Today is going to be a hectic day, and I was just going to skip the blog. But then I stumbled across this piece while researching the as-yet-unnamed new book to be set in south Louisiana, aka Ground Zero for the Deepwater Horizon spill.
Rachel Maddow, who is always an insightful commentator, has hit the nail on the head in her observations about the situation in south Louisiana, not just now and not just during Katrina, but for a long, long time. Our country has needed its port at the mouth of the Mississippi for...well, for always. So there are people living there for a darn good reason. We have needed to maintain our shipping artery up through the middle of our country for a long, long time, too, but our imperfect technology means that this is killing that fragile ecosystem. We've deprived it of the silty floodwaters that keep it above sea level, and we've replaced that silt with fertilizer and pesticides and herbicides. God played a little joke on us by putting oil down there, so we've chopped the place up and poisoned it further, so that we could get at that oil.
Well, okay. Maybe that's what we needed to do. Maybe we can do better now. But in the meantime, we need to do the best we can for the people who are holding the bag for us. The people who, coincidentally, have been catching a goodly portion of the seafood we enjoy.
I've copied Rachel Maddow's editorial on this situation below. (And I know I may be tippy-toeing on copyright issues here, but I hope she'd want her opinion to be heard.) I really resonate with her central point: Is Louisiana part of our country, or isn't it?
A transcript of the closing of the May 3 Rachel Maddow Show:
So, here we are again on America's Gulf Coast, the Louisiana shoreline reporting on an environmental, economic and human catastrophe. This fragile stretch of our country being ripped apart again just as the wounds of the last disaster were beginning to heal here -- that of course was hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the barrier islands off the coast here and leveled much of Venice, Louisiana, where I'm sitting tonight. That was 2005. Here we are again in 2010.
If there's a unifying truth in this state, in this region, it is that the wetlands are the only means of survival. Nobody argues this point. Republicans, Democrats, nobody argues this point.
The wetlands are to the Gulf Coast what bumpers and crumple zones are to cars. It's a buffer against the impact, an absorber of destructive energy, a giant protector against disasters. Wetlands slow and weaken hurricanes before they reach places like New Orleans. They support wildlife. They support human economy. They are incredibly, incredibly fragile, and they have to be preserved if they are going to preserve us. The marshes were built by nature over thousands of years, built by the Mississippi River's floods which left settlement in fresh water. That pushed the edge of the continent out into the Gulf of Mexico by as much as 100 miles.
But since, the 1950s, the pursuit of profit has forced 8,000 miles of marshes to yield to manmade canals -- essentially, to make oil exploration and shipping easier. It's estimated that the state of Louisiana loses 25 square miles of wetlands every year. If we were losing that much land to another country, we would be at war.
America has a choice to make about the State of Louisiana. Is Louisiana part of our country or isn't it? Because if Louisiana is part of America, then the American people and the American government have to begin to defend Louisiana against American greed, and multinational greed. Because yes, legally it's the job of BP, the oil company, to clean up this disaster that looms over this wetlands behind me right now.
But who among us believes that any company really wants to defend America, as much as we as a nation want to defend us? The gain sucked out of the sea bed here is private, it's profit, it supersedes to these pesky little regulatory bodies called countries, but the risk here, again, the risk here as always isn't private. It's public, it's national, it's American. It's borne by Louisiana again, literally borne by the land here and by the people here. The incentives all line up neatly for the companies who profit up a natural resources here to take what they can and damn the consequences.
For us as a country, if we believe in Louisiana, somebody's got to stand up against those companies on behalf of the public, the land, the people, the country.
--Rachel Maddow, MSNBC