Waves breaking on the shore in Orange Beach, Ala., leave behind an oily residue. Mayor Tony Kennon expects BP to restore the town's beaches to sugar white condition. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

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Darryl and Kristina Pendergrass and their sons, William, 3, and Ian, 20 months. The family gets by on Daryl's $43,000-a-year salary as a biologist with the Alabama Department of Public Health. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

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Two years ago, college students on the NAACP's "Vote Hard" bus tour encouraged people to vote in Selma, Ala., in the presidential race. African-American voters went to the polls in droves. Now, the Democratic National Committee is trying to do the same for the midterm elections. Mario Tama/Getty Images hide caption

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Bayou Bienvenue in New Orleans is an example of south Louisiana’s wetland loss. Fifty years ago, this was a productive freshwater marsh with cypress and tupelo trees. Today, stumps are all that remain, as saltwater has encroached inland. Debbie Elliot/NPR hide caption

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Jody Blount of Krebs Architecture and Engineering readies to take a sediment sample on the shores of Weeks Bay on the Alabama Gulf Coast. The city of Orange Beach has hired independent scientists to monitor the air, water and soil in the wake of the massive oil spill. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

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Sharon Hanshaw, a beautician turned global climate activist living in Biloxi, Miss., has traveled the world to tell the story of how her neighborhood has struggled to recover from Hurricane Katrina. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

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