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OneRouge Friday Community Check-In (Week 99)




Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in EBR, The Walls Project has been hosting weekly video calls with leaders of nonprofits, foundations, city government, and local businesses from a

cross the parish. The intention of these weekly community check-ins is to share information and resources to help the Baton Rouge community respond and recover from the pandemic. Weekly topics range from access to basic needs such as food, medical care, and safety to thought-leaders' insights on equitable opportunities for youth enrichment, nonprofit financial solvency, surge in unemployment, and the disproportionate impact on impoverished neighborhoods in regards to accessing fresh food.


 

Climate Migration: The Human and Economic Impact of Climate Change

Meeting Notes Prepared by Samantha Morgan (Walls Project)


Corey Miller (Director of Community Resilience, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana)

I work for a coalition to restore coastal Louisiana. We’ve been around since 1998 to raise awareness around land loss and the challenges around that. Me, personally, I’m third generation New Orleanian. I was fortunate to grow up on the water. My grandfather had a camp at grand isle. I have a personal affinity for the coast and what we have to lose. First and foremost I have a grudge with the article that was shared, but the term climate refugees, it over simplifies the story a bit and misses some key pieces of the background. People were living here on our coast and moving with the changes of the coast long before European settlement. When the Europeans settling here started tinkering with the systems. So what we have been dealing with for relatively recent history is those impacts, those decisions that were made to try and tame mother nature. Finally we’re hitting this conflux of messing with mother nature and it’s ability to restore itself and it’s exacerbated by climate change. Long before the influx of money, the tribe had been talking about this. One personal story I always keep in the back of my mind, 9 or 10 years ago I was involved with the Pointe-aux-Chene tribe. We spent a day on the boat and we were traveling down the historic bayous and all the sudden you see a giant cross. The chief at the time points out and says that’s the old cemetery. Then we keep going and you see another large cross and then he said that’s the old old community. It was a very visceral picture of retreat. The community was making decisions on their own to further move to more solid land. While this article is great, I have to point this out because without understanding this we jump to a place where we’re missing part of what’s occurred. The story is not unique. If you look at census data, you see that there has been a huge influx or retreat of our southern most communities. If you look at the population change you see huge numbers of the population shrinking. That’s people trying to get to safer ground. It’s worth understanding. It’s great that there are resources to help these communities, but we should be pushing for our government to embrace and find ways to facilitate families and communities when they want to and when they need to and keep our communities in tact. We do have a coastal masterplan in Louisiana. For once we’re not 50th in being proactive in climate change and what’s to come. There’s a bit of a misunderstanding that the coastal master plan as a plan to fight climate change. That’s not what it is. It sets a budget and is reanalyzed every 6 years. At the end of the day that plan is really about how much land we can hang on to. Our coast is going to continue to experience land loss. The plan buys us some time to hopefully allow the global community to figure out what we’re going to do about climate change. One thing everyone on this call can do is support the master plan. We have to do a lot more than to enact that plan. Within that master plan there are a lot of projects that try to rebuild previous footprints. It instantly has a lot of benefits. You’re rebuilding that marsh that’s degrading the march around us. It’s putting a band aid on a gunshot wound. There are key projects that start to repair that system. Over time these projects will compete with subsidence and sea level rise. Year after year when we would have our natural floods it would add sand and silt so it’s building vertically. We do an oyster shell recycling program. We get volunteers engages to get these back into structures that are eroding. Putting oysters on our shoreline creates this natural barrier and creates habitat for the whole seafood platter. Support the projects that are going to be the most sustainable. Pay attention to the master plan. And if you get a chance to volunteer or eat at one of the restaurants we collect oysters at, you’re doing your part.


Camille Manning-Broome (President & CEO, Center for Planning Excellence)

