A few days ago, PBS Newshour ran a special report on how Louisiana’s coastline is slowly disappearing due to a combination of sea level rise, loss of swamps, sandbanks, and other natural defenses*, and the fact that the land itself is sinking. The local Native American peoples are directly affected, facing the loss of their ancestral homeland without the resources to defend it from the encroaching water. And as the report points out, many of them don’t want to leave.
The people in the report who are clinging to their disappearing homes tend to be older, which makes sense I suppose; they probably have a decade or so before their land becomes truly uninhabitable and they’ve spent their entire lives in the area. More importantly, for the indigenous residents the land is a part of their identity. Newshour does a good job of highlighting the wrenching decision faced by the community – to stay, which isn’t viable in the long term; or to go, losing land, community, heritage, social bonds, family, tribe.
The enhanced features on the website illustrate how climate change is taking the land away. I particularly appreciate the photo feature Before and After: 50 years of rising tides and sinking marshes. There are more photos of the area, Ile de Jean-Charles, as well. It’s part of Newshour’s continuing Coping with Climate Change series, which I highly recommend.