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 silver lining

Stevie.jpg An update from Stevie Rae, a junior communications studies major with a minor in psychology:

• 5.4 million barrels of oil discharged into the Gulf of Mexico after the BP Oil Spill.
• 665 miles of coastline contaminated by oil
• 57,539 square miles of Gulf waters remain closed to fishing
• 311 Olympic-size swimming pools could be filled with the oil that leaked from the Deepwater Horizon well (Learn more from the Department of Energy.)

With statistics like these coming day after day, and the oil spill featured as the top news story for months, it’s hard to stay positive. But the people in the Gulf Coast have an optimism and sense of hope that are truly inspiring. Listening to speaker after speaker from New Orleans to Mississippi to Alabama, a pattern emerges in their message: No matter how bad it gets, no matter what the unknown brings, stay positive. Everyone anticipates a silver lining.

In New Orleans: Anne Milling with Women of the Storm remained positive in the midst of all the negativity coming from the media. She made lemonade by forming a nonprofit with a group of women to show Congress that people from every state still cared. The silver lining for Women of the Storm and so many people we have talked to and heard from since being down here is that the oil spill has brought a new light to the massive amount of wetland loss that is occurring in the Gulf and to ways in which the community and government can and should get involved.

In Mississippi: The Sun Herald made it a decision not only to be transparent, but also to tell the good as well as the bad news. They wrote about locals going to parties on the river instead of the beach and about how the people of this area weren’t going to just hide in their homes, they were going to make lemonade!

Even restaurants in the area that were at a huge loss for business joined in on the optimism …

In Alabama: Johnny Fisher, the manager of LuLu’s, believes that the secret to dealing with the spill was optimism – always being transparent, believing in what they do, and constantly wearing a smile. They would say, sure, we have oil on the beach, but that’s not everything there is to do in Gulf Shores.

It was a great opportunity for families to show their children the importance of volunteerism and support. They would say, “These are your beaches – don’t turn your backs on them.” Lucy, the owner of LuLu’s, created the phrase “One love, one ocean” and sells T-shirts to raise money for the Gulf.

Johnny said that the most important thing to have when going through hard times is faith, optimism, and positive energy. He believes this disaster and the manner in which LuLu’s has dealt with it has made them even stronger as a company.

It’s hard to say what will happen in the future as a result of the spill, but there is always a silver lining. The key is to remain positive in a sea of negativity, because the truth is, the beaches are clear, the water is gorgeous, and there are fish and shrimp still out there that are safe to eat. The fishermen are out fishing, and the locals are ready for tourism to be back to where it was pre-spill. What they need is a little help from you!

They are encouraging people to come back down, and that is exactly what we need to do. The best gift you can give the Gulf is your company. They are ready to welcome you with open arms whenever you are ready to see for yourselves just how well they have recovered from the spill.

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