Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Better Late Than Never -- Telethon to Help the Gulf

(Picture Left: An Egret at Turtle Pond in Central Park.)

A few weeks ago, this journal raised the question of why celebrities and others in media were not immediately organizing telethons to raise money for clean-up and rescue efforts in the Gulf?

Wasn't, after all, the devastation in the Gulf even more destructive over the long haul than that which occurred during the earthquake in Haiti or the Gulf states after Hurricane Katrina?

Tragically, it seems that not only did our administration make the assumption and mistake of believing that BP would "take care of everything," but apparently everyone else did, as well.

We were all sleeping at the wheel, in a sense.

It is of course to the President's credit that he was finally able to finagle a 20 billion dollar commitment from BP to compensate those people adversely affected by the oil spill.

But, it will take time for the money to funnel through bureaucracy and record-checking. Moreover, my understanding of the 20 billion dollar pay out is that it is mostly to compensate lost businesses and livelihoods. By the time BP (though our government) sends out checks to compensate people suffering from the oil spill, it is highly questionable how much of the money will remain for clean-up and restoration in the Gulf, as well as animal rescue.

Animal rescue is always the lowest priority in any environmental or human-related disaster.

As of this writing, sharks, dolphins, fish and other marine life of all kinds are swimming closer to shores in order to try and escape the deeper, (now) oxygen deprived waters where the oil and dispersants are creating a toxic, suffocating and unlivable environment for virtually all aquatic life.

This news is extremely foreboding in terms of the long term prognosis for the Gulf even if the hole gets plugged in a matter of weeks. Lack of oxygen can spell an entire dead zone for most of the Gulf.

I still don't see the sense of urgency either from our administration, (certainly) BP or even most in the media and celebrity worlds to immediately address this catastrophe with the kind of war-like and fundraising efforts it actually requires.

But, at least a few in the celebrity world have finally responded.

Last night, Larry King and CNN put on a two-hour telethon with numerous celebrity participants in order to raise immediate monies to help both people and animals in the Gulf.

The telethon raised about two million dollars.

This is of course, mere drop in the ocean compared to the devastation it is trying to address. But due credit must be given to Mr. King and all the celebrities who turned out and supported this important event.

It was wonderful to see people putting action where their mouths are and keeping politics out of it.

Moreover, the money can immediately be channeled to where it is most needed without going through the usual bureaucracy.

Contributors were able to choose for their donations to go to either one of three organizations directly involved in the Gulf (National Wildlife Federation, Nature Conservancy and,,,,whoops, I forget the one designated to aid affected fishermen and other people in the Gulf.).

I obviously chose my donations to go to the two organizations charged with helping the animals or restoring environment as I feel most of the 20 billion from BP will compensate the people. (Perhaps since I don't eat fish, I am not all that sympathetic to those whining about the loss of their commercial and recreational fishing. As said a few weeks ago, I believe we are over-fishing the waters anyway. A number of endangered turtles recently rescued from the Gulf were found with fish hooks tearing up their insides. I further believe that fish hooks and lines are causing damage and possible death to beloved waterfowl at Harlem Meer. As previously mentioined, these birds survived a harsh winter when there was no fishing at the Meer. Why are so many dying or disappearing now?)

As reported by some of the celebrities taking phone calls, most of the people calling in to donate were directing the monies to go to rescue animals and restore the marshes and wetlands.

It was wonderful to realize there are many others like myself torn up over the wildlife images we have seen, but otherwise are so powerless to do anything about.

I still can't stop crying over certain pictures: Dead birds so covered in oil they are unrecognizable. Live birds, similarly drenched and unrecognizable, but with a look of sheer terror in their eyes. I don't know which photos or videos are worst.

But, we must keep in mind that the pictures we have been allowed to see represent the literal drop in the ocean.

While it was wonderful to see the release of 28 rehabilitated Brown Pelicans in Texas yesterday and realize such heroic efforts signify some reason for hope, reality is that these were only 28 birds out of thousands affected by the spill. The vast majority are not so lucky.

Hopefully, the telethon yesterday guarantees some monies to immediately help save, rehabilitate and release many other animals who otherwise would perish.

Special appreciation goes out to Larry King and the many celebrities (Robert Redford, Phillippe Cousteau, Sting, Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson, Ted Danson, Ian Somerholder, Jennny McCarthy, Alisa Milano, Victoria Principal to name a few) who took the time and donated money to give the rest of us a reason for hope.

I hope others can follow in their lead because it is ultimately going to require many, many billions of dollars and millions in manpower and other resources to try and turn this cataclysmic disaster around.

Better late, than never. -- PCA


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