In response to “‘We’re screwed’: The only question is how quickly Louisiana wetlands will vanish, study says” published May 22, 2020 by Mark Schlefstein
As a New Orleanian and a coastal restoration advocate for 25 years, I have several concerns about what headlines like these aim to achieve other than getting readers to click and share your articles. The article itself is very informative thanks to Schlefstein’s masterful understanding of Louisiana’s coast and the issues it faces. However, the title only serves to make Louisianans feel helpless. We are racing against the clock to save the parts of our coast that can still be saved, but we are far from “screwed”. Now is not the time to stand down. It’s time to stand up for what is right. We can save much of our coast, but it won’t be easy.
Saving our coast is a decision that we must choose everyday. We’ve known for many years now that climate change and sea-level rise are consuming our coastal wetlands. The new study proves this fact, unequivocally. Now is the time for action, and instead Louisiana lawmakers seem to be using the COVID-19 crisis to make terrible decisions that threaten the health of our communities and survival of our coastal wetlands. As I write this, Louisiana legislators are choosing to fight to block coastal lawsuits intended to hold the oil industry accountable; they are trying to reduce taxes paid by the oil industry; and are pushing a huge petrochemical buildout in coastal Louisiana, all at the request of oil lobbyists. In other words, the oil industry won’t have to pay for the damages they’ve done to our wetlands, and they will get a huge tax break, and the construction of their facilities will destroy more wetlands and accelerate sea level rise. This is a bad deal for Louisiana no matter how you look at it.
Louisianans have an opportunity to push our politicians to make the decision to begin the economic and ecological transition we need to save our coastal communities. Our state can no longer afford a polluting economy. We don’t have to be beholden to the oil industry. It’s possible to diversify our economy, provide good-paying jobs, and restore our coast. But to do so, it is necessary for Louisiana to begin the transition away from the fossil fuel industry. We have a real opportunity in Louisiana to put people to work building the renewable energy economy, decommissioning and cleaning up abandoned oil wells, and restoring our coast.
Yes, Louisiana is losing its coastal wetlands, but Louisiana residents have the ability to make decisions today that slow that loss and set the stage for a sustainable future. We are not screwed, as the headline intimates. We just need to demand that our politicians make the right choices.