Reshaping Louisiana

As anyone who has been paying attention knows, the state of Louisiana is losing a remarkable amount of land every single day. Brett Anderson has written a wonderfully heart wrenching piece, Louisiana Loses Its Boot, on what one could argue is an environmental disaster. I would encourage everyone to read the piece themselves but it is quite long so I'll pull out some highlights.  

"According to the U.S.G.S., the state lost just under 1,900 square miles of land between 1932 and 2000. This is the rough equivalent of the entire stateof Delaware dropping into the Gulf of Mexico, and the disappearing act has no closing date. If nothing is done to stop the hemorrhaging, the state predicts as much as another 1,750 square miles of land — an area larger than Rhode Island — will convert to water by 2064. An area approximately the size of a football field continues to slip away every hour. “We’re sinking faster than any coast on the planet,” explains Bob Marshall"


The premise for the article is that the classic depiction of the shape of Louisiana, as a boot, is dramatically inaccurate.
as depicted in the article


"But the boot is at best an inaccurate approximation of Louisiana’s true shape and, at worst, an irresponsible lie"

This is simply a terrifying image for anyone that knows enough of the geography of Louisiana to know what is missing.

"Just this past spring, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released updated nautical charts that removed 31 official place names in a single county, Plaquemines Parish, just south of New Orleans"

This is happening fast. Really, really fast.

"D. Phil Turnipseed, the director of the U.S.G.S. National Wetlands Research Center, calls Louisiana’s shrinkage “the worst environmental and socioeconomic disaster in North America.” He adds: “I would dare say it’s the worst thing in the hemisphere if not for what they’re doing in the Amazon jungle.”

An important point not to be overlooked, as sea level continues to rise and the climate continues to change dramatic map changes like this will not be unique. Around the world entire communities are already being forced to move. And in the United States, Louisiana may be the first to undergo such revision but it certainty will not be the only state.

"But Louisiana’s reputation for political chicanery is inseparable from its entanglement with Big Oil. If the state’s modern elected officials are less flamboyantly corrupt than the despotic Huey Long, who built a national power base in the early 20th century opposing Standard Oil, their positions on laws affecting the energy industry are still often gaudily compromised" 

These changes have been caused largely due to corrupt politicians. With the state of the current political landscape it is easy for one to be pessimistic about the future.

"Both Frederick’s art and Foret’s teaching are powerful examples of citizens behaving as if Louisiana’s point of no return has already arrived. Their work suggests the only way to reverse course is to bring others to their desperate point of view, through shocking visual representation and more"

Where I find optimism is in those teaching the next generation and finding ways to bring realities to the general public.


"A more honest representation of the boot would not erase the intractable disagreements — around global sea level rise, energy jobs versus coastal restoration jobs, oil and gas companies versus the fishing industry — that paralyze state politics, but it would give shape to the awesome stakes, both economic and existential, that hang in the balance. A new map would prove that Louisiana is ready to grapple with the extraordinary task ahead of it. A new map would prove that denial, like the boot, is a remnant of our past.

Finding ways to communicate this environmental loss in capitalist terms is likely the only way to restore, if not just to stop the damage being done.