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Zachary Richard on the charge once again

 L'Itinéraire (Canada) 08 September 2019

After supporting the victims of hurricane Katrina in 2005, he had vowed never to get involved in such a demanding cause. “But I’m back!” said singer and activist, Zachary Richard, too shaken by the tragic oil spill that occurred on April 20th in the Gulf of Mexico. The artist has created the foundation named Gulf Aid Acadiana (GAA) to assist the families of fishermen and to restore the shores of Acadiana’s coast. (480 Words) - By Marie-Lise Rousseau

The GAA estimates that the percentage of unemployed fishermen in the region of the bay of Terrebonne is 80%. Roughly 25,000 inhabitants living on the coast basically live off of fishing and oil activities.


Despite the 20,000 compensation cheques that were sent to the fishermen's families, the money did not buy happiness. "Jake Vunovich's family has made a living fishing oysters for over 150 years. His bank is now contaminated for the next 20 years. How will he tell his son that he has no future?" said Zachary Richard at a press conference in Montreal on June 10th. It would be unthinkable to help them find employment elsewhere, in another area, says the singer.


The distress is palpable among the local population. Volunteers who have experienced the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989 have resumed service to provide psychological support to residents of the coast of Acadian. "This kind of situation causes crises of domestic violence, alcoholism, and suicide," says Richard.


Acadiana Gulf Aid collaborates closely with Louisiana's community organisations to provide the best possible financial and moral support to fishermen's families. "Valery (an experienced fisherwoman of the region involved in the AGA) has identified them. She knows the location's people and parishes," says the singer. The churches play a key role in supporting the residents of the coast: they know the needs of the community better than anyone else.


Inestimable disasters

From an ecological point of view, it is still too early to assess the extent of the damage caused by the largest oil spill in the world. According to Zachary Richard, the scientific community remains pessimistic. All of the food chain has been unbalanced by this ecological disaster. "It's a beautiful image for BP to publish photos of pelicans being cleansed, but the reality is that these emblematic birds of Louisiana will die before the end of the year."


The area surrounding the southern tip of the Mississippi river, which was already very fragile before the spill, is now in real danger. After the devastating passages of hurricanes Rita and Katrina, the current catastrophe is finishing off these ecosystems. "You see the images in the media, but you do not smell the stench! Where we live, we smell oil from sunset to sundown," exclaims the artist.


Doing your part to mitigate environmental damage is not easy. "The hardest part is the feeling of powerlessness when faced with a situation of such magnitude," says Richard. Site access is very limited, seeing as the oil company British Petroleum (BP), responsible for the disaster controls the crisis's management.


Nevertheless, denouncing BP for the ravages that it has caused is not so simple. The oil company is a major employer in Louisiana. "We are trying to find a balance between the respect for nature, community, and economy," says the dedicated singer.


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Originally published by L'Itineraire. ©