State faces real climate concerns

Published 4:22 am Friday, November 18, 2016

Earlier this year I had an excuse to visit Isle de Jean Charles.

The little island south of New Orleans is sinking and, they say, in a few decades it will be under salt water, the victim of levees and river channels that take valuable, nourishing silt away from the marshes. If there is any good news it is that the people there have gotten federal funding to move. The bad news is, of course, that the residents of the island — mostly low-income, older Native Americans — are being relocate from a home that has been theirs since the 19th century.

The disappearance of the Louisiana coastline is old news. For that matter, Louisiana gets more than its share of environmental disasters. This year it was floods. According to CNN, the August floods hit 60,000 homes and the damage was compared to the devastating Superstorm Sandy that hit the East Coast.

How does one prepare for the sort of storm that brings so much rain in so little time that the water has nowhere to go but inside homes? To the people on Isle de Jean Charles: how does one prepare for the sort of climate that literally washes away the earth beneath your community, bit by bit, until every last home is gone?

These are the issues facing this state and it is clear by now that these issues are greater than any single man, family or even community can solve. Real help depends on state and, to a large extent, on federal leadership. Real help depends on a clear vision and a willingness to invest in and subscribe to scientific fact that has not been historically popular in these parts. Even so, as John Adams famously put it, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

As everyone knows, there is a new party in line for the White House. But, as ever, I am optimistic. The risks we, in Louisiana, face will be faced by the richest and the poorest, by the factory worker and the factory owner — as well as the factory itself — and so there is some reason for optimism.

Of course, I am not naïve to the allure of political expediency. It is easier to do nothing or to do whatever is popular among the party or the donor or the crowd that what is right. Therefore, I hope our local elected leaders will do everything they can to hold their counterparts accountable to the truth and to the facts. I hope our elected leaders are themselves courageous and objective.

We all know more floods are coming. More hurricanes are coming. More coast is sinking or washing away. More than condolences after the storm clouds pass, what we need now is commitment to fact.

Jesse Wright is the managing editor of The Daily News. You can email him at or call him at 985-732-2565, ext. 301.