Think You Are Powerless in the Gulf Oil “Spill?” Think Again….

by Dani Fake Webb on May 4, 2010


Sunday was a tough morning.

I had been hearing news tidbit about the oil “spill” in the Gulf Coast.

I had been recalling past photos of birds covered in oil.

I was vaguely aware of a fishing industry that might be impacted.

But, from April 20 (the day the tanker exploded) until May 2, I had successfully ignored/denied/forgotten/avoided and otherwise turned my back on the horrible catastrophe that is occurring on the Gulf of Mexico.

(If you, too, have been with your head in the sand, here’s a recap: Explosion. Oil Rig sinks. 11 people presumed dead. Oil leaking from the well in massive quantities. Huge oil slick headed for the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Wildlife in danger. Fishing industry in danger. People’s livelihoods at risk. Oh, yeah. And the “spill” is not contained. Millions of gallons are still leaking into the waters, and have been since April 20.)

My reasons for ignoring/denying/forgetting/avoiding are not because I don’t care. They are because I care too much.

I feel physical pain when I think about the wildlife and what tragic and horrible deaths they will face.

I feel physical pain when I see the fisherman wiping tears as he realizes he may lose his 4th generation fishing business to the environmental catastrophe.

I feel, and I can’t bear it.


That’s how I feel. This situation is SO HUGE that it may be beyond the capacity of humans to control. Eco-systems will forever be altered. The food chain (that includes food for us humans) will be contaminated. It seems as if whatever effort I can make is laughable compared to the magnitude of the problem.



So Sunday morning, I decided to be brave. I launched into reading about what had been going on since April 20. And I was saddened. Humbled. Tearful. Aching.

In that swath of emotion, I decided one thing: I will not be powerless.

Yes, it is true that there is little I can do to prevent the huge proportions of this mess. But, I am not powerless.

I refuse to be powerless.

So, I began researching. I looked into the ways that people were helping. I found:

But the most compelling find for me is an organization called Matter of Trust. They take human hair from salons and pet hair from groomers and make it into booms and mats that soak up oil. (Check out this video for how it works.)

Bottom line: they will help contain and clean up a lot of oil.

Here are some facts: (note – these are my facts based on internet research, which at times results in conflicting information. So, I could be off – but you get the idea.)

There are 300,000 salons in the US.

Each produces about a pound of hair a day.

That’s 300,000 pounds of hair a day.

One pound of hair can soak up roughly a quart of oil.

One pound of hair can make one hairmat.

Each hairmat can be reused up to 15 times.

So every pound of hair can absorb nearly 4 gallons of oil in its lifetime.

300,000 pounds of hair x 4 gallons of oil per pound = an absorption potential of 1.2 million gallons. PER DAY.

That’s the potential anyway. And I know there is so much oil that it isn’t enough. But it can be a part of the solution.

Now, I understand that I may not be able to mobilize all 300,000 salons to donate hair. But I can work with my local hair salons. I can contact the newspaper and the TV station to see if they will help spread the word. I can use social media to ask people to help me.

I am not powerless.

What I can do alone may not have a huge impact, but if everyone did something, then we are not powerless. Collectively, we are not powerless.

Matter of Trust may not be your thing. Maybe donating your time for physical clean up is. Maybe you want to make a donation to organizations that rescue and clean up wildlife. Maybe you’ll spread the word and tell others about how to help. Maybe you will encourage people to not bitch about the oil companies, since this is a time to unite and work together.

No matter how small your action, it is the action that makes you powerful.

You are not powerless.

Let’s work together to each take a step, no matter how small, to helping those impacted by such this tragedy.


Am I still sad? Oh, of course.

Have I made a huge difference? Of course not.

But I can make some.

And here’s what I have learned:

Powerlessness is a state of mind. It can feel like one of the most blinding, painful, horrid feelings in the world. And it is a state of mind.

This means that you have power over what you choose to make you feel powerless.

Take this quote by Viktor Frankl, Nazi concentration camp survivor: The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.

You can’t control other people. You can’t control many circumstances. But you can control your responses.

And, I get it. This is SOOO much easier said than done. Which is why having support in areas in which you feel powerless is so critical: a friend, a therapist, a coach, a community. Don’t go it alone.


Where in your life do you feel powerless?

What thoughts are you telling yourself about that situation?

How can you turn those thoughts around?

How will you get support?

How will you take action in the Gulf Oil Spill? (No matter how small.)

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