L’eau Est La Vie and Greta: How Dare You

From Greta to the UN today:

This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to me for hope? How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth.

How dare you! For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight. With today’s emissions levels, our remaining CO2 budget will be gone in less than 8.5 years

You say you “hear” us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I don’t want to believe that. Because if you fully understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And I refuse to believe that. The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5C degrees, and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control. Maybe 50% is acceptable to you. But those numbers don’t include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of justice and equity. They also rely on my and my children’s generation sucking hundreds of billions of tonnes of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist. So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us – we who have to live with the consequences. To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5C global temperature rise – the best odds given by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the world had 420 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide left to emit back on 1 January 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatonnes.

How dare you pretend that this can be solved with business-as-usual and some technical solutions. With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone in less than eight and a half years. There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures today. Because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is. 

You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

 

From our local leaders:

Here in the bayous of Louisiana, our water and way of life is under threat, and we need your support.

Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the very same company behind the notorious Dakota Access Pipeline, is trying to build a 162 mile crude oil pipeline across Louisiana called the Bayou Bridge Pipeline (BBP).

The BBP will pollute our water, crossing an astounding 700 bodies of water including Bayou LaFourche, a critical reservoir that supplies the United Houma Nation and 300,000 Louisiana residents with clean, safe drinking water.

BBP will destroy our economy. Existing oil pipelines have already created enormous problems for our crawfishing industry. The BBP will only make these problems worse, creating dams in the Atchafalaya Basin dozens of miles long that irreparably damage the ecosystem and make fishing for crawfish impossible. The crawfishing industry supports thousands of good jobs in Louisiana. The BBP will only create 12 permanent jobs.

The BBP violates indigenous sovereignty. Along its path of destruction, the BBP would impact sacred mounds and threaten drinking water of the United Houma Nation, a tribe that has been seeking federal recognition for decades. The United Houma Nation has not been consulted and has not given consent for the construction of this pipeline.

The BBP will destroy our coast. Wetlands are sponges for floodwaters. The BBP will destroy 150 acres of wetlands in its path and will “temporarily” impact 450 more acres. Wetlands are vital to a resilient Southern Louisiana, and already because of climate change and development, Louisiana is losing an average of one acre of coastal wetlands per hour. The State of Luisiana is frantically trying to figure out how to save our coast, but building the BBP will make the situation worse.

The BBP will increase flooding. The loss of wetlands also means increased flooding. When flooding is worse, our communities suffer. Our homes our damaged, our crops are destroyed, our infrastructure is eroded, our families get sick, and our economy is harmed.

The BBP is a climate disaster. It will create the carbon equivalent of 30 new coal plants. The BBP is not compatible with our global mandate to limit climate change to 1.5℃.

Our growing network of impacted landowners, tribal members, environmental justice communities, and fisherfolk have submitted comments, spoken out at hearings, and demanded proper environmental reviews and that our concerns will be taken seriously. None of this has happened. ETP has swindled landowners, bought our politicians, and refused to address any of the community’s needs. Enough is enough. If our leaders won’t stand up to stop this pipeline and protect our water, then we the people of Louisiana will.

We are building the L’eau Est La Vie camp to protect our water and our way of life from the Bayou Bridge pipeline.

Donate now

 

Also check out the work of:

Autumn Peltier, Mari Copeny Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, Xiye BastidaMelati and Isabel Wijsen

 

 

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bye bye Dryades Public Market

I guess sticking a tagline with your name is good enough for people to think your business served a cross-section.

This is what every story led with: “Dryades Public Market … the grocery with a mission (italics added) in Central City is closing today.”

Maybe the name public market fooled some people; really there should be a way that they should have been stopped in using that. Unfortunately, there is not.

As someone long involved in local food systems, I watched this idea sited on the ever-valiant Oretha Castle Haley with hope but more trepidation, and even a little more skepticism. Here are 2 posts from my public market blog where I referred to this entity.

