A football field has become a colloquial frame of reference for spatial comparisons both silly and serious. Unfortunately, on the serious end of those comparisons – Louisiana has been losing its coastal wetlands at an alarming rate; and estimates produced by the U.S. Geological Survey confirm the loss to be about a football field every hour over the last 30 years.
This semester I’m taking a course on environmental ethics which has played a big role in pointing me towards my major in environmental studies and hopefully, a career focused on environmentalism. This course has an elective service-learning component – a core requirement for all Tulane students, to complete two tiers of community service during their four years in New Orleans. There were multiple, wonderful community partnerships to choose from, but a friend of mine and I were really inspired by the mission of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.
The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) is a nonprofit organization that advocates for Louisiana’s coastal wetlands through science-based community action with their Habitat Restoration program. Wetlands are areas where the water level is at or above the top layer of soil, producing prime environments for diverse ecosystems teeming with wildlife, food, nutrients, and habitats for native species. The loss of Louisiana’s wetlands, which make up approximately 11 percent of the state, threatens more than just the species that live there, but also the prominent fishing industry, oil and gas industries.
There are multiple factors, some occurring naturally and others produced by the strain of densely populated societies, that are causing the accelerated erosion of coastal wetlands in Louisiana. According to CRCL, Louisiana’s wetlands and barrier shorelines have lost more than 1 million acres of land due to human influences on the environment and natural processes. the three main causes are: reduced sediment flow, caused by freshwater diversion and blockages of the Mississippi river’s natural flow; subsidence, refers to the sinking of land; and continual rising sea levels.
On this past Saturday, Nov. 4th, CRCL hosted an event in Lake Maurepas as part of their ‘Ten Thousand Trees for Louisiana’ initiative, where 60 volunteers, including my friend and myself, came together to plant 600 trees in a marshy tributary. The wetlands and their barrier islands serve as a line of defense against natural disasters, protecting vulnerable coastal communities from the harm of storms and flooding, an issue very pertinent in Louisiana. The trees planted serve a dual purpose by helping to keep the ecosystem alive while also protecting the environment from further erosion.
CRCL, in addition to the tree planting, hosts other wonderful events ranging from panels and talks on advocacy for the Gulf Coast to hands-on volunteer experiences in restoring parts of the coast. Working with them over the course of this semester has been such a wonderful opportunity to learn more about a serious environmental issue that I had never really heard about before coming to college in New Orleans.
Hopefully, the mission of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana resonates with you as much as it did with me! If you want to get involved or read more about the organization – click here!