Day 50

A few years back, the History Channel aired a mini-series called 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America, featuring events as diverse as the McKinley assassination and the first time Elvis Presley appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. If someone was to re-do that series now, they would almost certainly add April 20, 2010 to the list.

Deepwater Horizon Explosion

Today marks a milestone no one wanted to reach- fifty days since the start of the BP Gulf Oil Spill. Late on the night of April 20, the Deepwater Horizon, an offshore oil rig, exploded, causing a fire. Although most of the workers on the rig were successfully evacuated, 17 were injured and 11 missing and presumed dead. Two days later, on Earth Day, the rig finally sank and an oil slick appeared on the water’s surface.

The oil leak wasn’t officially confirmed until that Saturday, the 24th. Four days later, the U.S. Coast Guard estimated that each day 210,000 gallons (5,000 barrels) of oil were seeping into the Gulf of Mexico. On May 4, just two weeks after the initial explosion, oil began reaching Louisiana’s barrier islands. According to government estimates released on May 27, between 18.6-29.5 million gallons had leaked into the Gulf. The BP oil spill is now the largest in U.S. history. (By comparison, 11 millions gallons of leaked during 1989’s Exxon Valdez oil spill.)

The oil spill, as seen from space, as of late May 2010.

Not even a week later, on June 1, the oil hit Mississippi and Alabama. Just this past Friday, tarballs washed ashore in Pensacola, a city on Florida’s panhandle. It was a day millions of Floridians, myself included, were dreading.

I won’t go too much into the politics of this whole mess. BP and the U.S. government have both been ineffective these last few weeks and need to take ownership. BP’s efforts to cap the leak- the leak that’s 5,000 feet underwater- have been moderate successes at best, futile at worst. To say the oil giant is facing a PR nightmare is an understatement; to counter, BP is spending millions on advertising instead of clean-up.

More images from the Gulf.

We are now fifty days into the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history. And ironically enough, it’s World Oceans Day.

The more I read and see about this story, the more heartbreaking it gets. It’s the animals- the birds covered in sludge, the dolphins dying. It’s the priceless wetlands- the unique and fragile ecosystems of the Gulf. It’s the people- the countless families who practically lost their livelihoods the moment the leak began. For now, we can only see the oil at the surface, just like we can only see the surface of the damage that has been caused.

The oil spill couldn’t have come at worse time. It happened in the middle of spring, a time of growth and renewal for nature. Spring is absolutely critical- it will take years for the animals and environments of the Gulf to recover. Hurricane season is now upon us. God forbid a storm sweeps through the Gulf and lets the oil rain down inland. Along with hurricane season comes summer, a crucial time for tourism in the South. In so many places along the Gulf, such as Grand Isle and Florida especially, tourism dollars make the economy go around.

Last summer, I made two trips to Florida’s Gulf Coast. Now more than ever, I am incredibly grateful to have seen first-hand the beauty of Marco Island and Naples. (*These are my personal photos.)

I don’t know what the future holds for the Gulf. I hope the oil never has to reach South Florida, or any more beaches for that matter. But I don’t have any control over it- that power lies in BP and the government to contain the spill and clean up the mess. Everyday citizens have been doing what they can to help since Day 1. Unfortunately, so much damage has already been done that it will take years to know the full extent. I just have to hope that future generations can appreciate the environment before they risk losing it.

~ Sarah

Additional Sources: CNN, NPR, Wikipedia

Link Love

What better way to start the week than with the some of the most interesting stuff the Internet has to offer?

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden passed away on Friday at the age of 99. Even if you’re not a sports fan, you should check out his great “Woodenisms.

An interesting look at co-education at the collegiate level from Feministing.

Women in the workplace: one bankers says she was fired for being too sexy, while five anchors at Al-Jazeera quit because they were harassed for not following “modest” dress codes.

Do you know how to protect yourself on Facebook?

From one of my favorite blogs, More Magic Always, an argument for minimalism.

Video Love

If you’re still singing along to “Break Even”, watch the video for The Script’s previous single, “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved”.

900 people lip-synch to the impossibly catchy “Hey Soul Sister” by Train.

Meet Costa Rica’s answer to Shakira: Debi Nova. This may just be the perfect summer song.

Speaking of Shakira, she sings the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)”, an adaptation of a traditional soldiers’ song.

What links were your favorite from this past week?

~ Sarah

Movie Review: Letters to Juliet

Ah, summer movie season. It’s full of blockbusters, frat-boy comedies, and rom-coms. Granted, I’m generalizing, but summer movies tend to get old quickly. I’ve browsed IMDB’s Summer Movie Guide and there’s not much to look forward to, unless there’s some surprise, well-reviewed hit. It hasn’t even been a week since Memorial Day- I’m not sure I’ll make it to August.

This is why my friend Daniela and I were in a bit of a dilemma yesterday, when we finally made a trip to the theater. We debated between Prince of Persia and Sex & the City. Both got terrible reviews, so we ended up buying tickets for Letters to Juliet. (Side note: I was absolutely shocked when my ticket only cost six bucks. How awesome.)

Letters to Juliet stars Amanda Seyfried as Sophie. She travels to Verona with her fiancé Victor (Gael García Bernal) on a “pre-honeymoon”. Sounds like a fairy-tale already, right? But Victor, who is opening a restaurant, begins to neglect Sophie as he meets with suppliers. Sophie is left to explore Verona when she meets the “secretaries of Juliet”. These women spend their days answering letters women left at Juliet’s courtyard, all asking for advice when it comes to love. Sophie joins them and soon finds a long-lost letter dating back fifty years. Since she can’t bear to leave the letter unanswered, Sophie writes back.

A few days later, the woman who wrote the original letter, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), arrives in Verona inspired to search for the lover she left decades ago. After a chance encounter, Sophie joins Claire and her handsome yet pompous nephew Charlie (Christopher Egan) on their sojourn through the Italian countryside. And really, I can stop describing the plot now because the trailer gives away everything.

Despite its predictability, I found Letters to Juliet to be such a pleasant film. Even though all the leads are pretty much stock characters, the actors all give solid performances. Seyfried has come a long way from her Mean Girls days- she’s transforming into one of Hollywood’s brightest young actresses. Redgrave is just radiant- absolutely stunning. She approaches her role with such passion, her Claire becomes the star of the show. The cinematography is gorgeous: Italy is splashed with sunlight, and it helps the movie’s vibe enormously.

Although Letters to Juliet was marketed as a romantic-comedy, it’s refreshing in many ways. It’s light on the comedy (nearly no slapstick, thank goodness), with just the right amount of romance. I did tear up occasionally but it was no tearjerker like The Notebook. It was great to see a romance set outside of New York City (for the most part) because compared to the usual, glossy chick flicks, Letters to Juliet feels intimate and sincere. The movie doesn’t revolve around the relationship between Sophie and Charlie, leaving room to for audiences to connect with Claire’s story. And her story is a great one, even if it is a modern fairy-tale.

This may seem like a non-sequitur, but the movie made me ridiculously hungry. Just the sight of gelato- Italy itself is mouth-watering. And you know those never-ending bread sticks at Olive Garden? They may not be real Italian or all that filling, but are still incredibly delicious, warm, and real. Well, that’s Letters to Juliet. Bon appetit.

Sarah