J Term in New Orleans

During January 2011, 12 J-Term students in the course “Environmental Communications: Lessons Learned from the BP Oil Spill” will travel with Nina Flournoy, senior lecturer of communication studies in Meadows School of the Arts, on a 10-day journey to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to examine the communication strategies surrounding the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history

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The seafood misperception

Bella.jpg An update from Bella, a senior CCPA major:

NOLA2.jpg After just a few days, we have already learned so much about the oil spill, the Gulf Coast and the seafood industry. The information we’ve received is vital to the understanding of this situation, but the public is unaware of the truths hidden behind images of oil-covered birds and burning oil in the Gulf.

Although scientists say we won’t know the effects of the oil spill for years to come, we do understand a few key points that the media have misconstrued to the public. The first is that Gulf Coast seafood supply is not toxic or polluted by oil. The Gulf shore has some of the strictest regulations for seafood. And the regulation has increased even more since the oil spill. This has reduced the risk of eating bad seafood to a fraction of a percent.

True, oyster beds were destroyed in great numbers, but this it is not due to any contact with the oil. Ironically, oysters died from too much fresh water, used to diminish the oil flow. Oysters thrive in beds with a specific balance of saltwater from the Gulf and fresh water from the Mississippi River. Even a slight offset of this balance will cause the oysters to die, which is what happened when fresh water was used to keep Gulf water from flowing into the marshes where the oysters grow.

Despite the uncertainties of the consequences of the spill, we need to make sure communication is clear and direct so that everyone understands what is going on. Remember that news stations thrive on heart-wrenching images, so they do not always focus on the reality of the situation. Stay informed by reading news from reliable organizations. Support the recovery of the Gulf by eating seafood and visiting the coast.

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