo: Katy Pye

Butterflies and “Women Writing the Environment Into Fiction”

Monarch on lavender Photo: Katy Pye

Monarch on lavender
Photo: Katy Pye

Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Flight Behavior, photography, ignorance, and a meadow walk aligned like personal, fated stars one day last month.

My first photography show, Flora abunda is a wildflower image exhibit at CA State Parks’ Ford House Museum. As a hobby photographer and rank amateur in biology and botany, pulling all the pieces together has been a delightful, if sometimes challenging, eye-opener. A local expert made sure my plant i.d.s were correct, and pointed out, in passing, two plants that are food sources for the immature stage of two rare and endangered butterflies: the Behren’s Silverspot and the Lotis Blue – a species considered extinct here for over 30 years.

Behren’s silverspot (Speyeria zerene behrensii) Source:http://espm42speyeria.wordpress.com/

Behren’s silverspot (Speyeria zerene behrensii)
Source:http://espm42speyeria. wordpress.com/

Lotis Blue  photo: PG & E

Lotis Blue (Lycaeides idas lotis) photo: PG & E

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While compiling the show, I was also writing a short article for the San Francisco Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association. They wanted my thoughts on women authors such as Barbara Kingsolver, Elizabeth Gilbert, Ann Patchett who, like me, feature the environment (and related human interactions and impacts) in current novels. I’d recently read Flight Behavior and Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things back-to-back. One afternoon flower photos, Latin names, endangered lives, words and themes clogged my brain. I headed out to a nearby forest park and meadow to strain the mental debris. As I stepped out of the woods into the bright, grassland light, I had a my own “Dellarobia” moment.

Spring azure (likely). A common butterfly.  Photo: Katy Pye

Spring azure (likely). A common butterfly. Weren’t all our now endangered species once “common?”
Photo: Katy Pye

A blue butterfly, barely bigger than a quarter, lit on a grass blade beside me. My feet became one with the path.

The Lotis! It’s got to be. Can’t be. “Are you?” I asked.

It took less than ten minutes to get home, retrieve my camera, and return to the spot. As I crept closer, it seemed impossible he would still be there. Ten minutes in butterfly years is probably twenty human years. He had precious little life to spend waiting for me. I’m sure I heard his rebuke at my approach.

“Finally! You people fly so slow.”

“Just give me a few seconds,” I pleaded, snapping shot after shot.

For a few hours I rode on hope he was the Lotis. Turns out he’s naught but a common variety blue. Still, my encounter proves–as if it needs proving–books fire imagination and the best ones, connection.

My WNBA blog post: “Women Writing the Environment Into Fiction”

Flora abunda wildflower exhibit continues until June 30th, 11:00 to 4:00 daily. Opening reception Saturday, April 12, 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Sponsored by the Mendocino Area Parks Association (M.A.P.A.)

Trillium albidum copyright Katy Pye

Trillium albidum
Photo: Katy Pye

‘Pay It Forward’ Author Pays It Forward: My Interview With Catherine Ryan Hyde

Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Normally, internationally respected and prolific authors like Catherine Ryan Hyde have neither time, nor need to reach out to a debut, indie author like me. I’m oh so grateful Catherine doesn’t believe in “the norm” — in anything.

Catherine was my workshop leader two years ago at the Big Sur Writing Workshop. She mentored five of us for two days, lending encouragement, manuscript tweaks, and bits of industry insider advice. When I wrote to tell her I’d published Elizabeth’s Landing, she proposed an interview for her blog series, “Better Than Blurbs.” The offer meant visibility to her world of devoted readers. Yep, plug in all the clichés about head, clouds, and dancing on air. Add a teeny jolt of terror.

Perhaps unintentionally, the interview questions made me look deeper at the book’s meaning, at how key moments in my life led me to and through the writing, and how the story resolution mirrors (or does it?) today’s political reality. The perfect “debriefing” for my six-year effort. And an amazing gift.

