Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 

We say it a lot: the Gulf is an amazing natural treasure. Here's some fantastic proof of that from a charter boat captain out of Orange Beach, AL. The largest pod of orca or killer whales documented in the Gulf. The charter boat captain estimated there were as many as 200 whales from four distinct pods - a superpod! Apparently they were drawn to a school of tuna.

Aaron Viles is GRN's Campaign Director

 

All over the country on Thursday, December 4th, at over 50 scheduled events, Home Depot was urged to stop selling unsustainable cypress mulch! Thanks to everyone who helped make the December 4th Cypress Day of Action a success.

I just got back from Atlanta where our soggy Day of Action at the Home Depot Corporate Headquarters made a splash! The fifty pounds of Louisiana blue crabs I brought from Lake Pontchartrain were a big hit, and we made sure corporate executives at Home Depot heard about the cypress mulch issue. From having a crab boil and holding banners in plain view of their giant headquarter building to passing out flyers to employees leaving work and dropping off over 10,000 petitions, we made our presence in Atlanta felt (check out pics on GRN's flickr page). We got a blurb in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and you can head over to read our press release.

At the same time we were boiling crabs in Atlanta, activists from all over the country were calling CEO Frank Blake asking him to come down to have some crabs and learn about how the company can help save cypress forests.

In New Orleans, over 25 people came out to our local event (more pics on flickr), and successful actions are being reported in Brooklyn, South Carolina, and throughout Louisiana. If you made it out to a store, send an email and let us know how it went!

Yesterday, we came one step closer to ensuring real and lasting protection for our cypress forests! Thanks for all you’ve done to save our cypress.

Dan Favre is the Campaign Organizer at GRN.

 

Local conservation groups and clubs concerned about global warming and the impacts to New Orleans are inviting city residents to a pub crawl on

Frenchman street
to hear about solutions to the problem while enjoying free cover, drink specials, and great music. Conservation groups say “Don’t get depressed. Solutions exist!”

Wristbands for this event are available now! Click here to get your wristband today! Suggested donation: $5 students, $8 person or $10 per couple.

Save the Date!

Saturday, December 13, 2008 from 7:30 PM - till

Join the Party on

Frenchman Street
!

·

Lazzizza

·

Tomatillo’s

·

Blue Nile

·

Dragon’s Den

BACKGROUNDLouisiana is ground zero for the effects of global warming. From sea level rise to stronger storms to ocean acidification, Louisiana residents face an increasingly daunting future. Scientists conservatively predict that sea-level will rise 8 to 20 inches this century. According to the U.S. Climate Action Report, a sizable chunk of the Gulf coast could be swallowed if sea-level rise continues unabated. Combined with subsidence and salt water intrusion into salt sensitive habitats, the result will be a devastating loss of coastal wetlands which offer storm protection to coastal communities and homes to valuable species.

Our coastal wetlands are already under severe stress because of oil and gas canals, subsidence, and navigation projects. We need to rebuild the coast but we cannot ignore climate change because the effects of global warming could easily overwhelm our reconstruction efforts. We must address coastal restoration and climate change simultaneously and quickly if Louisiana is to remain strong and thriving over the next century.

Conservation groups sponsoring this event are: Gulf Restoration Network, the Sierra Club, Alliance for Affordable Energy, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and New Orleans Green Building Council.

Casey DeMoss Roberts is the Special Projects Coordinator for the Gulf Restoration Network. For wristbands or more information about this event contact Casey at (504) 525-1528 x212 or casey@healthygulf.org.

 

The Times-Picayune continues to watchdog the Corps of Engineers and their failure to launch on our coastal protection and restoration initiative. Check out Pulitzer winner Mark Schleifstein's most recent piece on the NOLA area's "Category 5" protection plan here.

Clearly, the Corps is dragging their feet, and no one in DC is willing to hold said appendages to the fire. Louisiana's newly minted delegation needs to get on this immediately, and MOST importantly, needs to get other members from other states to see the value of this region. If this coastal restoration and protection effort is seen as a parochial interest of Landrieu, Melancon, Scalise and Vitter, then welcome to Team Irrelevant Congressman Cao, good luck pushing your levees to nowhere.

One thing works for our coast and communities - the current push for "green jobs" to jumpstart the economy. Clearly, rebuilding wetlands and swamps will help create carbon sinks, so that should fit into that broad agenda item, and we've got plenty of projects ready to go down here to put boots and backhoe's on the ground.

