“No fishing. No gardening. No hunting. No land. No fresh water.” Jamie Dardar, in his Creole-Indian drawl, noted that below New Orleans, the Mississippi River’s delta is now losing one football field of land every hour. Maps are outdated with each wave.
In Jamie’s youth, gardens on Isle de Jean Charles spilled over with tomatoes, okra and vegetables galore. Fruit trees filled farmers’ bushel baskets. Wildlife, fish, crabs, shrimp and oysters provided the fare for feasts, sustenance and livelihoods.
As a young man Jamie left this paradise to drive 18-wheelers cross-country. But he quickly returned to the island’s bounty. Today he’s watching the sea-level rise and intense storms reduce his island to nothing. Land subsides as oil and gas extraction leave empty cavities. Abandoned drilling channels erode its shores. Oil spills and rusting rigs ruin local fisheries. Soil is too saline for crops or trees. From Minnesota on down, polluted waters pass dams and levees that retain floodplain sediment that could otherwise restore this delta.
The island’s residents now call their home “The Bathtub.” Jamie expects it will be under water in two years. He has re-applied to drive 18-wheelers along the Interstates.
“All I know is shrimping and changing gears.”
by Alison M. Jones, NWNL Director