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E-M:/ Reflections from Louisiana



Sierra Club has volunteers and staff from the Gulf Coast, including some who are missing still following Hurricane Katrina.  Below is a reflection of one of our Louisiana staff people, a New Orleans resident who fled to Houston and is now in Baton Rouge trying to move forward.  His thoughts on the environmental impacts are relevant, I think, to all of us --



Statement of Darryl Malek-Wiley

Louisiana Grassroots Environmental Justice Organizer

 In addition to being a human and economic tragedy, Hurricane Katrina is an

environmental disaster of unprecedented proportions. Although the extent of

the environmental devastation remains unknown, it is clear that the

flooding has brought a toxic soup to New Orleans: At least two hazardous

waste sites are underwater, at least two oil refinery sites in Chalmette

are shut down and possibly flooded, and throughout the city gas stations

and natural gas pipelines are flooded and leaking into water-soaked

neighborhoods. In addition, bacteria and fecal matter contaminate the flood

waters and mosquito-borne and other disease threatens.

Once again, as in many environmental disasters, the most vulnerable

population is bearing the largest burden - the poor and children who lacked

the resources and capacity to leave New Orleans before the storm.

 Since the 1950's, Louisiana's coastal wetlands have been a sacrifice zone

for oil and gas exploration and production to supply America's energy

needs. Instead of providing a healthy buffer for storm surge, our coastal

wetlands and Gulf beaches have been decimated again and the extent of

damage is currently unknown.

Most climate scientists are now saying with certainty that global warming

is occurring, and that humans are playing a major role by releasing

pollution that creates a heat trapping blanket around the globe. As the

planet warms, the World Metrological Organization says we can expect more

violent and extreme weather, like hurricanes.

Hurricane Katrina spotlights the danger of our dependence on oil, and how

fragile our reliance on it is. This one event has seriously affected the

production, refinery capacity, and price of oil in the United States. We

can decrease the effect of future disruptions by reducing our dependence on

oil, not putting up more rigs and drilling our special places. The fact is,

we cannot drill our way to oil independence - the United States is

responsible for 25 percent of the world's oil consumption, and yet we have

less than 3 percent of the world's oil supplies. Additionally, the current

lack of refinery capacity is the result of a conscious decision by the oil

industry in the 1990s to limit supply to increase profitability - and they

have succeeded. Exxon is the most profitable company in the world, and just

last quarter posted profits of $7.84 billion.

Still, America, Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast have an opportunity to be

visionary and think well into the future in our recovery efforts. In

rebuilding New Orleans and the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coast, we can

help make America more energy independent by using green building practices

that emphasize energy conservation and use renewable sources of energy. We

can ensure that the neighborhoods that we rebuild are transit-oriented and

people-friendly. And, we can rethink how toxic chemicals are stored and

shipped through our communities.

This is also an opportunity to take people who have no hope and give them

jobs to rebuild their future while they rebuild their communities.










Anne Woiwode, State Director

Sierra Club Mackinac (Michigan) Chapter

109 E. Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48906

517-484-2372   fax 517-484-3108

Enjoy, Explore and Protect -  www.michigan.sierraclub.org