Environmental Filmmakers Document 2010 Catastrophic Oil Spill

by Beth Doane
On Earth Day 2010, the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig sank off the Gulf Coast of the United States. It created the worst oil spill in history with more than 3.4 million gallons contaminating our planet and outraging masses around the globe. Yet today the tragedy is largely forgotten amidst the latest social and political drama and an onslaught of other disheartening environmental news. California-based filmmakers Josh and Rebecca Tickell were determined to show us how much about this disaster remains unknown and misunderstood, and in their groundbreaking new film “The Big Fix,” they uncover how the capping of the well was not the end, but rather just the beginning of a horrifying array of events laced with greed, corruption, disaster and lies. Their work exposes the root causes of the catastrophic spill and what really happened after the media crews, the president and slews of volunteers from around the world left the Gulf states and returned to their everyday lives. Alongside celebrities and activist-actors such as Peter Fonda and Amy Smart, the Tickells begin to expose how Wall Street is funding big oil, how political campaigns are optimized and even won through shady corporate financing, and how the state of Louisiana is more of an “oil colony” than a functioning state. 

Photo by Jeramy Pritchett & Magda Rod /
Josh and Rebecca Tickell

“The Gulf spill is just one of countless examples where our world’s largest, most powerful and often most corrupt organizations chose profit over people and over the health of our earth.”

Josh would know, having been raised surrounded by the oil refineries in Louisiana, and being one of the nation’s leading experts in sustainable biofuels.

His best selling book, “From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank: The Complete Guide to Using Vegetable Oil as an Alternative Fuel,” actually jump started the U.S. biodiesel movement. Today, the bio-diesel industry produces more than 850 million gallons per year supplying biodegradable fuel to commercial fleets including the San Francisco Fire Department, the Navy and NASA.Tickell also founded the Biodiesel America Organization (now renamed the I’ll Be The One Organization at www.IBT1.org), which was selected by President Bill Clinton as an inaugural part of his Global Initiative on Climate Change. The organization mounted a biodiesel relief effort to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina and biodiesel-fueled relief ships delivered supplies and 20,000 meals to the hardest-hit areas of the disaster zone.

Josh’s wife, Rebecca Harrell Tickell, also an author, now suffers serious health issues after spending the nearly two years it took to document the impacts of the Gulf spill for the film and has permanent damage from exposure to the oil and toxic dispersants in the atmosphere. Doctors say she can’t expose the skin on her neck and chest to the sun for the rest of her life and because of the extreme levels of toxins she was exposed to, she should not have children. When asked what the most shocking part of working on the film was Rebecca answered, “The oil spill seemed to happen in vain.”

One would logically think that as we all watch the oil spewing for so many days into the Gulf that we would want to change something, to try and shift the situation that could cause such disaster. But our experience was that the system is fixed and that it is locked into a destructive and repetitive cycle. For example, media wasn’t allowed access on the beach because of a law that states you cannot step foot on a crime scene, however the “criminal” was actively controlling the clean up process.

It’s like asking a drunk driver to stick around and oversee the cleanup of the wreckage. Rebecca continues by saying, “Our president was shown by the media swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, however he actually swam in a protected fresh water bay. Sand was literally plowed over the oil and then sprayed with dispersant. The Gulf oil spill wasn’t a cover up in the figurative sense of the word — it was a physical cover up where evidence was literally covered up in order to avoid legal fees, lost stock prices and to save the face of an industry that’s well overdue for a complete overhaul.”

What’s perhaps even more astounding and disturbing to learn is how the oil is likely still leaking, the fish and seafood that are coming out of the Gulf have sores on their bodies, and some have no eyes or their bodies are completely covered in oil.

Photo by Jeramy Pritchett & Magda Rod /
Singing at the clean energy parade

Rebecca also commented on the “dolphin genocide” in which thousands of dolphins were killed (and are still being killed) and how that has been swept under the rug — largely by the U.S. government — and there are hundreds, possibly thousands of people in the Gulf right now that are going to be dealing with the highly severe long-term health effects of inhaling airborne or water borne oil and dispersant mixtures on a daily basis. The EPA also still allows COREXIT, the deadly chemical dispersant mixture to be sprayed in the area, even though nontoxic alternatives exist. “Somewhere along the way we fell asleep,” says Rebecca. “ ‘We’ being the tribe of people who once knew how to survive on planet Earth. We forgot how to live naturally and intuitively. Mother Earth will survive, but whether or not we will is up to us.”

Rebecca couldn’t be more accurate in that we are impairing our own ability to survive as a human race on this planet. What happened in the Gulf demonstrates complete disregard for our future generations while climate change increases at an unprecedented rate and scientists globally desperately urge us to pay attention — warning us of the crisis we are facing. The Gulf spill is just one of countless examples where our world’s largest, most powerful and often most corrupt organizations chose profit over people and over the health of our earth. If we don’t make these issues public and educate ourselves while demanding corporate responsibility we face consequences more drastic and painful than we can imagine.

Sharing the message of a film like “The Big Fix” is a simple yet powerful step amidst a crucial process. We don’t have much time left to build sustainability out of our destruction, hope out of our increasingly hopeless projections and create a future together that preserves, protects and prolongs our ability to live on earth for millennia to come.