Blogging for a Healthy Gulf

 

Casey, a GRN intern, was already home in New Jersey for Thanksgiving on the Save Our Cypress Day of Action. We missed her at the New Orleans event that she had done so much to help organize, but she managed to make a splash in New Jersey.

Ew, cypress mulch.

After lamenting the presence of cypress mulch all the way up in Northern New Jersey, Casey and her friends pretended to do some shopping. When they arrived at the counter with bags of cypress mulch, they began asking the clerk some uncomfortable questions about the sustainability of cypress mulch.

Is this mulch sustainable?

When she couldn't answer, Casey got on the phone with the manager to let him know that cypress mulch is destroying the Gulf Coast. She actually convinced him to come talk to her in person about it, and she was able to hand off the letter explaining our position and have a educational conversation with him. By that time the photographer had been asked to stop taking pictures, but not before they'd gotten some good ones.

Talking with the manager.

Dan Favre is the Campaign Organizer for the Gulf Restoration Network.
 

Ashley in Charlotte sent along these photos from the event they held in Charlotte, NC. She told me that the day went well. The management of Lowe's let the activists educate customers for an hour and a half before finally asking them to leave. The women left behind a lingering memory of their visit on the brochure rack. Nicely placed!


Update posted by Dan Favre, GRN Campaign Organizer.

 

Our favorite testimony to the need for NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act) and Army Corps reform, the Mississippi River - Gulf Outlet, is back in the news today, with an editorial in the Times-Picayune urging quick implementation of the 170 day closure plan. We wholey concur, though we think the plan needs to do more to address what the Corps won't acknowledge - the role MRGO plays in delivering storm surge into NOLA's back door.

Keep your eyes open for opportunities from the MRGO Must Go coalition to urge that action.

Aaron Viles is the GRN's Campaign Director

 

The New York Times editorial staff put it best when they wrote “like an indestructible ghoul in a low-grade horror flick, the Yazoo Pumps are rising again from the bureaucratic crypt.”

First proposed in 1941, the Yazoo Pumps are nothing short of a reoccurring nightmare. This World War II era project would, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, drain 200,000 acres of wetlands. A former EPA Wetland official called the pumps the most environmentally destructive project he ever reviewed in his 24 years at the agency.

If constructed the Yazoo Pumps would be the world’s largest pumping system, and the $220 million cost would be borne solely by federal taxpayers. In the 1996 Water Resources Development Act, Senator Thad Cochran successfully inserted language to get rid of the requirement that the local government share in the cost.

The pumps would damage two wildlife refuges and parts of a national forest, squandering investments the public has already made by damaging existing public resources. The project will make more land available for agribusiness. With wetlands shifting into farmlands, fertilizer application will increase and natural filtering systems will be diminished. By destroying wetlands, which filter out nitrogen and phosphorus, the project would also increase pollution loads in the lower Mississippi, adding to the degradation of water health in the Gulf of Mexico.

These wetlands also support critical floodplain fisheries; serve as a haven for ducks and other migratory birds; improve water quality; and help reduce flood damages by acting as natural sponges that store and slowly release floodwaters.

Mississippi Senators Trent Lott and Thad Cochran are championing the project, citing the pumps as necessary for local economic development and flood protection. But their view of economic development is extremely narrow. The 200,000 acres of wetland that the project would destroy provide many benefits to the Mississippi economy in the way of wildlife habitat, flood water storage, water purification, and recreation. As the Environmental Protection Agency has pointed out, the money spent on this project could be put to better use locally by updating ailing sewage treatment plants, obtaining conservation easements, and promoting nature tourism in the region. The line needs to be drawn somewhere. Economic development does not and should not require environmental destruction.

The final Environmental Impact Statement was published last Friday, now is the time to kill this project once and for all. Please take action to stop the Yazoo Pumps Project. Let the Corps, EPA, and the Department of the Interior know you oppose the project.

Stephanie Powell is the Outreach Associate for the GRN's Healthy Waters Program

 

Tampa Day of Action went well. I went to two Wal-Marts and really got the attention of the store managers.

The first store (closest to my apt) I lucked out and got to speak to the store general manager and a regional manager that happened to be there. When I started telling them why I was there, they were like deer in head lights, which was pretty rad. They looked really nervous and didn't say much of anything. The managers denied knowing anything about anything for the most part and promised to bring it to their supervisors. I felt really professional dropping all the facts on them, they were hanging on every word.

Mike is a GRN Intern in Tampa. If you're a student in the Gulf interested in interning with the GRN, check out this website, www.healthygulf.org/staff/jobs.html.

 

 

Vivian Todd, Magnolia Garden Club (Zone IX) and members of the Conservation Committee visit Lowe's in Beaumont, TX on November 17, 2007 during the CYPRESS CALL FOR ACTION DAY. Unfortunately, we found lots of bags of cypress mulch from Ruston, Louisiana. They were asking Lowe's to stop selling cypress mulch and to contact their corporate office to tell them of our visit.