One thing that works against our coast and communities - The push on green jobs is due in part to the new administration's view of climate change as a mission-critical initiative. Our delegation (and the state, and the Corps) see it more as an irrelevant side discussion to our coastal crisis. Unless and until we can get some legitimate analysis and acknowledgment of the need to address both in order to have a sustainable NOLA means we've got a painful inconsistency that the new EPA/CEQ will likely point out, undercutting our chances of being the federal priority we'd like to be.


Aaron Viles is GRN's Campaign Director

 

Thirty women came to the Paris Parker Aveda Salon during lunch, not for a stylish hair cut, but because they were concerned about their risk of mercury poisoning. A simple hair-test can tell you if your body has dangerous levels of mercury. The Sierra Club, the Gulf Restoration Network, the Alliance for Affordable Energy, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, and Aveda sponsored this free event out of concern for how mercury pollution from coal-powered plants affects women and children.

One in six women of childbearing age in the U.S. already has enough mercury in her body to put a fetus at risk of learning disabilities and developmental problems. Currently Entergy Louisiana is working to obtain permits to repower their Little Gypsy natural gas power plant in Saint Charles Parish to coal-fired power. Coal-fired plants are one of the largest man-made sources of mercury pollution in the country. Local residents are concerned that the proposed Little Gypsy coal repowering project will expose them to dirtier air and serious health problems.

“There are cleaner alternatives to coal,” says Jordan Macha, Regional Conservation Organizer for the Sierra Club’s New Orleans office, “and by looking at our alternatives we can improve public health, boost the economy, and protect the environment. Entergy’s current proposal puts our environment and the health of our community at risk.”

Mercury is linked to learning disabilities and other developmental problems in young children. When coal is burned, mercury is released into the atmosphere and falls back to earth in rain, running into our lakes, rivers, and streams. There it is converted to the toxic form of mercury – methylmercury - which accumulates in fish and shellfish. When contaminated fish are eaten it is absorbed by the body. Currently, 41 of Louisiana’s waterways, including the Gulf of Mexico, have a mercury-in-fish advisory.

"We all recognize outer beauty, but often we forget to take care of what's happening on the inside," says Debra Neill, CEO of Neill Corporation, owner of the Paris Parker Salon and Spa group. "We applaud the Gulf Restoration Network, the Sierra Club and their partners in their quest to help raise awareness of the mercury issue to women in Louisiana."

Stylists with the Paris Parker Aveda Salon took small samples of hair from participants, which were then sent to an academic laboratory for testing. The data will be anonymously included in a University of North Carolina research study, which has the largest sample size of any study to date, on the effects of mercury in the U.S. population.

Notes Casey DeMoss Roberts, Special Projects Coordinator with the Gulf Restoration Network, “Together we are working to ensure that the Little Gypsy plant and other coal plants across the state reduce their mercury pollution and update their pollution controls to comply with new, more protective health standards.”

Read more about the event in the Times-Picayune here.

Jordan Macha, Regional Conservation Organizer for the Sierra Club’s New Orleans office

 

Now that President-Elect Obama has announced his economic and international teams, many (okay, some) are on pins and needles to hear about his Enviro team (EPA, Department of Interior, Department of Energy).

To weigh in on which environmental issue President-elect Barak Obama should tackle right out of the gates, head to GRN's first-ever poll here.

Time magazine has already weighed in with this intelligent, five-part editorial which outlines the environmental and political challenges that President-elect Barak Obama will face in 2009. It also offers some (strong) words of advice on what it will take to fix the economy: "(It) means billions for energy-efficient and climate-friendly infrastructure…but nothing for new sprawl roads that ravage nature and promote gas-guzzling. (It) means stronger levees and restored wetlands…but no more traditional pork-barrel water projects that destroy wetlands and waste money." GRN supports this approach and urges Louisiana's critical coastal restoration efforts as part of a significant green jobs push from the federal government. Read it here.

 

Everyday a critical piece of the Gulf region's natural resources is destroyed - our wetlands! What I find most disturbing is that the very thing we are destroying is what makes our communities healthy, attractive, and sustainable. In many respects, it is the only reason why we exist. Scientific evidence points to the necessity of these ecosystems for the environmental health of our region, yet day by day we chip away at them. How long can this continue?!

I'm writing to ask for your support today because the Gulf of Mexico has lost approximately 50% of its historic wetlands, and those remaining are under increasing threat.

This rampant wetland loss is due to many reasons, most of which are caused or exacerbated by human influence. Some of the causes of wetland loss include:

  • oil and gas canals

  • construction and run-off

  • salt water intrusion

  • subsidence

  • sea level rise

  • hurricanes and other storms

  • logging

This year brought us a very active hurricane season and Gulf Coast communities were once again reminded of the delicate balance between our development footprint and healthy communities and ecosystems. Wetlands provide natural flood protection and every 3 to 4 miles of intact wetlands can reduce storm surge by 1 foot! Wetlands help to keep our waters clean by acting as natural filters and are home to the myriad of diverse and unique plants and creatures that make the Gulf Region so special.

