See how the beaches in the Gulf of Mexico look today, 5 years after the disastrous BP oil spill.
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The Wilderness Society

It's been more than five years since the epic oil spill that devastated the Gulf of Mexico.

The BP-owned oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, 2010, near the Mississippi Delta and spilled an estimated 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over the next 87 days until it was capped. You probably saw all the awful photos of storks and dolphins dripping slick with black sludge.

"Active cleanup" efforts officially ended in April 2014; to hear BP tell it, "there is no data that suggests there are any long-term population-level impacts to any species." But that's in part because we simply don't have comparable data for a disaster this size.


So here's what $50 billion in cleanup costs and fines looks like today, according to the Gulf beachgoers of Instagram:


1. Walking barefoot on hot sand is bad enough without having to avoid the tar balls, too.

Just a "little" tar ball is all. #beach #tarball #oilspillremnants #igdaily #igaddict #gross #fuckyouBP #BPoilspill #donttouchthese #notmyhands #beachproblems #lookslikeagiantturd
A photo posted by Paul Irizarry (@that_kid_paulie) on


2. This low tide smells like sulfur.

Residuals from BP oil spill in the Gulf? Last night and this am at low tide this black "sticky" stuff accumulates with the tides. Will they hold up their reparations or bail out again? Not cool. #BP #bpoil #BPrefinery #bpoilspill #theGulf #AlligatorPoint #FL #StickySituation #CorporateEthics
A photo posted by Keeli Crewe (@keelicrewe) on


3. Well. Have fun sifting through the sand, I guess...

#scene #BP #itsclean #tarballs #oilspill #pcolabeach #lookatit #killingourbeachfromunderneath
A photo posted by Cameron Patterson's Perception (@pattersonsperception) on



4. It's kind of like mud! Just with oil instead of water.

Can anyone spot the sand in this oil. #bpoilspill
A photo posted by Me'le'sa (@moonlite_) on



5. Another tar ball! This one was found more than 300 miles from the Louisiana border in Port Aransas, Texas — lest you thought the effects of the oil spill were contained to a small part of the Gulf.

Tar balls. Natural oil seepage, oil tanker crashes and oil rig spills deposit oil into the Gulf of Mexico and over time this oil solidifies and washes up on shore as #tarballs. These tar balls are found all along the beaches from Louisiana to Mexico and are as common as sea weed and sea shells nowadays. What are we doing to our planet? Let alone our animals and food source? We need to wake up and realize that oil is a fossil fuel .. It won't be there forever so eventually we won't have it to fuel our lives.. It's past time we switched our energy source to something more earth friendly instead of something earth deadly. #ourworld #planet #earth #oil #petroleum #beach #sand #nature #animals #oneworld #energy #fossilfuel #oilspill
A photo posted by Timothy Knapp (@love2evol) on



6. As for this little sludge-streaked beach? It's all the way in Cuba.

malecon #cuba #bpoilspill #petrolio #dontswimhere
A photo posted by @sanchezjjose on


Sure, maybe we can't prove that this is all BP's oil, but we know that the immediate impact was felt in Havana and that there's some contention going on right now about further drilling off the Cuban coast.

While the "official" cleanup efforts might be over, it's clear there's still plenty of work left to do.

"There is nothing to suggest other than that the Gulf is a resilient body of water that has bounced back strongly," a spokesperson from BP said. "The Gulf has not been damaged anywhere near the degree some people feared it would have in the midst of the spill."

Sure, the oceans are resilient, and there's so much about them that we still don't understand. But the aftermath is more than just a few unsightly tar balls or some oil streaks uncovered in the tide. The Deepwater Horizon disaster was unprecedented in scale, and it's impossible to predict the lasting effects of an oil spill of this magnitude. All that oil has to go somewhere, right?

In the meantime, BP has already returned to the scene of the crime and is back to drilling the Gulf of Mexico. And now they have their sights set on the Great Australian Bight as well.

But there's still a chance to stop them and to prevent future dangerous drilling to occur in the Arctic Ocean or any of these other important U.S. wildlife reservations. You can also support any of the charities who are continuing in the Gulf recovery efforts.

Because it's not just about the beaches — it's about the future of the planet.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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