Welcome to the era of climate change. All over the world, planet Earth is transforming. I am speaking about the effects of climate change. To be specific, coastal changes as felt through residents of coastal Louisiana. People understand how important coastal systems and processes are to the longevity of people and industries in the south. Multiple perspectives about coastlines make it difficult to assess the problem. Hard-earned dollars are pumped into these restoration projects, and people do want to save the coast, but how far are we willing to go. The coast of Louisiana is an economic and cultural driver for all, not just Louisiana residents.
Fisheries in Louisiana are a million-dollar industry and provide the majority of the southern food intake [JPK1]. The very first page of a New Orleans recipe book is shrimp etouffee along with catfish, crawfish, and half-shell oysters. Fishermen are reliant on the sustainability of all fresh and saltwater fish species claiming homage to estuaries along the coast. Saltwater intrusion, the decay of plant species, and habitat destruction are just a few obstacles the industry has to go through for seafood to be enjoyed worldwide. Big agriculture is another obstacle along the Mississippi River that dumps runoff consisting of herbicides and pesticides threatening fish. Vulnerable fish species located in estuarine environments are not immune to harmful chemicals in the water column.
The story begins with The Mississippi River as a highway for boats to share resources and business through commodities, precious metals, and other chemical products. The port of New Orleans serves as a trading post for most of the United States for multiple chemical and manufacturing industries. The economy is driven by the transportation and viability of these products being transported using cargo. If New Orleans can’t protect the port from land loss and subsidence at the same time, the economy would spiral.
Yes, land loss and subsidence at the same time. The issue with this is Louisiana was formed on a delta consisting of hard clays, silts, and sands. If the Mississippi River can not transport sediment down towards the mouth of the river, sediment will be lost in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in a landmass not being replenished. This is the issue we are facing. As a result, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana has come up with a Coastal Master Plan available every 6 years [JPK2]. The most recent plan, issued in 2017, tells a story of all scientists and engineers projects and how much money it will take to develop said projects. The Coastal Master Plan is organized and communicated to the public as scenarios based upon the actions we take towards coastal restoration. Scenarios are listed as if we implement projects or if we do nothing, this is what the coastline will look like in 50 and 100 years. GIS mapping reveals the need to act quickly if we want to save more of the coastline.
From the oyster industry, farmers, economy, livelihood, and to the person who claims residence near the mouth of the Mississippi River, there are problems with land loss where everyone feels the effects. The environment tells a story about coastal environmental systems in Louisiana, and we are at a turning point in history to feel the effects of a receding coastline.