Thursday, August 10, 2006

Wetlands in the Money Section

Money, to me, is a means to an end and never an end in itself. Therefore, I try not to use economic reasons to justify why we should stop human activities which cause or hasten coastal erosion. There are plenty of other reasons.

I do recognize, though, that some people see the world in dollar signs. I also understand that we need some green means to achieve our green end of a healthy coastal ecosystem. And, often, the people who see the world in dollar signs control where those dollar signs go.

With that, I am happy to see two articles pop up in the Fortune Magazine section of CNN Money which address wetland loss in southeastern Louisiana, along with other problems we face. And while this po’ boy knows that rebuilding this area requires more than just rebuilding homes, it's good for the money bags of the world to read that coastal restoration goes along with neighborhood restoration. (Since I don’t read financial news, I am assuming that people who actually have a lot of money do.)

Gentilly Girl pointed out one article which is a good overview of all our problems. It addresses wetlands thus:
Even as the city reconfigures itself, a second, still bigger reconstruction project must occur in the great wetlands to its south. New Orleans' best defense against hurricanes is not its levees but this vast Delta swamp, which acts as a buffer against storm surges from the Gulf of Mexico.

Alas, the coastal wetlands, by far the nation's largest, are disappearing, literally dissolving away. Halting and even partially reversing the land loss is possible. But it will require the biggest, costliest restoration effort ever tried, all at a time when war, tax cuts, and Medicare have depleted the federal treasury.
What this article does right is group restoring wetlands with rebuilding structures on land as the two major reconstruction projects that need to be funded.

I read the other by way of Dead Pelican:
In addition to containing America's biggest petrochemical complex, coastal Louisiana also encompasses 40% of the nation's coastal wetlands. And all of it - platforms and pipelines, wetlands and Woodland - is rapidly disappearing.
Notice the article lays out how important the wetlands are to the oil industry first, something people conveniently forget when they ask why people would live here. It also mentions the oil industry's role in wetlands loss:
Exacerbating the problem is Louisiana's huge oil and gas infrastructure: Thousands of miles of pipelines and navigation channels slice through the coastal wetlands, bringing saltwater inland and killing the plants that prevent the wetlands from washing away.
Although neither offer any solutions, they both conclude that whether wetland loss can be stopped or not, there is a key ingredient missing:
First Article –

Those two projects - reconfiguring New Orleans and rehabilitating its ecosystem - are daunting enough, and working through them will require a stupendous force of political will, especially in Washington. Here is the third dilemma: That desperately needed political will is nowhere to be seen.

Second Article –

Bringing back coastal Louisiana will be an ecological-restoration project of unprecedented scale, complexity, and cost - an estimated $14 billion - but it's doable. The real question is political will.
It can be done. Southeastern Louisiana can be protected from the biggest storm. It won’t happen tomorrow. It might take generations. But it certainly won’t happen if we don’t start.

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