New Orleans is a city near and dear to my heart. I called it home for 3 years. While I never grew to love the poodle sized cockroaches, I did fall in love with its food, its charm, and its people. I still have many friends who live in the Big Easy and visit regularly.
Now hurricane Katrina is knocking at its door, threatening to turn it into Venice. Up to 30 feet of water could flow over the levees into the streets, flooding 200 year old buildings.
The main reason that New Orleans is in such peril from the hurricane is because the Louisiana coast has lost 1,000,000 square miles of coastal marshland. The main reason for this loss is due to oil and gas exploration. Millions of miles of paths have been cut into the bayou that has allowed sea water to flow in to areas that were previously fresh water or brackish. The introduction of the sea water has killed the native plants that buffer the coast from the storm surge of the hurricanes.
The biggest violator has been the company, Kerr-McGee. 2 decades ago, Kerr-McGee convinced the Army Corp of Engineers that it needed a path cut into through the marshland, directly from it factory where it builds the deep water drilling platforms, to the Gulf of Mexico. Everyone knew that the only reason that it wanted the Army Corp of Engineers to do this was to cut the distance and time it took to get one of its rigs from its facility, out to the Gulf (this, of course would save the company a lot of money). But, Kerr-McGee was able to convince the Corp that the path was needed as "protection" for the drilling platforms in the Gulf. They said that it was needed, in case of a hurricane, the platform would be able to move from the Gulf, up the path, to the intercostal highway, into sheltered water. So, with our tax dollars, the Army Corp of Engeneers cut this path through the bayou.
Of course, no platform has ever been moved back up the path due to a hurricane since it was built. Environmentalists warned of the devastating effect this path would cause if built. It, essentially, creates a straight shot for flood waters to move from the coast, into New Orleans. And of course, this path gets bigger every year due to the salt water that kills off the marsh plants. I can tell you from first hand experience that the Louisiana Department of Environmental Protection is in the back pocket of industry. So much so, even the Bush administration's EPA has had to take over some programs from the state because it is so remiss in its obligations (and you know someone is doing a bad job if even the Bush administration thinks you are not protecting the environment enough).
Environmentalism is not just about saving the snail darter or the yellow bellied purple spotted three toed tree sloth. It is also about saving our own environment. Deforestation causes runoff that silts our rivers, causing disruption to commerce and drinking water. Acid rain causes millions of dollars of damages to our agriculture, buildings, and recreational areas. Ocean pollution causes millions of dollars of damage to our fishing industry. Most of the time, protecting our environment does not hamper our economy. Most of the time, protecting our environment protects our economy.
It is time that Americans wake up and smell the salt water... on their second floor landing.
New Orleans Facing Environmental Disaster