“The oil is creeping towards my home in Alabama as I write this, and it is breaking my heart.”

Brinkley Hutchings, Greenpeace Student Network activist, at home on the Alabama coast -- directly in the path of the fast-approaching spill.

From Brinkley Hutching’s blog, a post entitled A Local’s Account of the Deepwater Disaster. Watch an astonishing aerial video of the slick shot by John Wathen as they flew from Brinkley’s home to the source of the spill and back. (Below.) She is also the Greenpeace Campus Coordinator at University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

I grew up in one of the most beautiful places. Montrose, Alabama. My family lives on Mobile Bay, and I spent my childhood exploring the many bays, rivers, streams and creeks near my home. Starting at age 7, I would spend whole days exploring the local waters and shorelines with my little 13 foot boat. What existed naturally in my own backyard was truly utopian. Now, all the beautiful trees, wildlife and pristine waters, all will see the thick black and red oil within these next days. It brings a deeper ache than I can express.

As I flew out to the spill last Friday with my father (he’s a pilot), I wasn’t prepared for what I was going to witness. Here are some notes I took during the flight as we approached the source of this disaster:

“We are starting to smell oil…the pungent smell burns my nostrils and I feel nauseated to the core of my being….oh my God…red streaks of oil are everywhere…thick black near the well…it is crude oil and it stretches as far as I can see…I am sick…I can’t feel my own body or distinguish any of my feelings right now… this is the worst and most saddening situation I have ever seen in my life…The boats are randomly skewn about, and they are so disorganized! The cleanup efforts look completely haphazard and ineffective. It is utter chaos down there! Boats randomly placed, pulling booms that are simply swirling the oil around in circles! I really don’t feel alive right now…this is a horrible dream…why the heck didn’t BP have to have a plan in place for a disaster like this?!”

It was so much worse than I could have ever imagined and not even close to what the media has been portraying. I couldn’t even take it all in. I saw miles and miles of crude oil pouring from the Earth’s core to the ocean’s surface, red as blood, where it then proceeded to move eerily and ominously with the current toward my home. Before I even registered sadness, tears poured down my face. My entire body cried. I felt so helpless looking down at that uncontainable and chaotic mess. I will never be able to clear that picture from my mind.

This disaster could have been prevented, yet it wasn’t due to BP’s own negligence and a weak national energy policy. What’s outrageous is that BP is doing everything they can to avoid assuming responsibility for this spill. How dare they try and sidestep responsibility for the worst disaster in the Gulf’s history?!?!?!

Over 4 million gallons of crude oil are destroying the Gulf coast and innumerable wildlife habitats while also crippling local economies – this is destroying my home.The time of giveaways and loose regulation of the oil industry must end.

I hope with all my heart that this disaster will be a huge wakeup call. Things must change. We must all work to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels and be involved in a clean energy revolution. Congress needs to ban offshore drilling and President Obama needs to provide unwavering support to end offshore drilling.

Please talk to your friends. Talk to your neighbors. Start organizing yourselves. Become involved with these serious issues we are facing. If we continue on our current path of carelessly extracting fossil fuels like oil and coal, rather than harnessing clean, renewable energy like wind power, we will see many more tragedies like the BP oil spill.
From the disaster zone,

Brinkley Hutchings

Still photos taken during the flight

Take Action- Tell Congress: No drilling, no coal, clean energy now!

25 Responses to ““The oil is creeping towards my home in Alabama as I write this, and it is breaking my heart.””


  1. 1 Morgan May 12th, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Thanks for posting this Ashley. This is exactly the kind of ‘youth-on-the-front-lines’ reporting that this blog does so well. Would be great to ask her to contribute here.

  2. 2 Chris Lawrence May 12th, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    What makes the situation even more depressing is that there is no logical reason why we would be drilling offshore in the first place. The amount of oil reserves already discovered and in production or ready to go are massive and we can only afford to use a fraction of that without risking worst-case climate change. In other words, we can never use all the oil we’ve already found, probably not even a quarter of it. So *why the hell* do we keep looking for more?

