Several months ago the composer (and Louisiana native) Frank Ticheli recommended I read Mike Tidwell’s 2003 book Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast. I strongly recommend it to all of you in turn: it is a beautifully written and distressing eyewitness account of what’s happening to the wetlands of Louisiana. Here are a few clippings I copied out, but the whole book is better, lots of wonderful character sketches and a real feel for the region:
Commercial fishermen are more likely to be maimed or killed on the job than any other profession in America. The work is more dangerous than coal mining, being a cop, or parachuting from planes to fight forest fires. (p. 25)
The marsh is disappearing at a rate of 25 square miles per year. “Dere won’t be no more nothin’ left anymore, forever.” (p. 58)
The total number of birds detected by radar crossing the Gulf of Mexico each year has decreased by half within the last twenty years. (p. 62)
For help [getting out of the big ocean and into the estuarine coastal marshes], the infant crustaceans, roughly the length and width of grains of rice, turn to a spherical body 92 million miles away in outer space, a G2 dwarf star otherwise know as our sun. Twice a month this fiery body of hydrogen gas nearly a million miles in diameter joins forces with the earth’s moon, a mere 238,000 miles away, to create a combined gravitational and centrifugal force of enormous power. This force generates ocean tides on earth — so-called spring tides — which are much greater than the tides occurring daily throughout the rest of the month. Every two weeks, when the moon shows itself to the earth either as a barely visible new moon or as a blazing full moon, the phenomenon is at work: the moon and the sun have fallen into a straight line relative to the earth, reinforcing each other’s gravitational tug, pulling the earth’s oceans into two bulging masses of liquid on opposite sides of the globe. These fantastic waves, these great heaping ridges of water, are brought into collision with the earth’s landmasses twice a day as the planet rotates. this, in the simplest terms, is how tides happen, and spring tides are the bimonthly champions. So strong is the combined pull of the sun and moon during this period that even the earth’s atmosphere bends outward and parts of the continents bulge ever so slightly. (p. 144)
Among many of the fishermen whose support is critical, virtually any form of ambitious government action is seen as synonymous with the whole sorry history of state corruption and the Army Corps’s incompetence. (p. 161)
If nothing else, my time in the bayous has made me conscious–acutely so–of just how great the Mississippi’s influence is everywhere you turn, all across lower Louisiana, its presence felt even hundreds of miles from its actual course. It’s a river which, one way or another, is always calling the shots. Always.
Which is why you can never quite get it out of your mind. (p. 184)
“When God created the world,” a bayou priest once told me, grinning, “he accidentally made the Mississippi more powerful than he intended, then found his mistake too powerful to correct.” (p. 216)
If you want to see what will consume the energies of Miami and New York, Shanghai and Bombay, fifty years from now, come to Louisiana today. The future really is here. (p. 326)
Mike Tidwell has written a followup (2007) book which you can find here:
(haven’t read it yet)
I’ll have to dig out one of my essays I wrote about this very topic several years ago. David’s friend, Doug, had written an excellent reference on this. Yes, the wetlands are disappearing at an alarming rate – it’s a convergence of sorts – partially due to the channeling of the river post 1927 flood, the upper regions of the U.S. fertilizing crops to sustain our carnivorous tastes and other subsidies – causing tons of fertilizer to drain into the “dead zone” in the Gulf, leaving no buffer zone when hurricanes do head inland and further batter the coast.
Hope all is well with you. We hope we can see you in person at some point. LOL – Fred says it’s been waaay too long 😀