I was a news-oblivious kindergartener when the Exxon Valdez oil spill hit Alaska's coastline and its pristine wildlife in 1989. As such, I was somewhat unprepared to stomach a recent NPR interview with an Audubon naturalist working on the Louisiana coast. She outlined the spill's effects on bird populations around the Gulf, a major destination for waterfowl. As she described how oil stunts gulls' and pelicans' ability to regulate body temperature and breathe, bringing toxins into their bloodstream, turning usually white eggs muddy brown, I quickly changed the station, knowing more details would elicit only anger.

But hearing her description was nothing like seeing the images on The Boston Globe's Big Picture blog last Friday. And this time, I couldn't bring myself to turn away. The pictures, of gulls and pelicans on Louisiana's East Grand Terre Island, have come to embody what's beingcalled the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. One gull is so drenched in sheets of oil that it hardly resembles a bird, more a small dog, its eyes grayed over from exhaustion and slow suffocation. Another gull floats seemingly dead in oil, its feet and beak rigid in the air. A brown pelican, Louisiana's state bird, thrashes and flails in the water, its monstrous wings (which can span up to 8 feet) weighed down by layers of oil, its distinctive pouched bill open as if gasping or crying out. My initial shock turned, predictably, to anger. But anger soon gave way to a rarer, more profound emotion: grief. When I looked at these birds, collectively covered in more than 400,000 gallons of oil leaking each day, I bemoaned how one amazing facet of creation was buried in—was made to carry—a seismic mess bolstered by human greed ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

May
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Current IssueOn Immigration, Welcoming the Stranger Is Only One Piece of the Puzzle
On Immigration, Welcoming the Stranger Is Only One Piece of the Puzzle Subscriber Access Only
Why Christians should support reforms that recognize both the dignity of immigrants and the rule of law.
RecommendedWho’s In Charge of the Christian Blogosphere?
Who’s In Charge of the Christian Blogosphere?
The age of the Internet has birthed a crisis of authority, especially for women.
TrendingThe Theology Beneath the Trump-Comey Conflict
The Theology Beneath the Trump-Comey Conflict
How the former FBI director’s interest in Reinhold Niebuhr shaped his approach to political power.
Editor's PickThe Greatest Threat to the Church Isn’t Islam—It’s Us
The Greatest Threat to the Church Isn’t Islam—It’s Us
A leading Nigerian theologian believes the real danger to Christianity in Africa is in the church.
Christianity Today
The Cry of the Oil-Soaked Pelican
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

June 2010

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.