Jan 27, 2014

Going, Going, Gone: My Louisiana Coast Part 1

It’s too much.
I’ve been trying to write a series of posts for months.  Since July.  And it’s too much.

Back in September, I thought this rant about trashing Louisiana wetlands would give me the kick in the butt I needed.

But I can’t get it all organized.  Because it's too much.  There are too many things to say.  Too many parts to the problem.

Just too damned much.

I’m talking about trying to write about it.  But I’m also talking about the problem itself.  Problems  with the Louisiana coastline.  This means something to me.  It means a lot, if I’m honest.  I stay up at nights thinking about it.  Anger, frustration, hopelessness.  Helplessness.  Tears, even.

I once wrote about going fishing down "where Louisiana splays her webbed feet into the Gulf."

This is a nice, romantic image and all.  But it isn't the truth.  The truth is that the Gulf of Mexico is eating away at her.  Picking the marshy flesh from splayed toes.  Devouring it.  Sucking bones clean.

Our coastline down here is eroding at the rate of one football field every single hour, according to America's Wetland Foundation.  Dr. Denise Reed, Chief Scientist of the Water Institute of the Gulf and UNO Earth & Environmental Science Professor, estimates that every year an area the size of Manhattan is eroded from the Louisiana coast (Turning the Tide, 2011).

But most people don’t even know about it.  Right now, news channels talk about the drought in California.  Next week, there will be another disaster—maybe a blizzard, maybe a tornado.  But during all the time it takes for each of these disasters to happen and for us to recover from them, there’s another, quieter disaster happening down here.

The world is disappearing.

Part of the problem is the oil industry.  (Saying this is treason, since so many people here depend on oil companies for their jobs).  Part of the problem is my hometown—New Orleans.  Part of it is our long tradition of tolerating corrupt politicians, joking about them, and looking the other way when they lie, cheat, and steal from public funds.

The oil industry hacked up Louisiana’s wetlands, digging canals that got crew boats out to oil faster and easier.  But we as a state and we as a country benefited from that.  The city of New Orleans demands more and more levees to hold back flood waters.  And politicians put money in their own pockets instead of towards a problem that people won’t notice until it's too late.  Often, I think it's already too late.

It’s all about erosion, sinking land, and decisions to control water flow--preventing land from rebuilding and renewing.

Originally, the waters of the Mississippi River built land by flooding and depositing sediment.  They way nature intended is: as waters full of sediment from all over the continent close in on the Gulf of Mexico, they branch apart and spread out through a  complex veinwork.  This slows the flow of water, which allows earth suspended in the the flow to settle.  This sediment builds up, forms new land, allows grasses to grow--further anchoring it in place.  This natural process rebuilds land where it has washed away due to tides or hurricanes.

But now, the Mississippi is held captive by levees that don’t allow it to go where it needs to.  Where it wants to go.

Oil canals speed erosion which causes us to lose so much more.  Now that the people of Louisiana and the United States have done this thing—thinking they know better than Mother Nature—there are very few people willing to put aside their own interests and work to correct this disaster.

They don’t even talk about it.  People who live in coastal communities know about it.  But, for the most part, these are small communities.  Poor communities.  There is no money or enough votes to make people pay attention to them.  They watch their trees and telephone poles get swallowed up by open water.  Cemeteries where their parents and grandparents rest, sink into the water.  They try to hold back the water with levees made of oyster shells, but they only succeed in making small islands in the middle of the Gulf.  There is a lot of hopelessness.  Being overwhelmed.

oyster shells thrown on the bank to (temporarily) help prevent erosion

They don’t know what to do about it.  The problem is too big for them.  It’s too complex.  Like me, they worry about it, but can’t figure out what to do or say.  It takes so much more and so much longer to rebuild than to tear down.

And if something isn't done and done soon "Dere won't be no more nothin' left anymore, forever." (Tidwell 58)

Over the next few weeks, 
there isn't going to be much (if any) cooking here.  
Probably not until Mardi Gras.  
Instead I will (finally) buckle down .  Get serious.  
Put on paper (or screen) these things 
that have haunted me for so long.
Read Part 2
Read Part 3
Read Part 4

Works consulted:
Hallowell, Christopher.  Holding Back the Sea: The Struggle for America's Natural Legacy on the Gulf Coast.  New York: Harper Collins, 2001

Tidwell, Mike.  Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast.  New York: Pantheon Books, 2004.

Turning the Tide. Louisiana Public Broadcasting, 2011.

Linking with:
My Turn for us



  1. there are so many problems that we think are too BIG for us, the ordinary citizens, to even begin to try to solve ... sadly the corrupt politicians seem to only worry about their own interests and their own re elections, whether here in California or in Louisiana or anyplace else for that matter, feeding on scandal, spending endless time, funds and energy on things that should be our own personal business (gay marriage just as an example). Leaving the gereral populace feeling totally powerless... Wishing you luck in your quest Michelle! It is truly uplifting to find someone such as you, who truly CARES!! And willingly hopes to educate and HELP!

  2. There are so many passionate people who truly want CHANGE. Unfortunately no matter what I do to make matters better with my quest, everything will stay the same. It's frustrating .
    It's all about money and greed and power.
    Will I stop trying- no.

  3. I'd be honest - I never even thought you had this problem, I guess I was thinking we were the only ones facing it.
    What you described is almost the same here - in the Dead Sea
    Very frustrating
    Money and greed

  4. Anonymous1/28/2014

    There is a website devoted to fishing and hunting...the very people you would think would rally to support the "master plan" developed to ATTEMPT to save the coast. Instead, the greedy people who make their living fishing and hunting our coast are doing everything they can to stop the process by using this website as a platform, with the encouragement of the site owner. Why? Because it will be an inconvenience to them as the fisheries is returned to it's historical areas. So, yes, it is all about greed. If the politicians actually try to do the right thing some other greed driven group opposes it. If you live in La. lean on your elected officials to start the recovery of our coast. If you live in the great "elsewhere" (to use a phrase coined by columnist Chris Rose), please let your nationally elected officials that La.'s coast matters to the nation as a whole.

  5. Write on, dearie. This is a sad commentary and one that this Northerner had an inkling of, but no real understanding. It's complex and needs to be written about and publicized ... there are so many factors at play here ... good luck getting your article written ...

  6. I agree with you that the world is disappearing. It is hard to watch sometimes.

  7. I feel the same way about Florida and its natural stands that are being bought up by developers and a parking lot put there. Please keep me informed about your fight to save the coast. Thank you for sharing it on our Four Seasons Blog Hop. Pinning now.

  8. So sad. I hate to hear it...I do love Louisiana

  9. Your love for Louisiana and the beautiful coast you call home is so powerful Michelle. Your passion comes through in your writing.....you need to write it down....someone will listen.. Lynn

  10. I really don't know what to say, but keep writing, keep helping spread the word. It is genuinely a massive and overwhelming crime against nature in more places than just Louisiana. Thank you for bringing this to our attention,

  11. Wow, so very sad. (feeling helpless) I will do what I can by spreading the word. I know how you love this country. Nature is designed to care for itself until man thinks they know better and interferes. Shinning a light and bringing awareness is the first step and you just took a giant one:)) Looking for the next in this series.

  12. Michelle,
    Your passion does come through, sharing this on all my social media's. Great post! It seems like we are helpless in what we can do, but we need to keep speaking up and with a little help from your friends maybe someone will listen.
    Hugs my friend.

  13. That is awful. I really had no idea.

  14. Michelle I do empathize with you, as our Great Lakes & Shorelines are also diminishing here in Canada. Very sad the state we are headed towards.


Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your comments.