5 Reasons to Cast a Ballot

Today was a good day: I early voted in the Florida primaries. This is the second time I’ve ever voted. Even though (in Florida at least) you fill out a glorified scan-tron, I still find voting to be very rewarding, especially after this summer’s internship. Young people like ourselves have notoriously low voter turnout rates, but I don’t see why we can’t be more involved with the political process. Voting is one small action that can do a whole lot of good.

5. The Blame Game. Don’t like the way your community, county, state, or country are run? One thing you can do about that is vote. If you have the right to vote and then choose not to exercise it, then you probably shouldn’t be complaining about the decisions elected officials are making. Voting gives you the opportunity to choose your representatives in government, so vote for people whose views are like yours.

4. Youth Issues. Think about hot-button issues: the war, education, the economy. These topics affect everyone, especially the youth and our future. Politicians are politicians, and they cater to their leading demographics. They are much more likely to listen to those who do vote, and if young voters are a large voting block, we’ll get plenty of attention to our needs.

3. Democracy- Duh. In the famed Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln referred to democracy as: “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. A key phrase there? By the people. Democracy doesn’t work if the citizens don’t participate.

2. History. Yesterday was the 90th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting the state and federal government from denying any citizen the right to vote based on sex. Historically, many groups of people have been disenfranchised. After all of their struggles, the least we can do is vote.

1. Current Events. Just halfway across the world, people are fighting and dying to have the right to vote and have those votes be counted. Just look at least year’s revolution in Iran after the elections. You probably know people who can’t vote because of their citizenship status or whose homelands have struggled with controversies in elections. If anything, vote for the people who don’t have a voice yet.

What do you think? Do value the right to vote? Do you vote?

~ Sarah

P.S. Casting a ballot is half the battle. It’s very important to be an informed voter. Before voting, I would recommend reading your local newspaper for thorough analysis of the candidates and amendments you may be voting on. How do you keep yourself informed? How do you know you’re making the right choice?

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