  3. 3 Harriet May 12th, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Tears are rolling down my face while I read your blog, Brink. This disaster has been constantly on my mind. This is my children’s future (you are my child also) destroyed by uncaring, self-centered, greedy corporations. They care nothing about your future or about our beautiful Gulf and the creatures who live there. This should never have been allowed to happen (pipelines in the Gulf) and there should have been a plan for a crisis (inevitable) like this. The reason I am crying daily is because IT’S STILL HAPPENING. I’ve never felt so helpless in my life. I can’t help clean it up. I can’t stop it. I am heart and soul-sick.

  4. 4 Jackie Eco May 13th, 2010 at 12:33 am

    NOW the public is seeing firsthand just some of the devastation continuing to utilize oil and coal.

    Imagine the difference we WILL make once we focus on the SOLUTIONS instead of the problems.

    NOW is a KEY moment that we learn about and PUSH for CLEAN ENERGY – something we ALL want and need. Please note that bird and bat friendly wind turbines are currently being used successfully. While this disaster is in the public’s eye, let’s make the most of it. Instead of being depressed about the Gulf Gush, let’s get ANGRY, INSPIRED AND MOTIVATED!!! Once we globally SWITCH to clean energy, there will never be another oil spill again!!! CLEAN ENERGY NOW!!! CLEAN ENERGY NOW!!! CLEAN ENERGY NOW!!!
    Jackie Eco

  5. 5 Cathy Sherman May 13th, 2010 at 1:50 am

    I am so sorry. I know how you feel. I wish we could help. There are so many folks here in Alaska – Cordova – who understand what you are going through. It is like a death. A death in the family. You’ll need to understand this and you have to grieve and then eventually move on. It’s really, really hard. We are all trying to share what we have learned and experienced to help, but it is hard to break through the corporate barriers to get messages to you.

    The most important part though is to stay close to your family and friends and neighbors. You will all need each other to brave the battle you are about to embark on. 21 years later, we are in a better place – emotionally — our waters are not healed, but our hearts are slowly mending. We still love the place we live – just like you. It will always be that special place – no matter what we do to it.

    Our hearts broke too, when we heard the news about what you face. All we kept thinking was ‘have we learned nothing since 1989?” Keep posting, keep writing, keep doing what you need to do to survive.

    All the best from up north.

  6. 6 claris May 13th, 2010 at 2:09 am

    May I say that your letter has made it all the way here to Italy, where I now live. My Father was also a pilot, he was a Naval Aviator. I was born in Pensacola and grew up in Gulf Shores Ala. I to spent my days roaming the water ways and beaches, collecting seashells. You are right when you say it was a paradise. I hope you see that this is not merely for the fact that we as a world need to cahnge our habits in order to be less dependent on oil, but also that we as a race need to place the laws first, if the regulators of the EPA would have done their job in that they should never have allowed the Corps to pump oil, unless all the proper equipment was in place, then this could have been a small problem. But we have at the highest levels of Government corrution, and this is the proof. We as a race need to come together on ending corruption and bring to bear the LAWS that would stop Corps from negating their DUTY to the enviroments of the planet for profit alone. If the LAWS and FINES where applied to the true extent of the damage done, than these Corps would find it far more profitable to do whatever is necessery to ensure that damage of this sort would not happen, as well as with the shipping of all toxic products. I fear that in other places on the planet it is far more corrupt and far easier to polute than we see here. GREEN PEACE was set up many years ago, I was a member in the first years, however when I saw that foundations were getting involed, I pulled my support. I saw that GP was not going to Press The Corps, it turned and pressed the common man, GP was bringing out vids and documents that proved Corps were poluting in every major industry. Now it is merely a tool to allow this to happen and it will be turned into, Well if we didn’t need so much oil, than these things wouldn’t happen, the blame will fall on the common man again. If you goggle the fact that we have oil in tankers that are just sitting in docks all over the planet, millions of gallons of oil, you would see it is all a game, they buy at todays prices and then sit on the millions of gallons waiting for prices to go up, and for one reason or another they always go up. It Breaks my heart to see that nothing has changed in all the years I have been alive, that £££$$ rules, and corrupts and the common man will always be the reason, not putting the blame where it truely belongs. Start a new movement, bring to bear the LAWS and Fines and force these corps to pay for the damage they are doing all over the Globe.
    I thank you for your letter and I will start today to push all the persons I know to help stop the corrution that is the true cause of this devastation… Thank you so much for your letter and your time.

