On October 24th and 25th, people in 181 countries came together for the most widespread weekend of environmental action in the planet's history. At over 5200 events around the world, people gathered to call for strong action and bold leadership on the climate crisis.
On Saturday the 24th in New Orleans, a demonstration was held on Tulane Universityâ€™s campus, led by local environmental groups and students near Tulane University as part of a day of global political action staged by 350.org, an international campaign to address climate change.
On Sunday, drawn to Congo Square in Armstrong Park by the music of 350 musicians, hundreds of New Orleanians became part of 350NOLA, a party with a purpose organized by the Gulf Restoration Network, 1Sky, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups. Attendees ranged from musicians to youth climate activists to families to anyone else curious about the growing climate change movement. Various environmental organizations and progressive groups set up tables with informational pamphlets and friendly faces to chat with. Many photographers and videographers roamed the rally, equally eager to capture the spirit and excitement of the day as the attendees, speakers, and performers were to provide it.
While the events on Sunday were part of a global movement, they had a distinctly New Orleans flavor. Marching bands from Sophie B. Wright School, Martin Behrman Charter School and O. Perry Walker High School kept the crowd moving during the two-hour rally.
Local trumpeter Leon "Kid Chocolate" Brown invited anyone with an instrument to join in "When the Saints Go Marching In," drawing cheers from the crowd.
At about 1:45pm after the rally, â€śKid Chocolateâ€ť led a second-line through the French Quarter with parade goers waving 350 handkerchiefs as they sang and strutted their way to dba, a Frenchmen Street bar to watch the Saints beat Miami and drink delicious Nola Brewery beer.
So what does this 350 number even mean? 350 is the number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxideâ€”measured in "Parts Per Million" in our atmosphere. 350 PPMâ€”it's the number humanity needs to get back to as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change. Currently, we are hovering around 390 PPM. The planet is in its danger zone because we've poured too much carbon into the atmosphere, and we're starting to see signs of real trouble: melting ice caps, rising sea-levels, more powerful hurricanes. We need to scramble back as quickly as we can to safety.
How do we actually reduce carbon emissions to get to 350?
Make no mistakeâ€”getting back to 350 means transforming our world. It means building solar arrays instead of coal plants, it means planting trees instead of clear-cutting cypress forests, it means increasing efficiency and decreasing our waste.
Where did this 350 number come from?
Dr. James Hansen, of NASA, the United States' space agency, has been researching global warming longer than just about anyone else. He was the first to publicly testify before the U.S. Congress, in June of 1988, that global warming was real. He and his colleagues have used real-world observation, computer simulation, and mountains of data about ancient climates to calculate what constitutes dangerous quantities of carbon in the atmosphere.
World leaders will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December to write a new global treaty on cutting emissions, but the current draft doesn't meet the 350 level. The United States must show strong leadership on this issue if the rest of the world is going to do their part in reducing emissions and transitioning to cleaner, renewable energy like solar and wind.
Climate change, rising sea-levels, more intense hurricanes and coastal erosion are all inextricably connected. The GRN and its partner 1Sky will continue to pressure our elected officials in Congress to pass strong, effective climate change legislation that will protect our coast and communities.
Gulf Restoration Network is proud to launch the Healthy Gulf Krewe to continue building the movement of ordinary citizens from around the country fighting for Louisiana's wetlands and a healthy Gulf! You are officially invited to join the Krewe, and you can get started by contacting Dan Favre,
or 504-525-1528 ext 209.
Healthy Gulf Krewe Mission:
To unite and empower people to protect and restore the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico (and have fun while doing it!). To build the Gulf Restoration Network citizen voice throughout the country. To develop dedicated volunteer leaders to defend the Gulf Coast.
On the Gulf coast, the traditions of Carnival are celebrated from Galveston and New Orleans to Mobile and Tampa. The bands of revelers, known as â€śkrewesâ€ť, are famous for parades and balls, and many also support good causes. Gulf Restoration Network is using tradition to fight for the future with the Healthy Gulf Krewe, a nation-wide band of fun-loving, hard-working activists passionate about defending the Gulf.
Spend at least 10 hours per month fighting for the Gulf
Organize 10 events per year to educate and mobilize the public (see reverse for ideas)
GRN Commitment to You
Materials â€“ From our No Coast, No Music Benefit CD and your choice of GRN t-shirt to brochures, posters, and petition sheets, weâ€™ll provide the materials to get things done (and look good doing it!).
Knowledge â€“ Youâ€™ll receive our newsletter, calendar annual report, and e-mail action alerts to keep you up to date. Krewe members will also be invited to special briefings and skills trainings - over the phone, and perhaps even here in New Orleans.
