Monday, May 3, 2010

Louisiana Supplements

In recognition of Louisiana Day -- which I enjoyed celebrating with Pam -- I would like to provide a few additional items, mainly related to the often-tragic geography of the coastal lowland area -- a vulnerable national treasure.

I first started learning about the complicated environmental geography of the region from John McPhee's masterpiece The Control of Nature, one-third of which is devoted to the precarious workings of Old River Control. In the late 1980s, shortly after reading that chapter, major floods were occurring a thousand miles  upstream, and the news was focused on how St. Louis, Missouri was being affected. I thought of the far-lower Mississippi, and contacted the Army Corps of Engineers in Louisiana to see if they were worried. I reached a person responsible for Old River Control, who said, "Sorry, I'm running off to a meeting." Meaning that the structure was indeed threatened.

More recently, of course, a lot of attention focused on the severe damage to the region from Hurricane Katrina. Last year, I posted a NY Times map on my blog that illustrates how Katrina caused Louisiana to experience a major job recession ahead of the rest of the United States.

Louisiana has been hit before, of course, and the nation that takes Louisiana so much for granted has let it down before. Aaron Neville sings about it in Louisiana 1927.

The BP spill of April 20 will deal the region a different kind of setback, as it threatens both natural communities and the livelihoods of residents. The first oiled bird was recovered a week after the explosion, on Louisiana Day in Venice, Louisiana.

For updates on the disaster, see the EPA Response page and the multi-agency/corporation Joint Information Centre, which posts the latest maps.

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