  7. 7 Petter May 13th, 2010 at 2:26 am

    Great post

  8. 8 megan May 13th, 2010 at 3:27 am

    girl its breaking my heart and i’m all the way on the other side of the world. My heart breaks for the animals, we are the ones that make all the choices in this world and they are the ones who suffer for it.

  9. 9 cristina May 13th, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Brinkley,

    A beautiful – if heart-breaking – read. Your voice came through and I heard you. Like many who are responding, I am a mother with three children and I am just flabbergasted at what our generation (and those before us) have done to this earth.

    That said, many of us are picking up the reigns and doing our possible best to try and change things, try to rectify situations and right many of the wrongs that have happened over the past 100 years or so.

    I’m sorry, honey, for my part as an almost-40-year-old in the destruction of our beautiful home on Earth and I vow to you – and to my own children, and all those out there whose futures are effected by our actions – to do everything I possibly can.

    Don’t give up, stay strong, stay focused, keep up your good work. I am in CT and you are making a difference.

    -Cristina D. Johnson, CPC

  10. 10 sheryl May 13th, 2010 at 8:19 am

    I grew up about five miles from the Gulf in New Port Richey, Florida. We swam in it, laid on its beaches, enjoyed the scent of the salt breeze, boated through bayous and loved our watery playground. Your video is the best coverage I’ve seen so far of the hopeless enormity of this disaster. I cried buckets while watching it. I know FEMA is planning to evacuate the coast clear down to St. Pete if they set it all on fire, which means my elderly Dad will have to leave his home. Shame on us. Shame on all of us for being so unwilling to change our lives to save our planet and all life on it.

  11. 11 Naomi May 13th, 2010 at 10:32 am

    My heart bleeds for you all, the people who will be immediately affected but most of all for all the marine life which will perish because of the selfishness of man ie., big business. I am a rescue diver and have spent endless hours under the sea photographing the beauty which is there. I agree more should be done to protect our ecosystem. Lobbyist should not be allowed in politics, at all. Big business is ruining our country with their greed an manipulation of the law. The list goes on. I live in Florida, on the east coast, and I too am waiting for it to come. People have no idea that it is due to spread here as well. I feel for you, as it will greatly affect where you call home. All I can really say is “my heart goes out to you.” But, what you must do, which I plan to do, is be the voice for all the creatures and nature which will be affected. Film the devastation, film it now before it creeps in, continue to be the voice. I will try as well, from where I can. You have more resources available to you, just be careful and take health precautions, change comes when people join together.

  12. 12 Brian Wadhams May 13th, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I have fallowed this from Canada we hear feed your pain and sadness. This is something that concerns us in Canada, and continue to fight the industrial disasters, that come from any industry that wants to develop hear.
    Its people that put government in place they are the only ones that can make changes through policy and enforcement, and accountability of industry.
    Hear in British Columbia, we fight the same battle with fish farms that are destroying, not only the environment but our wild stocks as well, our Government turns their backs on this as well.
    Brian

  13. 13 Gert Klimanschewski May 13th, 2010 at 11:11 am

    …it is really sad to read your letter Ashley….
    but head up … from my view, I would say this is a part of world wide war… the war of money and companies which want to make money independent from any consequences.
    The problems all over the world are growing day by day, but the politicians are blind for this… they talk and talk nonsense…

    You see the result of their doings in front of you door…
    They ever told us ‘money makes the world go round’ …but at last we can not eat the money and we can not getting happy by having it …

    We live from nature and we should never forget…

    But human race seem only to learn when the ‘child was falling into fountain’ we would say in german :-)

