Thursday, December 27, 2007

Farewell to all that

Somewhere north of 60 degrees vast sheets of ice break apart into tiny islands, floating baby polar bears and seal pups away to their doom. A vast expanse of rain forest is bulldozed into pulp while displaced aborigines watch stoically, endangered butterflies flittering around them like ancestral spirits. The world is being taken apart like an old baseball as humanity carefully picks and pulls at the seams in our quest to make sure there is not some missed bit of ore, some sparkly jewel we have left undisturbed beneath the surface.

Baby boomers indoctrinated by Marlin Perkins and Euell Gibbons to value the exotic and distant in the natural world are so disturbed by these catastrophes they nearly choke on their organic, free-trade coffee. These Samaritans threaten to overwhelm coastal cities all around the globe with endless crocodile tears of anguish long before the glaciers melt.

Screw the polar bears. If the only habitats you care about saving must involve animals suitable for reproduction in faux fur and stuffing and found in a wire bin at the local zoo’s gift shop, it's over. Your own world is crumbling beneath your feat and you don't even know it. If you will only be bothered about saving endangered Americans if we put bones through our noses and take to living by spearing fish in Bayou St. John, we are not the only ones standing in the shadow of our man-made doom.

Every drop of ethanol you pump into your hybrid car and every gallon of gasoline it dilutes; every ounce of the imported steel that wraps you in the perceived cocoon of safety in your SUV that swallows that fuel; every forkful of food made with mass produced soybeans or corn and every springy blade of lovingly fertilized green grass in your lawn: almost everything you do and touch today in America is systematically destroying a vast and valuable eco-system in your own backyard.

In the process, cultures as unique and valuable as any aboriginal group on the globe -- the Acadians of south central Louisiana, the Islenos in the east, the native Houma -- are left to stare out over the open water that once was the marsh that fed and sheltered their families, to look at an empty net or oyster rake and see there the void they feel inside as their world falls apart. In the distance, vast stands of dead coastal forest stand as gray and skeletal as concentration camp survivors. If you think I am exaggerating, I recommend you take the time to read Mike Tidwell's Bayou Farewell or Christopher Hallowell's Holding Back the Sea. Within this generation it will all be gone, not through an inexorable process of natural erosion--that would take another thousand years or two--but by a combination of choice and willful ignorance of the costs of what man has wrought.

The coast will not be gone by 2080, or 2050, or even 2030. It could be gone tomorrow, with the next storm that comes ashore. It will certainly be gone within this generation if nothing changes to reverse the policies of cheap energy and food exports which, by robbing the coast of replenishment then slashing what remains with oil-and-gas canals that poison the marsh with saltwater, have indirectly expropriated an area the size of Delaware in Louisiana without paying a penny.

What does America care? The citizens of the US prefer their goods shoddy and imported, made with the cheapest labor possible under any conditions that guarantee that the shelves of Wal-Mart and Target remain stocked to the ceiling at a guaranteed low price. The far east will cheerfully supply all the shrimp and crawfish needed, if you're not to scrupulous about being slowly poisoned by it. We're already as enslaved to the Saudi's as any pipehead or junkie, so what's a little more imported oil going to hurt? Or, better yet, grow more row crops for ethanol and poison the Mississippi with more fertilizer, until the dead zone created obliterates all marine life in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sadly, when we are gone most of you won't be able to afford those goods. When the marshes have vanished and the big one comes, it may sweep away the infrastructure from which a quarter of the nation's oil and gas originates, is imported or processed. Or else it may find the entire lower stretch of the Mississippi an unprotected earthen jetty, and sweep the banks away and send the river down a new course to the sea closing all navigation. Crop exports and steel imports will cease and oil prices will spike to the astronomical. How long could your state's economy prosper at 10-cents-a-bushel crops and $10-a-gallon for gas?

For those of you who live in the new, service oriented America (where row crops and steel are just a box down at the bottom of the page next to where you track your mutual fonds), don't worry. The Acadians may be gone, but we will save the French Quarter and the street car for you. We can contract with Disney to schedule daily parades down Bourbon Street with festive, Cajun themes. The most important parts of our culture--the cheap beads and t-shirts, the high-proof daiquiris and karaoke bars--all of that is high and dry and waiting for you. So come on down. We have arranged for the best garbage service money can buy, standing by to hose your vomit from the street before you wake for afternoon brunch.

Just try not to look out the window of your plane as it approaches the city, lest you be reminded that the cost of that low-fare to the City That Care Forgot is the displacement of a million of your fellow citizens and the destruction of their unique culture, the intentional eradication of an entire, genuine way of life. Forget that someday the consequences of that loss will come home to you.

Whoa, man, angry post! What happened??

Take a breath, man. Calm down. It's not over yet. :-)

The water resources bill passed. The streetcar runs to the foot of St. Charles. Recovery happens. All is not lost.
It is difficult not to be angry. The Water Resources bill is again a drop in the bucket. A real program to make a difference will cost something on the scale of the interstate highway or Apollo program, or for less an engineering reference, the entire war and occupation in Iraq. Hundreds of billions are needed in a shot time frame.

As one of the local experts Kerry St. Pe' asked in Tidmore's book: if a foreign nation were encroaching on 25 square miles of U.S. territory a year, and had already taken an areas the size of Rhode Island, would we not be at war?

America chooses not to fight this war just as it chose not to rescue New Orleans. Anyone who is not spitting angry at least part of the time is being too kind or not paying attention.

People who read deeply into WBG often don't read the old, angry posts. They're not in the call out at the top of the page, but they're there. One of the top Google searches of my name brings up a post "You Lying Sack of Shit", dedicated to the leader of the central goverment. If you read it, you will notice the note in which I once took it down, so I would not be judged just by one angry post. But I put it back.

I am angry, if I don't always show it here. In spite of all of the kind acts of individual Americans, their churches and other groups, I today consider myself an Orleanian first, a Louisianan second, and an American not even a distant third, but not at all. If the nation to the north wants my allegiance back they would have to earn it, but the price I would set is very steep.
I didn't get anger out of that so much as I did a deft linkage between Louisiana's plight and that of the planet as a whole. In other words, we in the country mostly to your north ignore you at our own peril; "Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Then again, a) I go back far enough with Mr. Wet that maybe I've just come to expect that righteous anger; and b) I live in a place that, within the past year and a half, has been beset by an earthquake, a hurricane near-miss, several bouts of flash flooding, and even a tsunami watch or two.

As yet, no one has blamed our largely Democratic leadership for these events...
I get what you're saying, but this much anger hurts you more than anyone in washington, I think. We just need to keep plugging forward, ourselves -- Sinn Fein, right? This level of anger isn't healthy. It needs to harden into steely resolve.

Another 'cane, another wingnut President, NOLA may not survive. But all we an do is try.
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"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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