Wilma Subra

Posted: February 28, 2011 in INTERVIEWS, The People

Wilma Subra, long a hero and friend of mine, travels from New Iberia, Louisiana to help communities across the world deal with environmental justice issues. As an community activist and an environmental chemist she shows people how to make corporate and federal bodies accountable. There is a reason she won the MacArthur Award, and here she tells of possibly the largest environmental disaster in the history of the US. Why does she do it? She wants the world to be a better place for her grandchildren….

Clarice Friloux

Posted: February 27, 2011 in INTERVIEWS, The People

We met Clarice Friloux through my cousin, Maxx Sizeler and her partner, Bea Calvert. Bea’s mother, Mercedes Calvert, was an interview we conducted in Metarie, Lousiana, and she had said we should really talk to her niece who had led a fight against an oil company and won.

The case, for obvious reasons, drew a lot of attention nationwide. She is from the Houma Tribe of Native Peoples and has openly fought to have the waste of the oil industry dealt with, primarily because it is often dumped in her backyard.


In open pits which have become aeromatic causing respiratory issues like asthma, bloody sinus conditions and making people in her community sick. She ultimately settled out of court with the oil company about ten years ago, where they were required to build berms around the site, and eventually cap it.

Ten years have passed and nothing has changed. People are still getting sick. And potentially (if the winds are right ) a gigantic oil spill will be headed right in her direction with no protection or natural buffer because the same oil companies have dug many canals rendering any natural possible hydrological exchange impossible. These canals and pipelines have decimated the marshland. What was once, according to Mercedes, endless brackish marsh with no glimpse of the Gulf, is now all salt water for as far as the eye can see. All because of the fourth element in the manufacture of oil: transportation ( The other elements being extraction, marketing and storage. ) please watch the posted video….

[vimeo 19773195  width=”400″ height=”300″ ]

Jon Goldman sewing an inflatable sculpture (1988)

Sixty three years before a deep water oil drilling platform near the Mississippi Delta exploded into U.S. History, Robert J. Flaherty (who made “Nanook of the North,” and is considered the father of the American documentary) was commissioned by Standard Oil in 1948 to make a film about oil exploration. The result was “Louisiana Story,” which portrays the excitement and the rewards a Cajun family receives when a drilling rig sets up on their bayou. It also is prophetic in revealing the tension created when we disrupt the interdependence of the natural environment and those traditional cultures who live in relation to that environment.

By exploring his family’s connection to Flaherty and the Louisiana Story, environmental artist and filmmaker Jon Goldman returns to the land of his great grandfather, discovering how industry changed forever the vitality of a region and sacrificed the real cost for prosperity.

Still from "Louisiana Story"

The film parallels one artist’s celebration of a threatened way of life and another artists need to confront the consequences.The story becomes a conversation on how to change the future.

It is a story about a family’s Louisiana legacy revealing how we are OIL IN THE FAMILY. OIL IN THE FAMILY combines a personal narrative with scenes from “Lousiana Story”and will push the boundaries of documentary and docudrama. The film explores the complex issues surrounding oil exploration, extraction and manufacturing through my own animation,

a page from the Graphic Novel OIL IN THE FAMILY

classic animation, interviews and personal stories. It depicts the impact on family and the larger context of how it has changed that place where the original story was filmed.

Robert Flaherty, motion picture director,hailed as the father of documentary films. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

The filmmakers return to the original film location sixty years later and examine the real impact oil exploration and the powerful petrochemical industry has had and continues to have on the South Central region of Louisiana, its people, its economy, the indigenous landscape and the larger world.

Andrew Barron

Barataria•Terrebonne National Estuarine Program (BTNEP)

We went to Thibodaux, Louisiana to Nicholls State University where we met Andrew Barron at the Barataria•Terrebonne National Estuarine Program (BTNEP). Both and his colleague Dean Blanchard ( not the Shrimp broker from Grand Isle) spoke to us about the decimation of the marshlands of Southern Louisiana, by the oil industry’s cutting of canals and the group’s advocacy for reparations of this vital national resource. Andrew is of Cajun ancestry, has a vast knowledge of hydrological systems of the Deltaic region of the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya River basins and is passionate about the need for the rest of the country to understand the interconnected nature of river systems and their fragile states. “The question is: is that accounting system–that perception of the value of these wetlands–is that going to change fast enough to make effective restoration. Because we do need a societal change, not just a few individuals here and there….” Under the effective leadership of Kerry St Pe, BTNEP is on the front lines of this battle, advocating for more funding for coastal restoration in a place so fragile it is known as the fastest disappearing landscape in America. In the short span of seventy years, man has destroyed what took nature 7,000 years to build. Today, they are pleading for the nation to repay a debt to a place that has lost their home which they sacrificed for the growth of the country. Now, with the impending “extinction event” they are even more desperate.

Dean Blanchard sells a lot of shrimp. He knows shrimp better than most people. If you want to know how the Shrimpers of the Gulf coast feel, take it from one of the hardest working people I have ever met.