Support â€“ Monthly conference calls will keep the Krewe in touch, and GRN staff will be happy to help you brainstorm, plan, and execute your events. And weâ€™ll show you a great time when you come to visit!
As we celebrate the wilderness and amazing cultures of the Gulf, weâ€™ve got to fight for the future. Defend our wetlands, defend ourselves! To learn more and join, contact GRN Campaign Organizer, Dan Favre at
or 504-525-1528 ext 209.
Potential Events for Krewe Members to Organize
Set up a table and gather petition signatures at a local farmersâ€™ market, street festival, or music show (we could probably help get you set up with Dr. John, Galactic, Tab Benoit, Amanda Shaw, Anders Osbourne, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and a few others)
Make a short presentation to a local civic organization (your Rotary club, your church, your friends at the bar) and collect petition signatures addressed to your elected officials
Phonebank GRN members and activists to engage them in a specific effort, event, or campaign
Host a GRN Happy Hour or a â€śMardi Gras Party with Purposeâ€ť with New Orleans food and drink to raise money and awareness for GRN
Meet with other environmental or civic groups to enlist their support
Organize a movie screening â€“ anytime is great, and especially important as part of GRNâ€™s work to commemorate the 5th anniversary of Katrina and Rita
Join us in Washington DC to lobby your stateâ€™s delegation for a federal commitment to a sustainable Gulf coast, and/or meet with your Senators and Representative at home
Put together a panel of speakers to present at a local university (maybe you could even get a GRN staffer to come talk!)
Conduct a press conference to publicize an important event or report
Put on a huge benefit concert to raise awareness and money (we know the guys in Galactic . . . )
Dan Favre is the Campaign Organizer (a.k.a "Krewe Organizer") for GRN. Join the Krewe by contacting him at
or 504-525-1528 ext 209.
In June, the President created an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force to develop a first-ever national ocean policy.
If you've been paying attention to our coast and oceans for a while, this may sound a bit familiar. Back in 2003 and 2004 two separate commissions made recommendations on actions needed to help protect our coasts and oceans, the independent Pew Oceans Commission, and the Bill Clinton created, George Bush appointed U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. As with many commission reports, these generally weighed down bookshelves and gathered dust.
This past Monday, October 19th, the Ocean Policy Task Force was in New Orleans for their fifth of six listening sessions across the nation to gather expert opinion and public input. Over 300 people came to voice the issues confronting the Gulf of Mexico. Listen to me talk about what a national ocean policy should address in the Gulf, and see some of the other media thatresultedhere.
The hearing was really an impressive display of support for the Gulf, Louisiana's wetlands and the need to link the Mississippi River to all coastal coordination. Thoughtful testimony was offered by a number of friends of the GRN, such as Tracy Kuhns, Steven Peyronnin, Maura Wood, and Jordan Macha (representing GRN member groups Bayoukeeper, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, National Wildlife Federation & Sierra Club respectively), former GRN board member Mark Davis of the Tulane Institute on Water Law and Policy, Pam Dashiel from the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainability, and Charlie Smith of the Louisiana Charter Boat Association. Issues such as sustainable fishing (and managing areas such as blue fin tuna spawning spots better), off-shore aquaculture (against), and global warming were all brought up.
Colorful testimony was put on the record by Messiah Darryl Paul Ward, (who I'm pretty sure offered the first spoken word performance for the task force so far) and Lucianne Carmichael of A Studio In the Woods who talked about the role of art in connecting people to nature, and extolled the current production of the one-man performance Loup Garou that's closing this weekend (and which GRN is the community partner for).
BUT that wasn't the beginning of the Obama Administration's attention on the Gulf. The President himself was in town the week before, bringing with him key cabinet officials such as Janet Napolitano, Arne Duncan, and most importantly for the coast, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley. Ms. Sutley held a listening session in St. Bernard parish with coastal advocates including my boss Cyn Sarthou and others, held a press conference at Bayou Bienvenue to communicate support for coastal restoration, and even took a couple of coastal wetlands tours when she was back the next week to chair the Oceans Policy Task force public hearing. Said Sutley "We've heard before and we've heard here again today the need for urgency and we certainly understand the need for urgency." Sutley is co-chairing an inter-agency working group on Gulf coast wetlands restoration efforts that GRN and others feel is a critical opportunity to speed up the Corps and make sure federal agencies are all working together, with the state to make restoration a priority.
That working group is a useful sign that the Obama administration is prioritizing the coast in their attention to our region. Of course, he's got an awful lot of important priorities that we're competing with, so let's make sure he continues to hear from us.
