Fifteen years ago, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the gulf coast from Hancock County, Mississippi, to Lake Charles, Louisiana. The two storms caused more than $180 billion worth of damage to human structures. They also decimated what remained of barrier islands and wetlands south of these two states. Since then, environmental groups have poured millions of dollars into improving those crucial natural resources. Their efficacy will be tested later today near Lake Charles, where Hurricane Laura is slated to make landfall.
Like most people, I feel good about money spent improving the environment. But I’m curious: how much good will building up barrier islands and wetlands do if ocean levels outpace such expansion?
If those efforts prove insufficient, what should our next steps be to protect these lands–and New Orleans, the greatest, culturally most significant city in the south? How should we marshal our resources effectively? The answers aren’t simple. Cease and desist with the creation of new housing and developments? That will be a non-starter for those who rely on tourism for their tax base. Try to wean ourselves off fossil fuels? That sounds great to elites, but won’t fly with people whose monthly incomes don’t last as long as their months. What balanced approach can work?