Monday, March 05, 2007

N'awlins Last Chance Saloon

Yesterday the Times Picayune ran an interesting, frightening, urgent story. This one is worse than Katrina. This one is worse than levee failure. This one is catastrophic.

New Orleans is protected from storms like Katrina by wetlands that stretch , for now, 30 miles south of the city. The Gulf's stormy waters are buffered by the protection these barrier islands, marshes, swamps and cypress trees provide.

When Katrina and Rita visited their wrath on the Gulf coast in 2005 they took with them a large chunk of these protective wetlands. But even without these and other storms the wetlands have slowly been eroded by the most dangerous force to nature the world has ever known: human beings.

We have built levees (maybe not as well as we should've - but that's another post) that whilst protecting homes from flooding from the mighty Mississippi have meant that the sediment that the river has offloaded in South Eastern Louisiana has not been laid down. Oil and gas lines have been allowed to lay pipelines through the marshes destroying the natural ecosystem.
And in the nineteenth century a powerful enemy of the wetlands was imported by man: the nutria! These (quite frankly ugly) large rodents eat the roots of the swamps and marshes leaving the Gulf waters to reclaim territory.

The Times Picayune has a brilliant graphic on its website which explains all this in detail.

The scariest thing about this article and issue is how urgent this is. Experts are in agreement that this is something that needs to be addressed and dealt with now before it is too late. The next ten years are our last chance!!

Or no more Mardi Gras, no more po' boys, no more jazz fest, no more lagniappe, no more historic beauty, no more traditions. Just swamp or perhaps just water.

All I know is that it is possible to rectify this situation. If Holland could do it why not the richest country on earth? New Orleans is worth spending the time and money to preserve. This city gives back over and over and over. This country needs this city and this world needs this city.

I hope and pray that something will be done and done now! This city definitely feels like the last chance saloon.

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