Local Waterkeeper helping Gulf mend 

Charleston Waterkeeper Cyrus Buffum is leading an online effort to assist in the protection and recovery of Gulf Coast waters suffering from the offshore oil rig disaster.

In late March, President Barack Obama put the South Carolina coast on notice that he would allow more detailed studies on deep-sea oil and natural gas drilling. Weeks later, BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank into the Gulf of Mexico, with efforts to repair the massive leak still going on more than a month later. The incident is shaping up to be the largest natural disaster in the nation's history.

Buffum is the leader of the Charleston Waterkeeper Alliance, a local education, advocacy, and monitoring group focused on the area's rivers and coastal waters as part of the international Waterkeeper Alliance. Along with several other alliance members, Buffum is helping with damage control and hoping, in the end, to prevent a calamity like this from threatening South Carolina. Already sporting a strong presence in local social networking circles, Buffum has started the Save Our Gulf campaign, using the web to raise money for his fellow waterkeepers working in the Gulf region and to keep followers up to date with real-time, accurate information on the growing impact of the oil.

"As this resource becomes what some might consider irreversibly damaged, at least in our lifetimes, our Gulf Waterkeepers are working to assure that this catastrophe inflicts the least amount of damage on the Gulf's environment and its people," says Buffum, who has teamed up with waterkeepers in lower Mississippi; Louisiana; Mobile, Ala.; Emerald Coast and Appalachicola in Florida; and Galveston Bay, Texas.

The interactive website, SaveOurGulf.org, allows visitors to see what is happening via firsthand accounts through blog posts, tweets, videos, and aerial photographs. The site also coordinates new and innovative ways for individuals to donate through Twitter (RT2Give) and texting (Venmo's Text to Give).

The Waterkeeper Alliance will use money collected to coordinate and train volunteers and provide public access to incident command and information, as well as clean-up supplies, safety gear, and emergency office space. The nonprofit will also provide legal assistance to residents with damages related to the oil spill.

Money will help, but so will education.

"One of the best ways anyone can get involved is to educate him or herself on the issues surrounding this catastrophe: everything from the politics, to the economic implications, to the environmental impacts, to the players involved," he says.


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