Dear BP

You don’t know me.

But then again you’re not particularly intimate with any of the people and animals you’ve affected with your callous insensitivity to the health and well being of the planet we all inhabit and all it’s creatures.

By now we’ve all seen dramatic images of birds, turtles and other creatures at deaths door as they flounder about in a thick poisonous soup of oil. We Americans are already overwhelmed by the daily parade of shocking, fear producing, morally decrepit headlines that constitute what we erroneously refer to as “news” when it should be more accurately described as a Steven King horror story without the finesse and courtesy of the obligatory triumph of good-over-evil. As we are now more than 70 days into this fiasco, the sheer shock at the magnitude of this ecological crisis is waning in the larger public hearts and minds. For some to be replaced by a “everything is crazy, what can we do?” shrug of the shoulders while for others, the next mass suicide, drunken-driver-hits-a-motorcyclist-killing-his-pregnant-wife-who-was-riding-passenger will replace the BP follies with the latest “outrage du jour”. There will be some however for whom this catastrophe will not be soon forgotten. I am one such individual.

I had been wanting to go to Florida to photograph birds for a number of years. After surviving a medical challenge in the winter of 2003 and a good chunk of 2004, I became more determined than ever to make this trip truly happen and in the spring of 2006 the tickets were purchased and we were on our way. On arrival I was treated to the trip of a lifetime; everything I imagined and more. When I left Florida in 2006 I promised myself that I would return again, only by car. I wrote the following paragraphs shortly thereafter to accompany several Brown Pelican photographs I placed in a show.

When nature comes up with a near perfect design, she doesn’t fool around with success. The Brown Pelican is an amazing design that just hasn’t needed much fooling around with. They are incredibly large birds. Clumsy on land but gloriously graceful in the air they boast a seven foot wingspan and yet stay aloft with the greatest of ease, often coasting on the most minimal of wind drafts. When I observed them they seemed to enjoy traveling and fishing together in groups of three to as many as seven.

They are fish eaters and feed by finding schools of fish from the air. Once found, they tuck their wings partially in, turn and dive steeply toward the water. I was told that they hit the water at about 40 mph. As the enter the water, they open their expandable pouched beak and then on the way up they close the beak and expel the excess water, leaving the fish to slide down the neck and into the tummy. They would do this for long periods of time in one place, as long as the fish were around. Between all the racket of these flying Goliaths hitting the water, and the sudden curious disappearance of their close friends, you’d think the fish would get the message pretty quickly. But, I guess not.

And so, BP… There are many facts that remain unknown but I saw an interesting interview on 60 Minutes with one of the guys that survived the platform fire. The story Mike Williams told clearly indicated that there were many levels of criminal negligence insofar as the maintenance of the platforms safety measures. “We’re over budget. Hurry up. Use the quick and dirty method. Go Faster.” These are all phrases that spell the beginning of the end for cautioned and careful workmanship and management decisions. You failed to recognize that the project you were managing included planet Earth as well as your oil well. As a result, magnificent creatures such as the Brown Pelicans and others (including humans) are suffering because of your selfishness and ignorance. Look at this powerful and majestic bird and be ashamed of yourselves. Don’t waste your time and money on goodwill advertising. I don’t believe you. Take that money and direct it into the cleanup effort. Actions speak louder than words.

I plan to return to Florida in late February, breeding season, by car. BP, do not make me cry.

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July 2010

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All Photographic Images ©Arni Cheatham, Segami Images and Eyes and Ears, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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