Another hopeful sign was that the President brought up the coast as he was addressing the town hall last week. Apparently, he even added an additional reference to the issue when he edited the speech himself. Though the President didn't get any questions on the coast, he weaved it into an answer he gave to a question about recycling and global warming. Oh, and don't doubt that there were plenty of folks who WANTED to ask him about the coast. My arm was in the air, as was at least 8 folks I KNOW of.
The Gulf of Mexico is an amazing natural treasure. From deep water corals far off shore, to miles of seagrasses hugging our coasts, we have diverse habitats which can help spawn enormous fish populations. Unfortunately, we haven't always followed scientific advice to ensure that there will be enough fish for our great-grandkids to catch. From commercial trawlers to recreational sportfishermen to folks ordering off a restaurant's 'fresh-catch' menu - we haven't demanded the best possible management of the Gulf's natural resources.
Thanks to leadership in Congress, the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is ensuring that local fish populations have sensible, science-based annual catch limits. Please take a moment today and support the rulesthat our federal and state regional managers at the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council are putting together to conserve and rebuild our schools of fish.
Red snapper, mackerel, grouper, and other species have shown that when sensible limits are put in place, fish populations can begin to rebound. Fair and uniform rules should be set up to make sure that all fish populations in the Gulf have the protections they need to thrive, while feeding our families, providing recreational opportunities, and playing critical roles in the marine environment. Please take a moment to ask the Gulf Council to put science-based rules in place.
Last week, I had the opportunity to go to Des Moines for the Hypoxia Task Force Meeting. This task force, made up of federal and state agencies, was first convened in the late 90â€™s to find solutions to the growing Dead Zone in the Gulf. Over the past decade, little action has come out of the Task Force. I, along with our conservation partners, the Iowa Environmental Council have expressed frustration with this lack of action on Iowa Radio, and in an Op-ed in the Des Moines Register. The lack of action to truly address the Dead Zone has been due to many factors, from lack of funds to resistance from certain states. However, it seems that a new wind might be blowing in the Task Force. At the Des Moines meeting, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack presented a new program (via video) that directs $320 million to reducing polluted agricultural runoff in the Mississippi River Basin, and it was encouraging to see that many folks in the media covered the announcement.
We have been advocating for this kind of targeting for a long time, and it is nice to see some action. This is a good first step, and I hope that this will spur on more action from USDA, as well as EPA. Presentations from EPA at the Task Force meeting were also encouraging, and it seems that there is some will at the federal level to actually take concrete actions to reduce the size of the Dead Zone. That being said it is still mainly talk, and it will take more than $80 million per year, divided up between 12 Mississippi River states to make a significant dent in the Dead Zone. The Gulf has suffered enough, the time is now for the feds and states to step up to the plate and be held accountable for their actions (or lack thereof) to reduce the size of the Dead Zone.
â€˘ The Grand Prize has been awarded to the short film, "The Human Cost," by Edward Holub and Christian Roselund. The film highlights Hurricane Gustav's devastating impact on the Native American Pointe Au Chien Tribe and the residents of Chauvin, LA, juxtaposed with the impacts of the oil and gas industry's destructive footprint on Louisiana's coast. Watch and share the film below. We will be adding the other winners in future blog entries.
â€˘ Second Prize goes to the trailer for the film "Paradise Faded: The Fight for Louisiana," by Jared Arsement. Paradise Faded is a compelling look at the causes, effects, and solutions to one of the largest environmental disasters in American history; the loss of Louisianaâ€™s Coastal Wetlands.
â€˘ Third Prize goes to the short film, "The Cypress Graveyard: Restoring the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle," by Pouria Baladi. This film describes the degradation of the cypress swamp on the outskirts of the Lower 9th Ward, due to the impacts of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet navigation project, and current student-led efforts to restore the area. The blend of community voices, academic leaders, and student workers created a powerful short detailing what has happened, and a hopeful vision of what could be.
â€˘ The Student Prize goes to the claymation Public Service Announcement "Protect Our Wetlands," which uses humor to urge action to protect and restore Louisiana's coastal wetlands. The PSA was produced during the 2009 Claymation Nation Summer Camp, by youth filmmakers Bixby Boss, Kells Bush, Tyrese Craige, James Pichon, and Justin Turner.
â€˘ The Judges Prize has been awarded to the short film, "Home," by filmmaker Matt Faust. Home is powerful and moving account of the post Katrina loss experienced by Gulf Coast families.
