August 29 five years ago is Southeast Louisiana’s Day of Infamy. The national media has given that event a lot of coverage in the past few days. True, horribly true: watching those incredulous images from five years ago and acknowledging that the human tragedy resulting from that national disaster took place in the United States of America is unbelievable. And as a Louisianian with strong ancestral ties to the Greater New Orleans area submerged in Katrina’s after-waters, the emotions are personal.
Aren’t we as a nation better than we seemed to be in those intense days of horror?
And now, on the fifth anniversary, the oil spill has added a chapter to the region’s hard-luck saga. Katrina was a natural disaster, the oil spill man-made: But how and where do the two events intersect in the Gulf Coast’s past as well as future?
I suspect there numerous points of discussion, but one that I believe we must pursue is BP’s repeated promise in its multi-million dollar media blitz to “make it right” for the Gulf Coast. To me, “making it right” includes addressing the environmental damage done to the barrier islands and wetlands along the Gulf Coast where hundreds of acres of marsh are claimed by the sea every month, indirectly at least because of the environmental impact of oil exploration. If BP is going to “make it right,” they (along with Chevron and Exxon and all the others, for that matter) should contribute massively to restorative efforts and projects that will protect the historical and cultural treasure of the New Orleans area from future hurricanes by rebuilding the natural barriers and protections destroyed or weakened not by Katrina (or Rita or any other storm), but by the industry’s rapacious intrusion.
Big oil can afford the cost. Until the industry repents for the vanishing wetlands tragedy and addresses the environmental issue head on, BP (and the rest) will fall short of “making it right.”