Fun with Oil Spills (& Grass Roots Cleanup Efforts)

[Update 11/13/07: this blog has more updates and info on cleanup efforts than the one I linked]

Lest you think that my life is all Disco Balls, FlashDances, local politics, and working at Apple, you miss the MOST fun thing I do. Clean up Oil Spills! Fun Fun!


[Ed Note: As amusing as this take on things is to me, decency demands I interrupt myself – I did 1.5 hours of volunteering today. That’s it. I’ve never cleaned an oil spill before – so to insinuate I do it frequently is lame. To insinuate that I did a lot today is even lamer. MANY MANY people have spent many hours this week volunteering for clean up. I showed up today on a whim & helped out a tiny amount. So anything I say I did is overstating my value to the project about 10000 fold.]

So… after I single handedly saved a few hundred sea birds, a dozen sea lions, and a grey whale…. 🙂


(OK – Seriously – read on for details on the clean up & my TINY TINY contribution)

No, seriously… today my friend Aaron SMSed & said he was doing beach clean up & it has been on my mind since the horrible Cosco Busan oil spill of last week. Some of my friends have already helped out (thanks Kathe!) & I thought it would be be a good thing to do [also note, I’m oddly detached emotionally from this whole disaster – odd given how much I’m generally angry at our petro-chemical-based greenhouse-gas-spewing nature-stomping civilization. Maybe because I’m exhausted after October’s typical elections+costume+work Bataan Death March… anyway)

It was a gorgeous day & after lunch with a friend I biked out to Ocean Beach to help out. I was amazed that there could be any significant oil as far out as Ocean Beach, but as Aaron put it, the bay flushes itself out twice a day, so of course it is out here. And sure enough it was.

I was out near Taraval and Great Highway & found the grassroots cleanup station that a bunch of beach users (mostly surfers) had set up.

Anyway, I showed up, they gave me a suit & some used shoes (I turns out that the oil in the water permeates your shoes & ruins them) and a bunch of “Oil Spill Hair Mats” (fascinating!*) & they sent me out to the beach.

I spent an hour and a half & my biggest regret was that I didn’t come out sooner. The work is oddly satisfying because the hair mats so quickly and usefully pick up oil. If any of you are a bit OCD I highly recommend you use your superpowers for good & get out there!

You basically are blotting the beach & it feels so necessary & the improvement is marked. That being said, the oil sheen left behind and the feeling of futility remains, but it is is easy to see that things would be even worse if you weren’t there and the work itself is as I say oddly satisfying. Maybe if these crews are going out again this week, I’ll be there.

[Update – I forgot to add the scariest part of all this. So I was wearing white socks & tennis shoes (borrowed from the clean up folks). My socks got soaked of course because I was squatting in the wet sand as I cleaned the beach. When I came home I took off the socks. They look a lot like oil filters now. Basically the thin sheen of oil in the water which is hard to notice got run through my socks. Bleech. Makes you think about all the oil covering the entire surface of the Bay…..]

*It turns out that human hair is a fantastic absorber of oil, so this non-profit “Matter of Trust” gets donated hair from barber shops all over the place & makes clean up mats from them. A chance encounter with a Surfrider person led to this grass roots clean up attempt. Evidently, the EPA/Coast Guard crews noticed the grass-roots folks hair mats and came and got some for themselves because they had only shovels and rakes…..









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