    Every day we hear about destroying nature or war or other human self-made problems and we know to solve this fuc… problems, but we do not.
    But however, we should not getting depressed or frustrated by all the problems, we must stay together and we have to walk on and learn to take more responsibility for our doings…

    I know this is for the moment not a big guess or help and I can imagine what you feel this days…

    I will show your letter to other people, Gert

  14. 14 Teri May 13th, 2010 at 11:47 am

    I found a clean solution to the problem and they are ready and willing to fix this mess…
    This is for real:

    http://www.wimp.com/solutionoil/

  15. 15 Angela May 13th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    I took my little ones 5,8 out of school yesterday to visit the Gulf of Mexico. We live in the heal of the boot the beaches are always trashy the water is brown and tar balls come up BUT it is safe and full of Nature. I want my children to have some memory of what it is and can be to walk on a beach. I am so Sad today I am having a hard time breathing the next breath. Everyone is talking about clean up like it is over well it hasn’t even begun for those of us who watch the slow death of our GULF the worlds GULF. I want to show you that my pain is as deep as yours we are sensitive humans (15% of the population) so not everyone feels as deep as we do. To watch the arrogance of BP is blinding. This is more difficult than watching my family loose their homes for H. Rita,or working with evacuees from H K i Knew life will go on . Sorry I will stop here i can not write thru my own tears, i cant imagine seeing it from your plane. Thank you for being a witness, your words are important. I am sorry I am sorry

  16. 16 Mary C. Gagnon May 13th, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    I have to write and tell you, as a environmental and political activist, as well as a parent and citizen of Earth, it is with horribly mixed emotions I read the letter above (which came my way via “1,000,000 Strong Against Offshore Drilling” on facebook).

    I was sadder than I had already been (which was VERY sad), and read the piece and watched the video with tears running down my face. I was sad for the Earth, the wildlife, the ocean and all her creatures. I was sad for the people of the area who will lose their beautiful surroundings and many jobs. I was most empathetically sad for this family of environmentalists, who obviously were already trying to take good care of their world, to have to face this enormous devastation right in their own region. The helplessness and hopelessness is almost too much to bear!

    The next feeling (as is usually the case with me) was one of renewed commitment. This is why I write to you. I felt glad that I was not alone — nor are you. We are all on this journey together. Hard as it might seem to believe right now, the shock and grief will calm to a manageable level, but the fire to do something will remain at a stronger level.

    May you feel the energy of the untold millions of people who are understanding and sharing in your grief and all finding the things they, too, can do to help clean up this mess and work hard to see it never happens again. It won’t be easy, but it is too necessary to ignore!!

    I was also heartened to read the words of a young person who has made such a strong commitment to care for her world. It brings hope to us older folks to know there are young people who ‘get’ that we have to pitch-in together to affect a change in how things are done. I applaud you, and hope, if you ever feel you are alone in caring, you will remember I wrote to you.

    I will now go to share this link with others in my networks on fb. It is a good thing you have done!

    Gratitude,
    Mary

  17. 17 Lisa May 13th, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Laws are a poor substitute for natural morality, which springs from the heart. The love of land, the love of place, the heart’s recognition that we are not and never can be separate from the world we live in–these are beautifully expressed in Brinkley’s blog, and are the basis for a natural and common morality.

    This tragedy is so painful, so sickening. The only hope I have is that it will continue to break the hearts of humans wide open so that we can move together toward better ways of living, in relation to the Earth and to one another. Thanks for daring to expose your vulnerable heart, Brinkley.

  18. 18 lisaanthony May 13th, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    This is heart breaking, but the information everyone has been wondering what is the truth. Thank you for sharing

  19. 19 greydog May 14th, 2010 at 2:12 am

    There must be NO CAP placed on BP’s financial responsibility to the people imperiled by BP’s gross negligence. The ‘Senators-to-the-Rescue’ with their inappropriately inadequate $10 billion cap, are clearly stepping in to rescue their corporate masters. People of New Orleans, be damned.

    BP and government NON REGULATORS are responsible for this environmental catastrophe, which has no end in sight. BP must pay ALL damages, including the ongoing economic losses.