Click to read THE INTERVIEW

Learn more about Catherines dozens of inspiring books, a life full of writing, hiking, photography, and her often amusing, always loving animal companions, Ella and Jordan. The “Pay It Forward” movement is growing around the world. Catherine’s Pay It Forward version for young readers is scheduled to reach booksellers August 19th. It is also available for pre-order online.

author turtle for .28 hi

PAY IT BACK

DISCOUNTS ON ELIZABETH’S LANDING (Dec. 2 to midnight Dec. 15)

CoverSmaller

A portion of book sale profits this year go to sea turtle conservation organizations whose staff shared time and expertise with me as I developed Elizabeth’s Landing.

Paperback:  CreateSpace e-store (gives highest author profits = more for sea turtles). Use this discount code B9GBX97Y at check-out for 40% off the list price.

Independent bookstore: The paperback is not directly discounted, but our beloved Gallery Bookshop is offering $.99 shipping (media mail) through December 31, 2013 on all books in-stock. Any out-of-stock books are shipped free when they are restocked. (707) 937-2665. Order the Kobo version through Gallery at the same discount as the Kobo online store.

E-books: Kindle, B & N Nook Store, and Kobo are all discounted to $3.00.

Click to read ELIZABETH’S LANDING REVIEWS

Authors live on feedback and word-of-mouth endorsements. I’m thrilled and grateful to all who take the time to post or send responses to the book.

Peace to us all

Peace to us all

Thank you for sharing and supporting Elizabeth’s world.

The Big Sur Writing Workshops are co-sponsored twice a year by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and the Henry Miller Memorial Library.

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Praise for novel, Elizabeth’s Landing

Diane Wilson book jacketThis was too long for FB, but I HAD to share.

I just received this endorsement from Diane Wilson, the most compassionate, courageous, and powerful woman I have the privilege to know. After being blown away by her book, I drove to a 1 day writer’s conference in Santa Barbara several years ago just to see her talk. I’d written the first “solid” draft of all the shrimping sections, having spent hours and days reading about the issues, the history of conflict over the turtles, and regulations shrimpers are under. I’d watched many YouTube videos to see how the fishing is done and described what I saw. 

I cornered Diane on a break and told her about the book and asked if she knew a shrimper I could talk to, who might help me make sure I’d gotten it right. After hesitantly saying she’d be glad to help, the first thing she asked was, “Is Grandpa a Gulf shrimper or a bay shrimper.” Uhhh, embarrassing. I had no clue; didn’t know there was a difference. I’m surprised she didn’t walk out right then.

Shrimping rewrite support-2-rs-1_edited-1

My desk during the rewrites. Diane’s book for courage, her photos for inspiration, and the sweetpeas as a reminder there is a garden and world beyond my computer screen.

But she stuck with me, read, corrected, re-read my fixes, and when she said Grandpa was real, I knew I could relax. Some of my favorite parts of Elizabeth’s Landing are there thanks to Diane’s own doggedness. Thank you, Diane. Your praise, and all you do and stand for, touch my heart. And give me strength!

If you haven’t read her books on her own environmental and social justice work, please do. Amazing stuff, read like novels, but all true.

“I can vouch for Ms. Pye’s dedication to the truth and her compassion for sea turtles.  I’m a shrimper from the Gulf Coast of Texas, and when Katy Pye asked me to make sure her depictions of shrimpers and shrimp boats in her book was accurate, I was a bit hesitant.  I am a fifth generation shrimper and despite our faults, funny and hard nosed ways, these are my people.  I love them.  I think many people don’t understand them so I’m a bit protective. But Katy was dogged about seeking me out!  Wow, Katy! You are as bull-headed as any shrimper I know.  So Katy’s narrator, Elizabeth, is pretty close to Katy.  Same stubbornness.  Same feistiness. I admire Katy for tackling this difficult subject and taking such care and thoughtfulness in her characters.  Katy is as much the heroine of her life as her character Elizabeth is of this book.  A wonderful read!”