The Protect Our Wetlands, Protect Ourselves Environmental Video Competition is a joint initiative of the Charitable Film Network and the Gulf Restoration Network. A panel of judges featuring CFN and GRN representatives joined by filmmaker Walter Williams (creator of the play-doh figure Mr. Bill) scored the films on content and production values to determine winners.
Winning submissions will be featured at the 2009 Voodoo Experience, in the No Coast, No Music Theater, during the "Five Minute Films Festival" (October 30th to November 1st). Contest prizes include environmentally friendly products from Whole Foods Market and VIP Loa passes to the 2009 Voodoo Experience valued at $1,000.
We want to thank all the filmmakers who sent entries. The quality and caliber of the films were excellent, and made for a great afternoon of film viewing. For more information about the Protect Our Wetlands Video Competition and sponsorship opportunities contact:
CFN is a diverse community of media-makers, dedicated to connecting and collaborating with nonpofits, activists, and artists on noteworthy campaigns that contribute to the community-at-large.
GRN is a diverse network of local, regional, and national groups and individuals committed to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the natural resources of the Gulf region for future generations.
On Sunday, September 20, our Louisiana fundraising event took place at Bayona in the French Quarter and raisedsignificant funds for the campaigns of the Gulf Restoration Network. Ivor van Heerden talked about currentissues facing Louisianaâ€™s wetlands. The seventy-five attendees enjoyed samplings of hors d'oeurves by Chef Susan Spicer and her staff, listened to music by the Leon "Kid Chocolate" Brown Trio and bid on fabulous silent auction offerings including Voodoo Experience VIP tickets, an Aveda gift bag from Paris Parker Salon and Spa, a certificate for a cooking class at the Savvy Gourmet, a sculpture by artist Joan Kay, and paintings by artists Nancy Adams and Beth Skrmetta.GRN staff also thanked Edwin Neill III of the Neill Corporation, an Aveda distributor, for their tremendous fundraisingefforts for GRN during Aveda Earth Month.
GRN extends special thanks to:
Event Supporters Abita Brewing Company, Nancy Adams, Bayona and volunteer staff, Leon and Pamela Brown, Johnny Lopez of Perfect Presentations, Joan Kay, Glazersâ€™ Distributors of Louisiana, Inland Seafood, Paris Parker Aveda Salon and Spa, Savvy Gourmet, Photographer Bart Siegel, Beth Skrmetta, Sysco, Ivor L. van Heerden, Wine Sellers by Ben Lazich, VoodooExperience and RehageEntertainment
Event Committee Members Mark Davis, Caroline Helwick, Jose Miranda, Sandy Rosenthal, Sig, Susan Spicer, Catherine Sumner, and Polly and Bob Thomas
In 2007, the state of Mississippi was granted $600+ million in federal Katrina relief funds to solve sewage and water quality problems exposed by the storm. While much of this money will go to recovery projects, the state wants to use some of these taxpayer dollars to subsidize developersâ€™ projects that threaten Mississippi's streams, wildlife, and wetlands far from the storm zone! To make things worse, the state has violated federal law by not adequately analyzing the damage that the badly planned developments will have on the state's environment. To fight against these threats against Mississippi, the Gulf Restoration Network is working two fronts: legal and bureaucratic.
On Tuesday, September 8th, GRN held a press conference at the Dan Russell Federal Courthouse in Gulfport to discuss the notice of intent to sue letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Mississippi Development Authority, and the Utility Authorities of Jackson, Harrison, and Stone Counties for violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, known as NEPA.
Congress created NEPA to prevent wasteful spending by requiring the government to â€ślook before it leapsâ€ť meaning that direct, indirect and cumulative impacts to the environment must be studied before the project can move forward. MDA, HUD, and the Utility Authorities have attempted to shortcut this safeguard and, in the process, failed to develop the information necessary to inform themselves and affected members of the public of the significant, unnecessary, and wasteful damage some of the projects will cause. The damage at issue includes destroying wetlands, fragmenting important wildlife habitat corridors (including those that threatened and endangered species depend on), increasing pollutant loadings to the Pascagoula and Coastal Streams Basins and degrading Mississippi Sound and the Gulf of Mexico. Finally, there is a lost opportunity in using limited hurricane recovery funds to subsidize private real estate development instead of helping communities in need recover.
Furthermore, the public has largely been kept out of the decision making process which has greatly upset local Mississippians who will be impacted by these developments.
We hope that these agencies will show a good faith effort to comply with federal laws and to help motivate them we are reaching out to Secretary Donovan, head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Please help out and send Sec. Donovan a letter asking him to make sure that Katrina relief funds only go to Mississippi communities in need.
Casey DeMoss Roberts is the Assistant Director of Water Resources for the Gulf Restoration Network.