Making a Difference: The Gulf Oil Spill

7 Things I’ve Read Recently

1. On April 20, an explosion and fire on an oil-drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico caused an oil leak.1 Two days later, the rig sank.2
2. On April 25, the U.S. Department of the Interior estimated that 1,000 barrels of oil were leaking every day.3 By June 15, that estimated had risen to 60,000 barrels of oil a day, which is equal to 2.5 million gallons every day.4
3. Experts say that the Gulf of Mexico oil leak is the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.5
4. About 27,000 cleanup and animal rescue workers are helping the 400 animal species that are threatened by the oil spill.6
5. Because of the oil spill, 46,000 square miles of water have been shut down in the Gulf so far.7
6. Eleven-year-old Olivia Bouler was so upset about the oil spill that she drew a picture of a bird and sent it the National Audubon Society, saying she wanted to help.8 The Audubon Society suggested she draw pictures of birds in exchange for donations.9
7. So far, Bouler has raised more than $135,000 to help birds in the Gulf oil spill because of her illustrations.10

Here’s My Take on It:

Since oil started spewing from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, I’ve had more conversations with my kids and other families about what we can do. At first, we all felt angry and helpless. One of my teenagers said we should boycott BP, the company that spilled the oil. The other said we needed to look for alternative energy so that we didn’t consume so much. But while these conversations were interesting and stimulating, I felt that we weren’t doing enough.

Then I read about 11-year-old Olivia Bouler, and I realized that Olivia was doing what we should all be doing: taking action. If an 11-year-old can start drawing pictures and selling them to raise money to help the birds affected by the oil spill, then I could do something. (I was shocked about how many species of birds are affected. See for yourself:

Yes, it’s important to learn as much as we can about the oil spill, but we need to do a lot more than wring our hands, point fingers at perpetrators, and rant about those who don’t care. The truth is, a lot of people care, and a lot of people are doing something about it. One family I know keeps a daily count. That family knows the number of days that the oil has been spewing and adds up the barrels of oil being dumped into the gulf each day for a grand total.

Other families tap into their kids’ passion for helping the wildlife that is affected. They’ve been donating money (even if it’s only a little) to nonprofit organizations that are helping the animals in the gulf, like the Audubon Society (, the National Wildlife Refuge Association (, and the National Wildlife Federation ( Others are doing fundraisers to get others to help out as well.

The way we respond to horrific situations like the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico makes an impression on our kids. They don’t like feeling helpless—just like we adults don’t either. So do something. It doesn’t need to be big. It just needs to be something that matters.

Ask your child: “What can we do about the oil spill in the Gulf?”

Explore Further:

  • Read Oil Spill!, a book about the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

How is your family responding to the oil spill in the Gulf? Share your comments below.


1. Campbell Robertson and Leslie Kaufman, “Size of Spill in Gulf of Mexico Is Larger than Thought,” The New York Times, April 28, 2010.
2. Ibid.
3. Harriet Barovick, Kristi Oloffson, et. al., “Gulf of Mexico: There Will Be (Even More) Oil,” Time magazine, June 28, 2010.
4. Ibid.
5. Steve Helling, “The Oil Spill Catastrophe: ‘We’ll Never Give Up,’ ” People magazine, June 28, 2010, 134-139.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. Stephanie Steinberg, “Fifth-Grader Raises $70K to Help Birds in Gulf Oil Spill,” USA Today, June 14, 2010.
9. Ibid.
10. Pete Thomas, “Drawings by Olivia Bouler, 11, Raise $135,000 for Gulf Birds,” Pete Thomas Outdoors, June 21, 2010.

Image courtesy of USA Today.

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