This spring break I went on the SEEDS trip to Louisiana, staying in the bayou and New Orleans with 19 amazing fellow spiders. I was not exactly sure what would be the focus of our trip. I knew it would deal with economic injustice as well as probably touch on environmental injustice, but I never imagined how much public health and a sense of place would ground our trip. During so many of our discussions with various community leaders in Dulac and New Orleans I discovered that the underlying theme of the trip seemed to be how economic inequality and racism could be traced back as root causes of failing education systems, crime, poor public health, and government corruption. This myriad of problems had me questioning if my dedication to sustainability and environmental causes was really how I could make the biggest impact helping people. Caught up in the SEEDS fever all I wanted to do was create as much positive change as possible.
Then someone on our trip asked one of our speakers in Dulac what he thought out of all those issues was the biggest one facing his community. Without a second of hesitation his response was “wetlands restoration.” His reasoning being that if their houses and community continued to flood they couldn’t stay there and that it was also affecting their fishing industry, one of the two industries they almost solely depend on. This sudden response reminded me how important a functioning ecosystem full of vital ecosystem services is to humans.
Later in New Orleans we were faced with even more overwhelming social issues facing the city. However, once again we were reminded of the importance of wetland restoration for the city of New Orleans. The group we stayed with had recently started a nursery for native wetland trees to begin aiding in restoration efforts. The reason New Orleans would benefit from wetland restoration is because for every 1 mile of wetlands there is a 1 foot drop in storm surge, making storms like Katrina less likely to be so devastating. However, we faced the frustration of seeing that the city had just spent $16 billion on a new levee and lock system without investing anything in wetland restoration. This reluctance to consider environmental solutions to problems is one of the reasons the trip reaffirmed the direction I am taking my future.