In the late stages of design, I had been contacted by the developer, but I pretty much ignored the emails. (1) I felt there were better minds likely in the fray already, (2) I didn’t trust the local partner to do right by farmers based on what was being reported to me by some of them, and (3) I had moved on to more national work and felt I couldn’t give as much local context as I once had.  Still, they kept calling, so I went to meet with them.

In short, they strongly suggested to me that they knew their local partner was full of shit but felt they were too far along to stop. (I also remember that they kept telling me how many parking spaces this place would have-in exasperation, I finally said that in terms of what they wanted to happen and in knowing the area, parking wasn’t going to be the draw that it was for their projects in NYC. That they needed to let that go.)

What they wanted was some help in figuring out how to still make the idea work. We tossed around some ideas, but the lure of the food hub concept was too hard for them to resist  (although my memory was my only suggestion was to dump the partner publicly and reach out to a cross-section of chefs/farmers/organizers to come up with something else. They were definitely not gonna do THAT at that stage.) So what New Orleans ended up with was 3 different plans in about the same number of years: the “food hub”concept, followed by the “food hall” concept (run by good people who brought in other good people but had to do it without the financials being figured out and without a rebranding kickoff), and the last which was a bit of a desperate dab of a high end specialty store and a hot food line. All in all, nothing worked, even with a lot of truly well-meaning people doing their best to make it work.

I see people on Twitter calling for this to be relocated or even revived because of the “food desert” issue, but it is hard for me to see how people think this idea can work for either of those issues. (Also see folks calling out for ALDI’s or Trader Joe’s to come in to the site. Umm, not only is the square footage not even CLOSE to their wheelhouse, but the characteristics of a successful site for either is not even close to being present in New Orleans proper. It sucks but that is what it is. Capitalism.)

Food desert as a term doesn’t adequately describe the problem and for most organizers across the U.S, has been replaced by food apartheid.  This situation also is better served by that latter term, as OCH has long been one area well known for across-the-board disinvestment by the usual money for the 30 years before Katrina. Now of course, every developer is there using it to build more upscale apartments and eateries which serve only the new population. That is apartheid.

I also see people on social media responding to the news of this closing asking for the “culture to be saved” as if DPM had ANY relationship to our diverse, locally relevant food history or public market/corner store/Schweggie history. Let’s be clear: this blip on our screen is a result of the post-2010 culture designed almost entirely by our “cultural” (read NOT) mayor Landrieu, and the many developers who now have a complete hold on the city. That era was all about “white box delivery” as the goal, with the content being figured out later. Meaning so not New Orleans.

Situating this high end “market” (it hurts me to even write that word in relation to DPM) on OCH, in the midst of the incredible work done by long time activists to fight for equitable development was in in itself a mockery and so out of scale to the rest of the street it was doomed to fail because New Orleanians cannot be fooled.  Because what is true of New Orleanians is that, in terms of good ideas, they don’t believe they start with buildings; they believe they start with relationships, and they could see that this one had few.

If you were going for some level of authenticity, you’d go to Cafe Reconcile, Ashé Cultural Arts CenterRoux Carre, Casa Borrega, Church Alley (before it moved), Zeitgeist (also before it moved), bank at Hope Credit Union and so on. If you did those things, I find it hard to believe you would also enter the clubhouse that was J&J/DPM and spend your money there. And many of those “unfooled” New Orleanians I talked to said exactly that.

And yes, I went. I tried. And I felt out of place, and manipulated by a few wicker basket of bananas and apples and fancy water and a jar or two of local honey being sold to me as a grocery store. I left angry and embarrassed as to what this neighborhood which has survived so much was being offered even as the money was falling all over New Orleans. A crappy clubhouse.

So let’s be real and call this what it was: a bad experiment unworthy of OCH and New Orleans, learn from it,  and move on to better ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the city, he had many friends

From local activist/writer/publisher Rachel Breunlin today on FB:

A very old crow was on the edge of the neutral ground on Esplanade this morning. I stopped to check on him and he flew a little distance away. His murder of crows was stationed in the live oak trees around him. A neighbor said she had fed him this morning and that the year before she had buried a crow who died by her house and the others visited for days: “Aren’t crows the keepers of departed souls?” I went home and called Michel to see if we could take him to the animal rescue but when we returned, he had been hit by a car. We stood under the calls of the crows who flew around his body. In the city, he had many friends.

