• Michelle Hoover
  • Countdown to Publication Day 15: Oil Spill? Consider the “Dead Zone”—The Gulf of Mexico’s Yearly...
Countdown to Publication Day 15: Oil Spill? Consider the “Dead Zone”—The Gulf of Mexico’s Yearly Environmental Disaster
Contributor
Written by
Michelle Hoover
June 2010
Contributor
Written by
Michelle Hoover
June 2010
As we watch in horror as blundering BP sits on its hands while wildlife suffocates in the never-ending Gulf of Mexico spill, there’s a perhaps equal menace that occurs every summer in the same waters—a “vast tomb containing millions of bottom-dwelling sea creatures,” (World Resources Institute)—named the Dead Zone: “Each year in the Gulf of Mexico, a swath of up to seven thousand square miles becomes lifeless—completely void of shrimp, fish, and other marine life. The aptly named Dead Zone is an annually occurring phenomenon, caused mainly by runoff of fertilizers and chemicals that are used on farms across the US. The Mississippi River watershed drains about 40 percent of U.S. land area, carrying soil, with its fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, from farms and fields stretching form the Appalachians to the east to the Rockies in the west into the Gulf. When these nutrients enter the Gulf, they cause hypoxia, a condition where all the oxygen in a body of water is depleted, making it incompatible for living creatures. In some places the sea is eerily empty of life; in other places, dead fish, crabs, and worms litter the sea floor. The Dead Zone results in loss of income for fishermen, shrimpers, and crabbers; food chain alteration; loss of biodiversity; and the death of innocent sea animals.” That’s an excerpt from the book Farm Aid: A Song for America (and yes, strangely enough, Willie Nelson is one of its three co-authors). Those seven thousand square miles reach New Jersey proportions on the worst years, nearly the same area of land as the BP spill (now at almost 9,000 square miles on the surface). Of course, the oil spill continues to spread, the ocean floor feeding it like a helpless hemophiliac, and those 9,000 square miles will continue to grow. Nonetheless the Dead Zone’s annual destruction doesn’t receive a tenth as much news coverage, perhaps because the identity of its perpetrators is hazy and number in the millions. Still, I remain surprised that the blame-fest associated with the spill hasn’t turned inward to our own usage: our gas guzzlers, heating tanks, red-eye weekend flights and inability to walk more than a quarter mile. Of course, I count myself guilty of many of these, but I don’t hear the media doom-sayers spend much time on a simple fact: If BP is the drug-dealing criminal in this case, we are the desperate, vein-popping users that keeps it in business. So too the Dead Zone. Our insatiable appetites and the consequent move toward colossal-sized farms—aka “factory farms”—keep sustainable farming practices at bay, organic and local produce under grave suspicion, and both commercial and family farms dousing their fields and cutting corners just to keep up. The farms that most affect the Dead Zone are found in the Midwest, my native soil and a place I’d rather see covered with corn and beans than supersized factory complexes and Malls of America. Farm Aid is trying to help. By promoting sustainable farming practices, encouraging the HOMEGROWN movement, strengthening local and regional markets, providing services to farm families in crisis, and endorsing fair farm laws, Farm Aid waylays the desperation of small farmers and allows them to farm their land with the long-term in mind—maintaining practices that keep their soil and water tables healthy for generations to come. Book launch charity-tie-ins aren’t big news in Boston, but I still wanted to find an appropriate organization for my own launch of The Quickening at the end of June. The novel tells the story of farm families struggling to save their land during the Depression, so Farm Aid, an organization devoted to the survival of the family farm, seemed a logical choice. But the idea of donating author proceeds from the event is not entirely altruistic. If I can somehow divert attention from myself during an otherwise all too “me-focused” occasion, I’ll happily do so. And if my pockets can survive similar donations at later events throughout the Midwest, I may try to do more. Much to my surprise, the main offices for Farm Aid are located in Somerville, Mass., a stone’s throw from my own haunting grounds. And when I first called their offices to discuss the launch, the man who answered the phone was a native of my hometown—Ames, Iowa. The completion of my novel has long been a kind of homecoming for me, based as the story is on my own family history. My great-grandparents won the fight to keep their land between the world wars; my grandparents had worst luck. At once, my publisher sent an advanced copy of the book to Farm Aid’s director, and after she’d raced through it over the course of weekend, we knew the fit was right. The Quickening book launch takes place June 28 at The Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge, MA, 6:30-10pm. All are welcome. Author proceeds for launch book sales go to Farm Aid. For more information, visit www.michellehoover.net or www.farmaid.org.

Let's be friends

The Women Behind She Writes

519 articles
12 articles

Featured Members (7)

123 articles
392 articles
54 articles
60 articles

Featured Groups (7)

Trending Articles

Comments
No comments yet