A myriad of media figures, corporate public relations employees, government spokespeople, environmentalists, politicians and pundits all have their own takes.
The quantity and variety of opinions on the spill is vast, much like the spill itself. It can be hard to know what the real story is.
That’s why instead of adopting anyone else’s perspective on the largest accidental oil spill in history, Centre College students Celeste Hurst, Cody Cook, Hannah Meacham and 12 others drove down to the Gulf Coast in a van with their professors to find out for themselves.
Hurst, Cook, Meacham, their freshman cohorts and a pair of Centre professors made a week-long trip to the Gulf Coast area in January as part of a “Centre Term” three-week intensive course titled “Actualizing the Big Spill.”
“The media just kind of stopped portraying the oil spill after it was capped, so it was basically a guess to everybody inland what was really going on,” Cook said.
Professor Matthew Klooster came up with the idea of using Centre’s unique three-week mid-winter term to study the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill from every angle.
“The purpose of the whole course is for the students to learn about the different perspectives,” he said. “It seemed to me there were a lot of misconceptions in people’s minds based on misinformation in the media.”
Klooster said his students’ and his own assumptions about the oil spill were changed by their trip. The physical conditions of the beaches and ocean on the coast weren’t nearly as bad as they had expected, he said, but the economic devastation to the local communities was far worse than they had expected.
“The farther you got away from the shoreline where people’s livelihoods were less directly impacted by the oil spill, the less you got a sense of desperation,” he said. “The more you ventured into these coastal areas where fishing and sea life are such a vital piece of life for these people, the more you got a sense of fear and desperation and frustration.”