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That we notice, honor, and mourn all living things is one of the great characteristics of the New Orleans experience.

 

Rachel’s Neighborhood Story Project Website

New Orleans is at the forefront…

…of another trend, but this is one that we pretend doesn’t exist: as the recipient of the effects of climate change. Yesterday the city of New Orleans had another of those weather events that never used to happen. Dangerous winds, flash flooding and sideways rain swamping the city within a few hours, destroying the preparations for a festival about to open its doors in the Mid City area of town. This is how my pal, legendary hatmaker Tracy Thomson of Kabuki Hats described what happened there:

It happened about an hour before the Fest was scheduled to begin; we had just started setting out inventory when the winds picked up. We both were in the tent trying to hold it down, during a frightening half hour when we heard screams and wails and crashes. At one point our side walls unzipped with the force of the wind; I peeped out and it looked like our tent was the only one left standing. After what seemed an eternity I was looking right at andy as he was holding down the tent when the wind lifted him right off the ground and he and tent went flying. Nothing left but a mangled mess was left, the same all around us.

Monitoring Twitter and FB throughout, I felt the fear and stress from those stuck at that venue as well as from dozens of other spots as people sat in their cars with water rising and smartphone battery draining, saw trees topple around them or looked out a restaurant window, unsure if it was safe to head home. I had water rising in my courtyard and even noticed it creeping over the front curb close to the doors of the businesses here in the highest point of the city. That level of rain had only happened a few times before in my almost 40-years of monitoring the Quarter.

The weather lady of New Orleans, Margaret Orr was on the air for the entire storm, doing her best to analyze the evolving situation (her awe and excitement over the number of lightning strikes during a storm is one of her charming quirks) while calming folks down. As usual, she was exactly right when she talked about the reason this is happening: extreme heat in the region, more moisture in the air and less land between us and the Gulf of Mexico.

Unfortunately, most New Orleanians didn’t hear that. They only want to talk about one thing- how the “pumps clearly weren’t working.” That narrative is of course based on the recent history of finding out during the LAST flash flood in 2017, SWB had many pumps offline or without personnel and that much of the power supply was offline too. We only found that out after first they lied and said just about everything had been working. So I get it; we got snookered, but even in 2017 what was missing in most people’s analysis is that the city would STILL have flooded based on the amount of rain; it would just have drained hours earlier.

So this time the truth was once again wrapped in a little hysteria, with a big helping of what author-activist Rebecca Solnit calls naïve cynicism brilliantly described in this passage:

If simplification means reducing things to their essentials, oversimplification tosses aside the essential as well. It is a relentless pursuit of certainty and clarity in a world that generally offers neither, a desire to shove nuances and complexities into clear-cut binaries. Naïve cynicism concerns me because it flattens out the past and the future, and because it reduces the motivation to participate in public life, public discourse, and even intelligent conversation that distinguishes shades of gray, ambiguities and ambivalences, uncertainties, unknowns, and opportunities. Instead, we conduct our conversations like wars, and the heavy artillery of grim confidence is the weapon many reach for.

Magazine Pacific Standard highlighted a recent study on how potential coastal flooding is being ignored especially by those who will lose the most:

But humans, apparently, are not all that rational. Despite clear evidence of rising global temperatures, over a third of Americans don’t believe that climate change is happening, according to a recent poll by Gallup. Only 45 percent think that it will pose a serious threat in their lifetime.

Most significantly, if you live by the coast, you’re likely to be less—not more—worried about sea-level rise and flooding than those who live inland, according to Bakkensen and Lint’s research.

Here is what we know.

The pumps of our city are designed to quickly pump an inch of rain the first hour of a storm and then continue at the rate of a half inch. Using the verified rainfall reports during the storm, we had already had 3-5 inches of rain in different parts of the city in a span of 2-3 hours. Please do the math.

