Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New blog on oil started

Since I plan to be spending a lot of time on the subject of the oilcano and training to join the Oiled Wildlife Response volunteers I thought it would be a good idea to start a blog just dealing with that one issue rather than clog up Cluck-n-Neigh with stuff you may not be interested in. The blog is called Of Pelicans and Petrol, and you can find the link in our "Links" area. Or  you can just click on the link here.

I will do what I can to document the experience in hopes to give you a more "inside" look at this incident. It is my fervent hope that in the end, we'll all discover that all this fuss was just a big old waste of time.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Update on attempts at oil spill volunteering

Wow, who would have thought I'd get quoted in a local news paper from so far away as I've gone on this ridiculous journey to find a way to volunteer in the gulf. I have finally procured training by sneaking in to a veterinary clinic in Dade County. They are happy to have me, and my training for oiled wildlife response is the 16th of this month. All that's left now is the HAZWOPER, and that has still been blocked at every turn by either incompetence or deliberate obfuscation by the fine folks of BP. Interesting factoid: BP has been required to pay for the training for all volunteers who respond. I would suggest they might be trying to keep costs down by keeping volunteers out, as a result. But that would be cynical of me.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Chicken Little was Right

In his definitive work The Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold warned that the greatest tragedy in learning about the natural world is never again being able to turn a blind and ignorant eye to the damage being done to it. Being a typical bleeding heart and a wildlife biologist with an almost unhealthy attachment to the brown pelican, wetlands/marshlands habitat and the Florida Keys in general, this has been kind of a tough week emotionally. The Deep Horizon oilcano continues to spew unabated as I type this entry, Tipton County is still a disaster area due to the flooding, and I've been feeling helpless. 

A few days ago as we finally began to dig out of the muck as a community, Michael and I put our zombie squad hats on and went out to help as best we could with whatever resources we had. It did wonders to help us both feel better. But even with this, the gulf crisis loomed in the back of my mind. Since I'd felt a little better helping out in my own hometown, I thought, why not volunteer for wildlife rescue/recovery efforts in the Gulf? I discussed it with Michael, who supported the idea wholeheartedly. Rejuvenated, I began researching how to proceed.

Here I sit, 48 hour later, dumbfounded. Though I don't know why I should be. I can describe the cleanup/rescue effort in one word. Clusterfuck.

According to my research OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires anyone working in an oil spill area to have Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) certification. This class training is expensive (around $350.00), and no funding is available to pay for volunteers to take the classes. But the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which is coordinating the rescue/recovery of wildlife affected by the spill along with the Tri State Bird Rescue, makes no mention of this certification on their application for professionals volunteering their services. Instead, they stress the 4 hour HAZCOM certification. Did that mean they are accepting just HAZCOM, which is cheaper and quicker to get, or do we need both to satisfy both agencies? Just to be sure, I thought I should get clarification. I got the phone number for the BP/Horizon National Volunteer Information Hotline from USFWS thinking that would be the best way to clear up the confusion. Boy was I ever wrong.

You'd think they'd have, oh I dunno, information about volunteering requirements, being the national volunteer information hotline and all.  I mean, is it too hard to give someone a FAQ worksheet to read from? If I’m the first person to ask "What are the requirements towards volunteering" then we really are in trouble. The woman could only say "you have to be certified to work with the wildlife."

"Well that's fine," I said. "I just need to know what certifications I need specifically so that I can go ahead and get started on training. That way I'll be ready to respond quickly if and when the time comes."

I could almost smell the smoke coming out of her brain through the phone line. She had NO IDEA what certification actually meant.  I tried to clarify by saying "Well, do you mean we need a state sanctioned wildlife rehab license, or maybe OSHA certification for working with hazardous materials? Anything like that?" She put me on hold for about five minutes and when she came back, she still couldn't answer. She just said "They said to tell you that you need to be certified first."

And THIS is the BP/Horizons info hotline on how to volunteer. The NATIONAL one. Sigh. We are doomed.

Anyway, I left a message for them to call me back with a list of certifications they need us to have so that I and others could at least get started on training so that we can be ready to respond quickly. She must have thought I was from Mars to be thinking that far ahead. But seriously, it seems silly to be sitting here on my thumbs and my framed Wildlife and Fisheries degree coupled with over 20 years of husbandry experience from red legged taratulas to red pandas to camels, a willingness to pay for my own certifications and still be considered unqualified to bathe a bird in dishwashing liquid when the worst oilcano in our nation's history is looming. But hey, that's just me.

I did do a bit of research on my own (imagine that BP, people who can LOOK STUFF UP. What a concept!) HAZWOPER certification classes are very expensive and there is no funding available to pay for them. A person on their own will have to come up with around $350 for that one certification alone or to try and find a group discount situation.  What was that again about BP footing the bill for volunteers? Must have lost the memo on that. 

Know what I think? I think Chicken Little is now running around shrieking "I told you so! I told you so!" Only this time he's covered in oil and there's no one to help him get it off. All the volunteers are still waiting for the next certification class.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Zombie Apocalypse in West Tennessee

I think Mother Nature just made my point for me better than I ever could in a blog, don't you? It seems she added quite the little punch to my blog post last week about self sufficiency with a massive storm and record breaking regional flooding. It has been said that the waters may have reached a 500-1000 year high, and we don't doubt it judging from the devastation we've witnessed. Thank goodness we weren't injured or suffered any damage. Many many others were not so fortunate. Authorities are recommending that we hold off on helping so that a "more coordinated" effort can be facilitated by FEMA and the Red Cross. Estimated arrival time has been as long as two weeks. TWO WEEKS.

In the meantime, families are digging, barefooted and gloveless, through the wreckage of their lives now covered in muddy sludge composed of dirt, agricultural chemicals, roadway runoff and raw sewage. Do you think they should wait for two weeks before anyone steps up to help them? What if it was your family in this situation? Could you take care of yourselves for 2 weeks if you'd just lost everything but the pajamas on your back?

One of our special projects for some time has been the development of a midsouth zombie squad, and if ever there was a need for us, it is now. Michael and I have been getting more and more involved in the organization known as zombie hunters. It's a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people on how to survive the eminent zombie apocalypse. Because in their words, if you're ready for a zombie apocalypse, a hurricane's a breeze. Think of us as the Red Cross, only on a small enough scale to actually accomplish something quickly. Like, say, survive. After all, what good is having a nice veggie garden if there are zombies rapidly (or maybe slowly depending on the subspecies) approaching?

More to come, I've got dinner plans!