Wetland destruction is threatening the health of our communities and the consequences reverberate through Gulf ecosystems affecting: water quality, endangered and at-risk species, and nursery and breeding grounds for our commercial fishing industry.

No matter what the cause, we cannot afford to stand by while the most fundamental elements of the economic and environmental health and safety of our communities are filled in or washed out from under us.

GRN advocates for the protection of our wetlands through:

  • monitoring wetland destruction permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,

  • preventing the clear-cutting of coastal forests,

  • watch-dogging state and federal agency actions affecting wetlands , and

  • supporting efforts to build resilient and sustainable communities post-hurricane.

This is why your support is so important. The future of the Gulf Region lies in the hands of individuals like you and me who simply cannot sit by and watch while our community's most precious natural resources are destroyed.

The Gulf Restoration Network works to ensure that decisions impacting the health and sustainability of our communities are made using sound science, and with an overall concern for the long-term sustainability of our communities. We work in partnership with our network of environmental groups across the Gulf to hold decision makers accountable for the impact their decisions have on our communities, seeking to ensure that short term business interests do not take precedence over a community's long term sustainability.

Please take a moment now - before this email gets lost in the daily shuffle - to make a contribution in support of our work. For contributions of $30 or more GRN is offering a free CD with songs from local artists. Put together with the support of Basin Street Records, the album features fantastic Basin Street artists like Kermit Ruffins, Irvin Mayfield and Theresa Andersson, as well as other notable Louisiana acts such as Galactic, Marc Broussard and the New Orleans Bingo Show. All these musicians are committed to our coast, and are working to help spread the word about our coastal crisis.

Your contribution to the Gulf Restoration Network gives us the resources to fight for the coast every day.

United for a Healthy Gulf,

Cynthia Sarthou
Executive Director

P.S. Our wetlands provide critical flood and storm surge protection. They improve our water quality and are important habitat for wildlife and commercial fisheries species. The Gulf region has already lost 50% of its historic wetlands and is continuing to lose them everyday. With your donation to the Gulf Restoration Network we can continue our work protecting and restoring the natural resources of the Gulf!

 

The Gulf Restoration Network and Save Our Cypress Coalition continue to call on Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Wal-Mart to stop selling unsustainable cypress mulch in order to live up to their own environmental commitments. Cypress forests contain incredible ecological value, and they defend communities from storms and flooding. Unfortunately, these beautiful swamps are being clear-cut solely to produce garden mulch. Many positive steps have already been taken, and tens of thousands of acres of cypress forests have been saved due to the efforts of the Save Our Cypress Coalition. There is, however, more that retailers and government must do to ensure full and just protection of cypress forests throughout the Gulf region and the Southeast.

To help ensure expanded and lasting protection of cypress forests in the Gulf, please join us for the December 4th Cypress Day of Action. Visit this website to sign up and receive more information.

The nationwide grassroots efforts are already paying off! Wal-Mart, who is no longer selling cypress mulch that is harvested, bagged, or manufactured in the state of Louisiana, is the current leader on cypress sustainability. Lowe’s has instituted a temporary moratorium on cypress mulch from “coastal Louisiana”, yet further promises and negotiations have stalled. Home Depot, a self-proclaimed environmental leader among retailers, also claims to avoid mulch from coastal Louisiana, but the company has not directly responded to the Save Our Cypress Coalition. All three companies must do more to uphold their corporate environmental policies as they pertain to endangered cypress forests.

The steps the companies have taken are a good start, but there are lingering concerns. In response to announcements made by Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot and Coalition efforts to end illegal logging, cypress logging activity has gradually come to a halt in coastal Louisiana. Thousands of acres of cypress forests have been saved from the mulch machine!


Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to ensure lasting protection of Louisiana’s swamps, and success in Louisiana may lead to increased production in other vulnerable areas outside of the state. Without a transparent and credible certification program, retailers are unable to truly verify the source of their cypress products, and suppliers have proven willing to hide the real source of their mulch in the past.

Since the campaign began two years ago, the Save Our Cypress Coalition has grown, and reports of cypress logging in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and other states continue to surface. A recent Clean Water Act legal challenge in Georgia saved one cypress swamp and demonstrated that much of the cypress logging occurring today would be deemed illegal if properly examined. The retailers have done nothing to address cypress logging outside of Louisiana.

In order to live up to their stated environmental policies, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Wal-Mart must stop selling unsustainable and illegally harvested cypress mulch, no matter where it is logged.