It’s really important the people of Baton Rouge understand what the future projections look like and how it will impact our community. This is a global issue and climate change impacts are going to be unavoidable. The current projections predict that around up to 1 billion people will be displaced by climate impacts by 2050. The Arab Springs, this conflict came from farmers no longer able to tend to lands. We see the same issues in central America with migration north. On a smaller scale we’ve seen this on Louisiana's coast. 2050 and 2100 are the biggest shifts. We are locked into certain scenarios that have been locked into for a long time. There are some unknowns about the arctic and glaciers. We have more study around space than the arctic. It’s not until the last 15 years that research has increased. If we want to lessen the impacts, which they’re going to be heavy, then we need to focus on reducing poverty. Every economic shift reveals long standing disparities around race, income, health and poor and marginalized communities baring the brunt. The global transition to a low carbon will bring problems. We can be a leader in this. I believe our footprint and future population is going to look different. The master plan is funded to the next 8 years, that BP money paying dries up in 8 years. There’s not a lot of resources identified to continue supporting that plan. That plan, although necessary we have one, there is a heavy focus on structural protection measures. These structural measures such as levies continue to have to be lifted. They are maladapted to climate change and that’s why you have countries focusing on nature based solutions and how to build nature based solutions that doesn't require hardened structures. Louisiana soil can’t take the weight of these structures anyway. Nothing that you read in any newspaper article is accurate in what has happened there. I have heard five different narratives. There are a lot of people who want to make money. The disaster world is a money making entity. It’s a challenging situation. It’s especially challenging when we’re caught in a cycle of catastrophic disaster recovery that’s only speeding up. What was normal yesterday no longer exists for us. We have to figure out ways to recover and adapt and reduce the impacts on the people. This has to be managed. The bottom line is that there’s no one in charge of this. At the federal level there’s no one with mission of climate regulation. That’s not within the mission in Louisiana in any state agency. What we see is bandaids based on disaster recovery dollars. People doing the best they can do, which don’t support what we need. They passed through the state. The state could make more adaptable action plans to assist communities, but politically we live in 2-4 year increments of decision making. As soon as there's a disaster, people have to be bought out immediately. What could that look like to provide them with options. A one stop shop for social services so they understand what all their options are. We did have wins after IDA to get regulations changed. We’re advocating for different measures. I don’t believe we will have large community retreat options available. It’s going to look more like buyouts. We recently did a buyout with 48 families. WE got 100% participation. For pre-disaster home evaluations and we worked with the state to have a more creative gap financing program. All of those community members would have flooded 6 times last year. Now there are 2000 trees planted at silverleaf. That’s in Gonzales.


The tipping point for wealthy people is higher. People with means, they leave. People without means are forced to stay and when their social structures they’re reliant on, When those start unraveling, there’s a whole domino effect that happens there. Lifting people up from poverty and giving people living wages. They need to focus on low to moderate income communities. In our new economy as we transition to more renewables and other workforces that we intentionally focus on lifting people up.


ADDITIONAL COMMENTS/QUESTIONS


Camille - The department of defense has been one of the most vocal agents on climate change impacts and even put out a report about it during the trump administration. Humans have been adapting through so many changes but it’s going to continue to get harder in places like Louisiana but I do have a lot of hope and I look out at you and I think about the committed individuals and the passion and love you have. We’re all still here because we want to be in a place that has challenges so we can make an impact. We’ve developed a number of resources that are on our website and we have this fun what are you going to do, game. The more informed the people on this phone are about our watershed and flood risk and what’s happening in our community, the more voice we can have to make those changes. The mayor has been leading a storm water management plan. We are going to continue to get flooded here. There’s been a 20 percent increase since 2050.


There’s currently not a holistic plan for what the migration and population changes look like. But from my experience, we just did the downtown Opelousas plan. My conversations with the community south of Acadiana are all getting flooded and people are continually migrating. Opelousas has a ton of adjudicated and blighted properties, so we discussed, how can you start getting an inventory of assets and needs and market yourself to those areas that are flooding. How coil you position it to build character, quality of life, just like you want to plan a community so people want to be there. So people can have a high quality of life. You do all the things typical in a plan and you add to it wrap-around services for displaced people should they want to move into your community. How could DCFS add wrap-around services to individuals who have suffered trauma. Right now people are being strangled out and they’re only moving 1 town up.


I don’t see a plan to reduce poverty. I don’t see an entity, an agency, or a local group, government, anyone who says we need to reduce poverty, here are our goals, and then backed with actions. A plan backed by action is reality. I don’t know how we reduce poverty without a very intentional map forward on how to do that.


The bipartisan infrastructure bill is focused on four things. It gets down to resource allocation. This could be a once in a generational transformational opportunity in Louisiana. If we do this right, especially with billions at the table, we can have transformational change that shifts poverty and workforce. That money is going to get spent down in the next five years.


Pat Leduff - if we don’t increase the pay, and then hold everything else at a standstill, we’re just spinning our wheels. We increase our pay and then we increase our rents. How do we control that if we really want to get rid of poverty?


Morgan Udoh - Any one change we make will be rebalanced by the system. Capitalism requires constant growth. It’s going to take some really complex thoughts moving forward to rebalance that growth.

 

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