There’s a parallel universe in the Gulf these days. In one, the water’s clear, the beaches clean and the seafood's as sublime as ever. The other is the one I witnessed last month, a world many fear may be closer to the truth.
I had been attending a rally—the Big Oil Panty Protest to be exact—in Grand Isle, ground zero for the BP oil assault and a spit of sand and beach town sticking out from Louisiana’s most southern coast. It was a beautiful Gulf morning when I decided to take a walk on the beach at Grand Isle State Park. The sand was warming and the ocean water was muddy but calm. A flock of seabirds gathered on a nearby sandbar. Except for an orange plastic fence blocking off part of the beach, all appeared normal. Several families and their children had plopped down their towels and umbrellas. The kids eagerly jumped in the waves.
But the beach scene was soon to change. A uniformed park ranger packing a 9 mm pistol and a broad-brimmed hat marched through the sand towards us, clearly on a mission. “Excuse me but everyone here needs to get off the beach,” he barked. “This beach is closed.”
The family vacationers approached the officer incredulously. “Why,” they asked. “We just got here. There aren’t any signs?”
“The beach is closed because there’s still oil and tar balls coming in,” the officer said in a polite but stern voice. “It’s not safe to be here.”
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