Wherever you live, join GRN and the Save Our Cypress Coalition on December 4th for a Cypress Day of Action to help build on our successes for a future full of cypress forests!

Dan Favre is the Campaign Organizer at GRN.

 

This November the 9th marked Gulf Restoration Network’s (GRN) 2nd Annual Mississippi Fundraiser. This event is a great opportunity to meet some of Mississippi’s most well-known environmental activists, environmental scientists, local business owners, and environmentally conscious citizens.

The fundraiser takes place on the Captain Pete, one of Ship Island Excursions’ boats. The boat ride begins and ends at Gulfport Yacht Harbor. Our guests experienced a 3 hour cruise in the Mississippi
Sound enjoying a cool November evening in Mississippi, the occasional dolphin swimming alongside the boat, and a beautiful sunset. Party goers also enjoyed some delicious local fare. Food for the event was donated by Confusion Sophisticated Casual Dining and the beer was donated by Lazy Magnolia Brewery (thanks guys).

This year’s hosts were Louis Skrmetta, owner of Ship Island Excursions & Board member of GRN, Robert Wiygul, Board Member of GRN, and Terese Collins, long time supporter of GRN and Mississippi activist.

Funds raised from this event will support GRN campaigns like:

Protect Our Wetlands Protect Ourselves: GRN Works to protect wetlands that are critical in providing flood protection and clean water. We watchdog government agencies to ensure that wetlands are not unnecessarily destroyed by new development.

Healthy Waters: GRN works to protect and restore rivers and bayous throughout the Gulf of Mexico that are critical to recreation, fisheries, wildlife habitat, and drinking water. In Mississippi, we are committed to stopping the withdrawal of 50 million gallons of water a day from the Pascagoula River as part of the Richton Domes project.

Every Fish Counts: GRN is calling on the Gulf Council and National Marine Fisheries Service to develop and enact effective regulations to end overfishing and provide for sound management of fisheries that is based on science.

Thanks to everyone for their support! And if you weren’t able to make it this year, we sure hope to see you next year.

Truly,

Jessica Netto

Development Coordinator

 

Make It Right Foundation Does It Right for Cypress Forests

The Make It Right Foundation and BNIM Architects have joined the Save Our Cypress Coalition, making yet another real commitment to sustainability and the long-term survival of New Orleans. Cypress forests are important natural storm and flooding protection, but they are being clear-cut solely to produce garden mulch.

By choosing alternatives to cypress mulch and explaining the choice to residents and project participants, Make It Right is helping to enhance the sustainability of the entire Gulf region.

Cypress forests are the best natural storm protection for coastal communities and defend inland communities by absorbing flood waters. If historical wetlands and cypress forests had still been in place, the impacts of Katrina on places like the Lower 9th Ward would have been greatly reduced. Unfortunately, Louisiana is rapidly losing its coastal wetlands, and cypress harvesting for mulch exacerbates the problem. Along with natural storm protection, cypress forests provide important habitat for wildlife and many recreational and eco-tourism opportunities.

Many homeowners and gardeners choose cypress mulch because they just don’t know the impact the product has on our natural wetlands. As a model for sustainable building and landscaping that chooses sustainable alternatives like pine straw and recycled building materials, Make It Right is informing concerned consumers.

Upon learning of the dangers of cypress mulch, Make It Right and Berkebile Nelson Immenschuh McDowell Architects (BNIM), the group in charge of the landscape design, moved quickly to ensure cypress mulch would not be used on the project in the future. They will also help to educate the public about sustainable mulch alternatives.
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The Save Our Cypress Coalition is a group of over 160 environmental organizations, churches, eco-tourism businesses, landscapers, and civic groups from all over the country that are working to end unsustainable harvesting of cypress forests for mulch products. The Coalition has focused on educating consumers and calling on Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and Lowe’s to live up to their environmental commitment by halting the sale of unsustainable cypress mulch, wherever it is logged. www.saveourcypress.org

The Make It Right Foundation’s mission is to be a catalyst for redevelopment of the Lower 9th Ward, by building a neighborhood comprised of safe and healthy homes that are inspired by Cradle to Cradle thinking, with an emphasis on high quality design, while preserving the spirit of the community’s culture. www.makeitrightnola.org

BNIM Architects is committed to producing work that maximizes human potential, productivity, and health. Each of their projects works to minimize consumption of resources, reducing waste and pollution and restoring natural systems. They have provided the landscape design services for Make It Right at no charge. www.bnim.com
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Dan Favre is the Campaign Organizer for GRN who knows more about mulch than he ever thought possible.

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