We have had an incredible amount of new construction in every neighborhood, mostly taking more green space away or adding weight and size to what had been mostly smaller, more appropriate housing stock pre-Katrina. Everything after 2005 is bigger.

Some of the new council reported on social media during the storm they were checking in to the pumping stations which were operating. The mayor monitored the situation first-hand in person with her directors including those from the SWB, tweeting and posting updates on pumps and issues throughout.

As soon as the rain slowed, the streets cleared quickly.

So a very different situation than 2017. Yet immediately the naive cynicism began: The mayor wasn’t paying attention, the water had “never” been that high previously, every elected official was probably out of town, no rain had been forecasted and so on.

The truth: The rain forecast was only for 20% but pop up storms were said to be very possible especially in afternoon according to the newscasts I watched the night before. Unfortunately, the worst came during the Friday afternoon/night commute and so more people were out on the streets and cut off from their neighborhoods by rising water in all directions; construction sites were not properly secured so people drove into holes where the fencing had blown away or the materials for that construction blocked folks from getting their cars to high ground; based on secondhand reports, the festival staff mentioned previously seemed to not be monitoring the radar closely enough or to have a plan for emergency weather once it began.

None of that was going to be solved by having more pumps.

The bigger issue is what one of the most endangered coasts in the Americas is beginning to deal with regularly.

The rise of sea level is the fastest it has been in the last 2 millennia. We are closer than ever to the Gulf as land slips away and the chemical and oil companies continue to cut away our land to add more pipes to take out more resources. We have lost more than 2,000 square miles since the 1930s. This spring, we have already often had temperatures around 10 degrees higher than normal with very little rain, and this after a colder than average winter. In other words, more extremes. (NOAA released their monthly climate report, making April the 400th consecutive month of above-average temperatures globally.) The summer heat brings those storms that are not part of distinct fronts, but flare up on “subtle outflow boundaries from previous thunderstorms, sea-breeze fronts, higher terrain or in a more random pattern.”  Which means they don’t move very fast either.

The irony is that engineering that everyone expects to save us is how we got into this mess. As geographer/author Rich Campanella has carefully explained to us again and again, “When runoff is removed and artificial levees prevent the river from overtopping, the groundwater lowers, the soils dry out, and the organic matter decays. All this creates air pockets in the soil body, into which those sand, silt, and clay particles settle, consolidate—and drop below sea level.” So yes, the city used to be 100% above sea level; now, it is 50%.

That scarier, less manageable truth also needs to be incorporated into the vital city government need for fixing our current water management system. So sure, absolutely keep an eye on SWB and City Hall but also:

Support the Greater New Orleans Water Plan and the restoration of wetlands. Join the city’s Adopt a Catch Basin program. Reduce runoff on your property by reducing the concrete, cut back on the release of carbon dioxide – especially in summer- with fewer trips in vehicles and less charcoal grilling, try for an economic use of air-conditioning, plant trees, reduce, reuse, recycle (and as someone recently said to me, remember those 3 are meant to be a priority of actions not a choice of one over the other!), add insulation, use CFL light bulbs, turn your hot water tank down, get an audit of other energy uses around your home and workplace and fight the sale of our remaining land to corporations interested in only their profits over our needs and the rightful sovereignty of native people.

Understand the reality at home and around our globe. Be wise and fair AND firm with your city leaders and your world and maybe we can stop the worst of this and get away from being at the front of the pack of those cities that may be soon lost due to climate change.

 

 

 

 

 

 Lessons from the School of Radical Change: Notes of a Slow Learner

 

The link at the end of this post will send you to one of the best pieces I have read on the maturation of an activist. For me, this essay by New Orleans activist-writer John Clark is up there with Michael Harrington’s autobiography and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s memoir of her participation in the 1960s-1970s social movements, which includes her time spent around New Orleans. I’ll also add Diana di Prima’s second memoir, Recollections of My Life as a Woman and Sonia Johnson’s story of her excommunication from the Mormon Church for her feminist activism in From Housewife to Heretic.

