Monday, September 05, 2005

First Environmental Refugees?

From a Letter to the Editor in the Washington Post.

Louisiana lost 600,000 acres of wetlands in the 40 years ending in 1993, according to the Louisiana Coastal Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Task Force's report that year.

In recent years, 24 square miles per year of wetlands have been lost. Barrier islands have eroded and, in some cases, disappeared. The levees built to protect delta cities such as New Orleans and to facilitate international trade have starved Louisiana's wetlands for silt and caused them to wash away. The canals carved across the region by the oil and gas industries also have compromised the landscape's integrity. Functioning wetlands soak up hurricane storm surges, prevent erosion, and moderate hurricane-force winds. Functioning wetlands provide more comprehensive protection from nature's wrath than any levee the Army Corps of Engineers could ever build.

Hurricane Katrina has destroyed an American city and created America's first environmental refugees. Unless we begin to respect the value of ecosystem services and incorporate those values into land-use planning, this tragedy will be repeated.

Takoma Park