Sunday, August 5, 2007

Why do we all need New Orleans?

Returning to the questions raised in my very first post - what good is this old city and why not just move it upstream, I want to quote from a recent Times-Picayune op-ed, written by Bob Thomas, director of Loyola University's Center for Environmental Communications.

Thomas recently visited the University of Nebraska at Kearney where he attempted to explain the economic and social value of New Orleans to a group of students, but the students' chaparone said he already understood:

"You don't have to convince me how important New Orleans is to Nebraska. I'm a corn farmer. When Katrina hit, we were in the middle of our harvest. We couldn't send our product past New Orleans on the Mississippi, so we filled up our silos.

About the time they were full, the bottom fell out of the market, and we lost our year's income."
Thomas itemized reasons other states' residents might care about Southern Louisiana:

  1. the port receives 30 percent of all oil coming into the country
  2. 40 percent of U.S. commercial fisheries reside in its wetlands - including the largest crop of oysters and half of U.S. shrimp
  3. $1.7 billion in sugar and $235 million in rice shipped
  4. a $30 billion economic impact and 240,000 jobs
  5. its unique cultural heritage
  6. the incredible food
"Steve Cheramie, a Houma Indian from Point-aux-Chen, says his tribe defines itself in terms of the place it lives," Thomas wrote in the Picayune. "He believes that if the land where he lives sinks beneath the sea, the Houma will cease to exist s a people."

"I believe most citizens of south Louisiana feel the same way. If we lose our way of life, the place we live, we will not be the same people, and America will have lost its most unusual geographic and demographic area," Thomas eloquently put it.

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