Hello! Today I started my actual first day of work. I’m sure you’re wondering “Well what have you been doing for the past two weeks in New Orleans?” I’ve been orienting! After orientation in New York I had orientation in New Orleans for a week. Our activities included visiting all the site placements for the YAVs, a Zephyr’s minor league baseball game, a scavenger hunt around the city and a full day down on the bayou. This past week was Project Homecoming orientation as well as some introduction things at University of New Orleans. See what I mean? I think I’m fully oriented.
Here’s some fun facts for the day (we had to answer these questions at ProHome Orientation). If I was stuck on an island for a year:
My one song would be, “Your Hand in Mine” by Explosions in the Sky. Seriously, everyone go listen to them right now. Not only are they wonderful, they got started in ATX. Anytime I get homesick I listen to their album “The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place”.
Wasn’t that fun? Now on to the more substantial stuff.
Two Sundays ago all of the YAVs went out to the Bayou to attend church, than to go on an educational tour of the wetlands. Ya’ll, the destruction of the wetlands is really terrible (I know I’m going to get preachy about this, but that’s never really slowed me down so it certainly won’t this time around). Instead of going on a nice little tourist trip where you look for alligators, we were shown the wetlands by Theresa and Donald, native americans whose livelihood depends on shrimping and fishing down in the wetlands. While I don’t understand the full scope of issues, I don’t claim to be an expert, I do know that the destruction of the wetlands is directly connected to oil companies setting up shop. Basically what happens is oil companies have to carve out paths for the oils pipes, cutting through the natural vegetation that helps filter the salt water. These paths widen over time because of water currents, making a path that is originally about a foot wide, transform into a path that is wide enough for two boats to fit side by side. This is really bad for a couple of reasons. First, as the vegetation is removed, the salt water does not get filtered. The wetlands used to have a lot of land, with living trees because of the filtration. Now, ghost forests are a common sight as the salt water poisons the ground. All of those trees in the picture below used to be thriving. And by used to I mean, as little as five years ago, sometimes even less.
The other major problem is the land being eroded by the changing water currents. Theresa showed us a tree that was a yard away from a piece of land, sitting in the water. Less than a year ago that same tree was on land. To give you a better idea, here’s a picture of a power line:
This power line was built on land. Oh and, get this, it’s still live. So during big storms, if the lines are downed, going out into the water to shrimp and fish is extremely dangerous and a lot of the wildlife end up dead because of the electric charge. So yeah, the tour was eye opening. About half way through I decided I would never drive a car ever again, which is not practical. I thought about it some more and decided a better way to help would be to educate all of you. Some of you are probably well aware of what’s going on down in the bayou. I thought I knew, but I had no idea. None at all. The area is absolutely devastated. Going down to learn about Theresa and Donald’s story was humbling.
Even with all of the damage, the bayou is a beautiful place. The people are kind and the landscape has a quality of broken beauty that is absolutely captivating. I recommend all of you take a minute to look at the challenges facing the Louisiana wetlands, maybe if you make your way down to New Orleans I can show you what I have seen, the bad and the absolutely stunning.