Thursday, August 16, 2007

LA on my mind

Louisiana has been through a lot in the last couple of years. There have been scandals of government abuse regarding FEMA money and shoddy disaster relief efforts across the board. The New Orleans Saints had a heroic season where they all but pulled out a miracle that the city so desperately needed.

Alarming still is the rate at which Cajun/Creole culture is disappearing in the lower part of the state. I mean to say that the state is actually disappearing. Over the years, the Mississippi River that has showered the delta with new sediment has been so diverted as to prevent the natural replenishment of this coastal environment. More wetlands are being lost every year than most people would even fathom. The numbers are staggering indeed, but it's not numbers that matter. It's people and living things.

Destroying an ecosystem is tantamount to murder. Sure development must occur and the re-routing of the Mississippi River has had advantages, but the failure to manage environmental concerns while watching development take place is shameful. We ought to think about the unintended consequences of our attempts to change the natural course of things.

As the bayous are vanishing, so too are the shrimpers, artisans, oil workers, and others who make up the distinct cultural phenomenon of bayou existence. We're not only losing land, but we're also losing people as land washes away into the ocean and young generations move north.

Louisiana brings together an interesting array of questions that touch upon development needs, ecosystem management, tourism policy, and cultural appreciation. The issues at play are too complex to discuss in any one place and have been the subject of many books and articles. I hope that Louisiana and its bayous are on the minds of all United States citizens as we think about our policy priorities.

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