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Outside the Lowe's store in Beaumont, TX. Vivian Todd, Leslie Wilson, Kelly Munro, Becki Stedman, and Ann Bryant are armed with cypress mulch information to share with the Lowe's manager. November 17, 2007 - CYPRESS DAY of ACTION

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Our next stop - Home Depot, Beaumont, TX. Ann Bryant, Magnolia GC Conservation Chairman and Leslie Wilson stand in front of dozens of bags of cypress mulch..................

Vivian Todd is with the Magnolia Garden Club, a member of the Garden Club of America, in Beaumont, TX.

 

I intended to write this a while ago, but I've been ludicrously busy lately - and well, sometimes things just don't get done as intended. Mea culpa aside, I wanted to make sure our blog-reading supporters know that back in October, GRN was the official non-profit partner of the Voodoo Music Experience, one of the biggest, coolest music festivals, located right here in NOLA.

We did a few things with that opportunity: we launched a text messaging campaign (text the word 'coast' to the number 77007 to add your name to a petition to support restoring Louisiana's coast and communities - go ahead, do it); we organized a wetlands tour with the Lousiana Bayoukeeper to show Voodoo artists what was up with the coast; we tabled relentlessly and signed up well over 300 new GRN members (who could join at the special Voodoo rate of $20 and get a way cool, "Defend New Orleans: Defend the Coast" t-shirt for free); we got text campaign shout outs from artist announcers on the mainstage; we held a press conference announcing the Voodoo/GRN partnership with festival producers Rehage entertainment, cajun fiddler Amanda Shaw, filmmaker Walter Williams, and Jac Currie, principle of Defend New Orleans and our t-shirt collaborator. Of course, one of the coolest components of the three day event was meeting musicians who were down with the cause. Stanton Moore from Galactic, Big Sam from Big Sam's Funky Nation, Mark Mullins from Bonerama, Theresa Andersson, Amanda Shaw, Clint Maedegan from New Orleans Bingo Show (& Liquidrone), Marc Broussard (responsible for the single most effective text message shout out of the event), Ghost, Plain White Tees, Trombone Shorty, John Cleary, Groove sect, Amy Cook, Morning 40 Federation, Todd Voltz & Hands of Nero, Boots Riley, Dax Riggs, and my personal highlight, a couple of the guys from Wilco, who closed out the festival with an amazing performance which touched on about every album they've released.

Clint Maedgen's Complicated Life video: Featured prominently in the New Orleans Bingo Show at Voodoo - this is an amazing glimpse of life in NOLA - great, accessible song and vibe - watch it, you'll love it.

Head over to our flickr page to see all the great photos.

In addition to the artists I mentioned above, I'd be remiss if I didn't thank some key folks who made this successful event possible: Lisa Mirman from WTUL, Marc Ross from Rock the Earth, Walter Williams, Jez from Alternative, Jac from Defend New Orleans, Criss from Southern Screenprinting & Graphics, Emily Rosenblum from Tony Margherita Management, Jennifer Sacca from Rounder Records, Marcee from the Mitch Schneider Organization, Mike and Tracy from Bayoukeeper, Dave Roos, Gino, Marisa Morton, Casey, Casey, Anat, Alyssa, Amy and all the other great members of the GRN crew, Jeff & Karen from New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund, Alexis Giannopoulos from Highsteppin' Productions, Alex Smith from Smudge Ink Management,Charles Shaw from team shaw, Jen Pippitone & Emilio, Stephen Rehage and Mike Ciardi from Rehage Entertainment, Vydra from 106.7 FM, David, Scott, and Dimitri from WWOZ, and most importantly SIG!

Aaron Viles is the GRN's Campaign Directo

 

 

 

We are very proud of how our Step It Up 2007 event turned out. Attendance was great. We gave away all of our 200 red "Save New Orleans! Stop Global Warming" t-shirts. Our sponsors all had an opportunity to meet new members.

We served gumbo, BBQ, and Abita beer for our guests. We want to especially thank our friends, the excellent band "Country Fried" for playing our event. Check out their website (and buy their new album!) at http://www.countryfried.net.


The speakers, Aaron Viles with the GRN (maybe you get e-mails from him?), John Atkeisen of the Alliance for Affordable Energy, Kenye Smith from the New Orleans Mayors office, Councilwoman Shelly Midura, State Rep Candidate Deborah Langhoff, and of course Senator John Edwards were very impressive. Senator Edwards spoke about how to curb global warming pollution without hurting our environment or economy by cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050, create more green collar jobs, NO NEW COAL, and added that nuclear is not an option.

