The American Red Cross labeled it “the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy.”
With last week’s devastating floods which displaced more than 40,000 citizens and caused 11 deaths, along with Tuesday’s 47th anniversary of Hurricane Camille and the upcoming 11th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana’s citizens should focus on what climate change has already done to our state and their personal responsibility to create a more sustainable future.
Louisiana’s elected officials, business leaders and residents must be empowered to immediately engage in the long-term planning necessary to build resilient communities for our children and grandchildren.
Though not all scientists agree that climate change was the cause of last week’s unparalleled catastrophe, all do agree that the heat contained in Louisiana’s “warm, wet, swampy terrain” south of Baton Rouge gave a “last minute power boost” to the tremendous rainstorm heading west from Florida which then dumped so much rain that rivers, lakes and their tributaries backed up across South Louisiana. With today’s full moon, floodwaters will continue to rise in parishes close to New Orleans.
According to a 2014 U.S. National Climate Assessment Report, Louisiana is especially vulnerable to sea level rise, extreme heat events, hurricanes and decreased water availability. Better add flooding to that list along with storm surge, erosion, land loss and salt water intrusion.
Temperatures have been steadily increasing over the decades. The corresponding extreme heat events are already affecting public health, energy, agriculture and forestry. Sea level rise poses widespread and continued threats to both natural and built environments. Decreased water availability is being exacerbated by population growth and poor land-use decisions.
Our coastal wetlands are being inundated from all sides. According to the New York Times, the federal government recently awarded $48 Million to the residents of Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana to relocate the entire community where Biloxi Chitimacha-Choctaw ancestors have lived and worked for generations.
Heavy rains and flooding are a part of life in South Louisiana. This storm, which some have labeled “a hurricane without the high winds,” was different because most victims never expected water to enter their homes and businesses. Most never purchased flood insurance.
The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said “our” storm had an 0.2% chance of occurring any given year and should only occur every 500 to 1000 years. Since May, 2015, eight U.S. storms have met that criteria. Other states that have been impacted include Oklahoma, Texas, South Carolina, Maryland and West Virginia. While it was storming in Louisiana last weekend, huge floods were also taking place in Moscow, the Sudan and Manila.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that part of the problem is that current infrastructure was built for the pre-climate change environment. That’s why planning for a sustainable future is essential right now.
Denise Thornton opened the Beacon of Hope Resource Center immediately after Hurricane Katrina and quickly began providing services to help rebuild many New Orleans’ neighborhoods. Working with thousands of volunteers from across the U.S., her team created a blueprint for other communities to follow.
Thornton is ready to bring her skills and experience to help create a resiliency plan for the impacted towns and cities. Just like children participate in fire drills at school, every community needs an emergency rebuilding plan in case catastrophe strikes, said Thornton.
“Life is moving at such a fast pace these days,” Thornton explained. “Unfortunately, people are not thinking ahead. They don’t take the time to invest in the future. They handle disasters as they come up.”
Hurricanes and flooding are not the only kinds of disasters citizens must plan for. “It hit hard. It hit fast. It hit with an intensity like never before,” said one California official about the unprecedented wildfires currently raging close to Los Angeles, fires that were probably caused by years of drought.
In 2012 power plants and major industrial factories in Louisiana emitted 140 million metric tons of carbon pollution equal to the yearly pollution from more than 29 million cars. It is imperative that we invest in clean energy and improve efficiency.
Climate change is here to stay. Louisiana citizens should take this opportunity to double down on creating personal and community-wide resilience plans that will sustain future generations on the land and water that we love.
Personal plans are easy to start. Recycle paper, plastic and glass. Purchase energy efficient appliances. Install energy-saving features in your home and office. Turn off the lights when you exit a room or raise the thermostat even a few degrees. Walk more, drive less. Buy flood insurance even if your property has never flooded.
Like Mayor Landrieu says, pay it forward. Consider yourself blessed and help those in need. Drop off clothes, towels, bedding and cleaning supplies to Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s office. Bring animal care items including metal bowls, bags of food and leashes for dogs and cats to Canine Connection or Camp Bow Wow Mid City. Take non-perishable food items to Second Harvesters or the Covington Food Bank. Donate cash through the United Way, the Salvation Army or a Go Fund Me account. Bring baby supplies to the Junior League.
Hurricane season is far from over. Severe flooding can come at any time. It’s not too late to purchase flood insurance and update your personal evacuation plan. Who knows when you might need it.
LIBERTARIAN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE GAINING VOTER SUPPORT
One of my closest friends who always votes Republican told me yesterday that she cannot support Donald Trump. But she won’t vote for Hillary Clinton – whom she considers a liar – either. Though knowing little about him, former New Mexico governor and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson might well get her vote. Across the country, Johnson and his party are being given a hard look by millions of dissatisfied voters, especially millennials who believe that marijuana should be legal in every state.
Johnson, who calls himself a social liberal and a fiscal conservative, is currently polling at around 10 percent, according to CNN. He needs to reach an average of 15 percent in the specific polls the Commission on Presidential Debates is using as their guide. A third-party candidate has never reached that level since the Commission began keeping score in 2000. The first debate is set for September 26 at Hofstra University.
Part of Johnson’s problem is that Green Party candidate Jill Stein is polling at 5 percent, possibly pulling off votes Johnson desperately needs. Johnson’s fundraising has gotten much stronger with almost $3 million raised this month so far. But Johnson yearns for the national media coverage a presidential debate offers to really become a player in the race. With more than two months before the election, the polls will continue to fluctuate.
Danae Columbus has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by her public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.