    I suggest that the USELESS CORPORATE SHILLS aka CONGRESS, suspend their taxpayer funded salaries including all the LIFETIME benefits they enjoy at the expense of the American taxpayer, and instead, for starters, funnel that money to the 27,000 people in New Orleans, who have lost their source of income and whose future incomes have been destroyed by this irreparable ecological meltdown.

  20. 20 Jesse Harkness May 14th, 2010 at 2:47 am

    THIS IS EPIC

    THERE IS A MUSHROOM THAT EATS OIL AND CREATES FUNGAL SUGARS HEALTHY FOR ENVIRONMENTS.

    THIS cleaning method IS NOT CURRENTLY BEING UTILIZED IN THIS CLEAN UP AND I AM DEDICATING MY TIME TO SPREADING THE WORD AS FAR AS I CAN. BE BOLD. BE EPIC. HERE IS SUFFICIENT PROOF.

    -simple floating islands like pallets could grow mushrooms in the surface of the water. wicks could carry oil up into floating columns that increase the surface area for these mushrooms to grow on.
    -mushroom growths on the beaches.

  21. 21 t. S. Knowles May 15th, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    its wonderful to see a progressive young alabama woman who speaks out on important issues. this oil spill could be the worst disaster for mobile in its history. our shores, our fishermen, our restaurants, our environment, our wildlife, and our very culture stand to be destroyed should the spill continue to pour into the gulf.
    i agree, it breaks my heart as well-

    -t-

  22. 22 Kris May 19th, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Unfortunately, it is typical of media to not report what is actually happening, or, show a tiny bit of coverage. What a terrible and sad account of this disaster.

  23. 23 The Destructionist May 20th, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    While watching the latest news about the BP Oil spill, a frightening thought came to mind: what if we can’t stop the oil? I mean, what happens if after all the measures to cap the pipe fail, (i.e., “Top Hat”, “Small Hat” and “Top Kill”). What then? An accident this problematic is new territory for BP. The oil pipeline is nearly a mile down on the ocean floor, accessible only by robots. Add on top of that the extreme pressure at which the oil is flowing out of the pipeline and there you have it: the perfect storm.

    Moreover, scientists also claim that they’ve found an enormous plume of oil floating just under the surface of the ocean measuring approximately 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick. (I’m no math genius, but I bet one of you reading this could figure out just how many barrels of oil that is…)

    There are new estimates that the amount of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico is anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 barrels of oil a day: that’s a far cry from BP’s estimated 5,000 barrels a day. If BP’s estimates are correct, the total amount of oil now in the Gulf would be approximately 150,000 barrels (or 6,300,000 gallons). That’s barely enough to fill 286 swimming pools: sixteen feet, by thirty-two feet, by eight and a half feet deep. That wouldn’t cover an area the size of New York City, let alone an area the size of Delaware. Obviously, the spill is much larger than we are being led to believe. If the leak can’t be stopped, in a year’s time, we’ll have roughly 18,250,000 barrels of oil (or 766,500,000 gallons) in our oceans, killing our marine and animal wildlife. Such a calamity would be environmentally and economically disastrous. I’m not a religious man, but I pray that BP and our government work fast to end this catastrophe.

    http://www.calculateme.com/Volume/Barrels(Petroleum)/ToGallons.htm

    http://blogs.howstuffworks.com/2010/05/17/latest-news-from-the-oil-spill-in-the-gulf-of-mexico-is-grim/

    http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/dailyloaf/2010/05/20/scientist-says-oil-spill-is-leaking-100000-barrels-of-oil-a-day-not-bps-estimate-of-5000/

  1. 1 Below the surface of oil hemmorhage by Roxanne Amico « Dandelion Salad Trackback on May 15th, 2010 at 11:04 pm
  2. 2 I was shocked, once again, as I witnessed the lackadaisical cleanup efforts of the BP oil spill. « It’s Getting Hot In Here Trackback on May 20th, 2010 at 2:26 pm
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About Ashley


Organizer, climate justice activist.

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