Senator Edwards was a good sport and joined us for the first part of the second line to the Superdome led by Da Truth Brass Band. At the Superdome, world renowned Aerial Artist John Quigley led us to spell out NO NEW COAL (pic above), which we believe, is a pretty clear message. Head over to flickr to see all the great photos (thanks Jeffrey Dubinsky for the fantastic shots).

We want to sincerely thank our sponsors for this event including:

Gulf Restoration Network
Alliance For Affordable Energy
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade
Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN)
The Sierra Club
Global Green
National Peace Corps Association
Tulane Xavier Center for Bio-Environmental Research
Advocates for Environmental Human Rights
St Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality
Sustainable Churches for South Louisiana








Casey DeMoss Roberts is the Special Projects Coordinator for the Gulf Restoration Network.

 

 

 

Last Friday, I participated with TulaneUniversity faculty and alumni in creating an outdoor reading corner at the SophieB.WrightSchool in New Orleans. The plan was to dig up the grass and replace it with sod and plant flower beds and mulch them. When I arrived on scene, the first thing I noticed was bag upon bag of CYPRESS MULCH! As someone working on the Save Our Cypress campaign and knowing the importance of cypress trees, I couldn’t support a project that was mulching a garden with the very trees I am fighting to protect. Tulane has made commitments to not use cypress mulch on campus, but apparently the decision had not filtered to all levels. The head of the project assured me that the intent had not been to buy cypress mulch; rather, they had asked for the best mulch the gardening shop had to offer. I decided to call the nursery and ask to exchange the cypress mulch for a sustainable alternative. The woman at the nursery was surprised that I wanted to exchange the cypress mulch for pine bark. She had been misinformed, and she was repeating the myth that cypress is better at repelling bugs than other mulches. I explained that the insect repellant properties of cypress only developed in old-growth trees and that the trees being used for cypress mulch were too young to have this property. And, in any case, cypress mulch drives the destruction of coastal wetlands forests and the habitat and flood protection they provide. She said I could bring back the cypress mulch.

My friend, Lindsay, and I loaded up my Subaru Outback with as many bags of mulch as it could fit, twenty-three in total, and headed off for the West Bank. A worker at the nursery helped us unload the cypress mulch and replace it with pine bark. While we unloaded the car, we talked to him about why we were returning it. Namely, cypress trees are one of our best natural defenses and prevent the fast-paced erosion of the wetlands. He knew about the issue and knows cypress mulch is no good. We asked him to pass along his knowledge to his employer. The bags of pine mulch were not only bulkier for the same quantity but they also cost half as much. After loading up the pine bark, we headed back to SophieB.WrightSchool. To debunk another myth, cypress mulch is not all that aromatic. My car has the pungent smell of pine bark-no trace of cypress to be found.

Although twenty-three bags isn’t much in the scheme of things, the people working on the reading corner now know more about the issue and why we felt it was important to return the mulch. To do your part; please join us on the November 17th International Day of Action to ask Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot to stop selling cypress mulch. Tell them why it’s important to you that these trees are not destroyed. Get a group of friends together, makes some signs, print out some fliers, and stand out in front of these stores-educate your fellow consumers on why they shouldn’t buy cypress mulch. When you get a chance to talk to the manager of the store, you can present him or her a cypress seedling to adopt - after all, its parents are ground up in their garden department and its tough being a young cypress these days (most of them don’t make it). It’s a fun way to educate customers, employees, and managers while putting pressure directly on Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart.

Amy Medtlie is an Outreach Associate for the Gulf Restoration Network.

 


Back in April 15 New Orleans environmental and social justice groups organized an event on the levees of the lower 9th ward to urge immediate action on climate change. It was a great event, with great music, food, speakers, and a great photo (which even showed up on the New York Times website). Unfortunately, we didn't get what we wanted, and Congress still hasn't passed legislation to avert the climate crisis.

So we're doing it again. This time, we're drawing attention to the continuing absence of climate leadership with the most quintessential of New Orleans festivities - a second line! We've invited every member of the Louisiana congressional delegation and every candidate for president - so far, Senator John Edwards alone will be shaking it to Da Truth Brass Band with us (Sen. Clinton and a number of the other presidential candidates will be attending other Step It Up events).

But we need you! This Saturday at 2pm, the first 200 people get a free "Save New Orleans - Stop Global Warming" t-shirt! Visit this website to RSVP and let us know you're in! There will also be speakers, food, beer, sustainable energy workshops (you can check out the Art Egg's solar panels!).

We know New Orleans is ground zero for climate change impacts, but not a single member of the Louisiana congressional delegation has agreed to attend our event (and that includes Gov-elect Bobby Jindal). What are they afraid of? Green jobs? A stable climate and all that means for the Gulf's sea level, hurricanes and our subsiding coast? Visit this site to send them another invite to our event.

 

Aaron Viles is the GRN's Campaign Director

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