John Clark is a legend among those of us organizing around direct action, liberation, and social ecology – and not just here in Louisiana. As a matter of fact, it was his name that made my acquaintance with the great Peter Berg and Judy Goldhaft in San Francisco in 2006. I had gone out there with a few Louisiana fishing families to gain them some new long term buyers of their products while our state was still in shock and its people mostly still evacuated. While out there, I contacted a few names in movement work working on place and equity, including Peter and Judy’s Planet Drum Foundation. Berg’s name was already known to me for his guerilla theater (a term he coined in l963) work in the 60s through his amazing Diggers and before that, with the San Francisco Mime Troupe, but I knew nothing of his Planet Drum efforts until I read about it in one of Gary Snyder’s books. Once I investigated their site, it seemed a great fit for recalibrating my own post-disaster framework and so I sought them out. They immediately answered my email and invited me for lunch in the Mission District, taking me on a tour of community places, and then to lunch where they gave me gifts of wooden utensils and an envelope of Peter’s poems.

The pair asked after Clark, who I had only met once or twice, but of course, knew from events around town and through our shared workplace, Loyola University. That Clark connection led me into a deep conversation with Peter and Judy over a few hours where they listened to me describe the conditions we were facing in New Orleans. Peter finally said to me, “Well, it seems to me you just need to keep agitating, keep eyes on it, keep being there. Shout about it, cry about it but be there.”

The truth was,  I was thinking about possibly bolting from New Orleans for a short time to recover my own equilibrium and peace. Their conversation and the reminder of Clark et al being back home doing revelatory work rekindled my desire to stay in New Orleans, in my little FEMA trailer on the bayou.

Additionally, John’s writings have helped me define my own world ethic and opened the door to knowledge a little wider, connecting me to writers that I would not have found on my own. As an autodidact, I rely on the informal and relational to find my education and so I was surprised as anyone to find a university professor as one of my wells of knowledge.

This piece is a reflection of his time agitating, shouting, crying and being there around the American Alligator region of Turtle Island.

 

A visual of the American Alligator region

 

Perhaps the most decisive turning point in the transformation of my perspective on radical change occurred in 2005, when I experienced the trauma of Hurricane Katrina, the devastation of much of New Orleans in the flooding, and the corporate capitalist and structurally racist re-engineering of the city in the post-Katrina period. I learned the most important lessons from participation in Post-Katrina grassroots recovery communities.  I learned to appreciate more deeply the meaning of crisis and collapse. I learned about the role of trauma in personal and group transformation. I learned that another good criterion for assessing groups is the extent to which at crucial moments they put aside everything that is merely habitual and inessential and respond whole-heartedly to the greatest and most vital needs.

 

… I decided a few years ago that it was necessary to leave the university where I taught for decades, and to start working more directly, full-time, for the process of social and ecological regeneration. I started a project called La Terre Institute for Community and Ecology, situated on what has now grown to 87 acres at Bayou La Terre, in addition to having programs in New Orleans, to help pursue this work. I have learned from the early stages of the project that it is urgently necessary to find a small community of similarly motivated people who can work together, in order to make this undertaking a success.

I have become preoccupied with the question of how, given the actual conditions in the world, we can break with, and then overcome, the capitalist, statist, patriarchal system of domination, and prevent global collapse, while at the same time creating a free, just, and caring society.  I have learned that it is necessary to focus carefully on the question: “What is the decisive step?” or perhaps more accurately, “What is the decisive process?” A few years ago, in a book called The Impossible Community, a work that was very much a product of the Post-Katrina experience, I argued for the need to address at once all the primary spheres of social determination. These include the social institutional structure, the social ideology, the social imaginary, and the social ethos. I concluded that to achieve this goal the most urgent necessity is the creation of small communities of liberation and solidarity, of awakening and care.

 

PM Press – Lessons from the School of Radical Change: Notes of a Slow Learner

 

https://loyno.academia.edu/JohnClark