Find Diane’s first book here at Chelsea Green or the usual online stores.

seagulls on cable-adj_edited-1

A photo Diane shared with me, which inspired an image in the book. These are wires connecting the boat to the net during a shrimp drag.

Elizabeth’s Landing is Stepping Out

Miss Elizabeth’s finally got her party dress (had to bribe her into it). As soon as I have a secure shipping date, we’ll schedule a launch at Gallery Bookstore in Mendocino. Can’t wait!

WHOOHOO!!

Twirl around so they can see you from the back. Seamstress, Laurie MacMillan from Sunfield Graphic Design showed great skill and unbelievable patience, dealing with a picky 14 year-old–and her stage mother.

BACK 640x960  72dpi-1

There is a photo album on my Katy Pye-Author Facebook page, along with text from the book next to each picture. I’ll post updates there and here about the book. Please Like the page if you do. Comments welcome, too.

Peace.

Dancing Woman with Bird on Head

Dancing woman w bird126 photo by Katy Pye

Top Kid’s Book Conference — March 2013

Photo by Katy Pye

The Big Sur Writing Workshop for children and young adult authors is coming up, March 1st to 3rd, on the legendary Monterey, CA coast. Co-hosted by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and the Henry Miller Memorial Library, this is the big time without the big attitude of larger conferences.

Last year, after four years writing drafts, absorbing critiques from family, friends, and fellow writers at home, I decided it was time to leave my safe chair. Time to brave, first hand, the rapidly changing world of agents and publishing. To my delight and relief I discovered the client/agent relationship is rarely Toto vs Miss Gulch.  Oz Miss Gulch

The large group lectures served up valuable insights about today’s publishing world — hello, reality checks — what goes into choosing cover designs, and what to expect when your hot book property heads to Hollywood. The small group workshops (5-6 people) sent me back to my room after dinner with good ideas to fine-tune my manuscript for the next day. Social events before and during meals gave me a chance to talk to other authors and several Andrea Brown agents, one-on-one, in a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere. I came home renewed and more confident in the future of my writing and my first novel. 

My workshop leaders were Andrea Brown Senior Agent Laura Joy Rennert, and wide-ranging and prolific author, Catherine Ryan Hyde

Laura is the author of two picture books. New this fall is ROYAL PRINCESS ACADEMY: DRAGON DREAMS

Cover: Royal Princess Academy: Dragon Dreams-Laura Joy RennertPrincess Emma has real princess problems–she’s clumsy, insecure, hates pink, doesn’t reign supreme at school, and, if she loses the big All-School Princess contest, there could be trouble. Melanie Florian’s illustrations humorously capture Emma’s come-here, go-away princess predicament.

Laura’s first book, BUYING, TRAINING, AND CARING FOR YOUR DINOSAUR, is the ultimate, how-to book. Great read-aloud fun and Marc Brown’s cheerful illustrations will delight both kids and adults. Cover: BT&C for Your Dinosaur-Laura Joy Rennert

One of my favorite Catherine Ryan Hyde books is BECOMING CHLOE.Cover: Becoming Chloe-Catherine Ryan Hyde

A beautifully crafted story of acceptance, hope, and redemption, Hyde’s crisp, immediate prose creates a complex world of emotional depth for her characters and their situations. The sensibilities of the story resonated with parts of a long-ago me. 

Check out Catherine’s website for a slew of great YA and adult books, including her latest U.S. release, WHEN YOU WERE OLDER 

Cover: When You Were Older, Hyde

Her international best-seller, PAY IT FORWARDspawned a movement and a touching movie. But read the book first! The Pay It Forward Experience website documents how people, including some astounding kids, are daily re-imagining and energizing the book’s (Catherine’s) core idea of transforming lives and the world.

Thanks to Laura, Catherine, and my fellow workshop authors (talented writers, all) for their generous and supportive feedback. 

The Big Sur Writing Workshop: Children to Young Adult, is now taking registrations for March 2013. This year’s faculty of agents, editors, and author presenters is here. It fills quickly. If you write for kids, give yourself a gift and go.