NEW ORLEANS — Every day nature displays a thousand wonderful things under our eyes, and every day we manage to ignore them, but sometimes it gets a little tougher.
There is nothing more important to our region and our city than the wetlands and barrier islands that shield us from high winds and devastating storm surge. They are vanishing at an alarming rate.
The potential loss of almost a third of our coast is the story of our generation that receives very little attention. The environmental damage will create dire economic consequence to all of those who live and work along the coast.
After witnessing the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, a celebrated artist from south Louisiana aspired to document his culture with paint and brush. His mission was to record his heritage on canvass before it disappears. Assimilated fully into contemporary culture he and those of his generation long ago lost their French language -the language of their Acadian ancestors brought to South Louisiana after the expulsion from Canada generations ago.
Unfortunately, with the passage of time and the unsuspecting roadblocks that pop-up in life his passion to paint the history of the coastal region as a legacy to future generations, subsided like the marsh he desired to capture.
After decades of documenting for television the destructive affects, of even minimal tropical storms to our coast, I tried to mimic his mission. I wanted to capture the diversity of the wildlife and the splendor of the marsh. With these images I hope to show that our wetlands are a precious commodity of abundant life.
After covering the massive devastation to our region from Hurricane Katrina and Rita I tried captured the images of our wetlands as “Art,” to use these images, hopefully, to inspire the concern and awareness of our coast, to visually show the importance of our wetlands where mind-boggling statistics have not.
In these images I have tried to focus on the beauty of our wetlands rather than its destruction.
It is said that to forget your history is to forget your identity. In many areas along the coast of south Louisiana, history and identity are rapidly disappearing. The encroaching Gulf of Mexico waters now cover large areas where once there was a history of earlier settlement. The remains of our ancestors are under water.
In the small town of Leeville, dolphins now prowl the waters for food in the shallows near the submerged cemeteries of long ago coastal settlements. Brick grave plots are falling apart – disappearing into the salty waters, the identities of those buried here will be lost forever.
It is as if these people had never been born. The sea has won that fight.
When you ask to the elderly who continue to live and spend they life working along the coast, “Why should anyone care about our wetlands?”
They will tell you about the loss of their culture, they will reminisce about their friends and family that have moved further inland.
They will tell you about the food and economic benefits of the coast, and they will tell you, after a long, thoughtful pause: “When our wetlands are gone, they are gone forever.”