Over the past three years, Louisiana has endured a series of devastating climate-induced disasters, including hurricanes Laura, Delta, Zeta, and Ida, Winter Storm Uri, historical flooding in Lake Charles, ongoing wildfires, and extreme heat. These unprecedented events serve as alarming evidence of climate change and its exacerbation by the concentration of fossil fuel polluting industries along the Gulf Coast. Notably, these disasters disproportionately impact low income, black, brown, indigenous and people of color communities. These communities contribute the least to the problem, but pay the highest cost.
"These communities contribute the least to the problem, but pay the highest cost."
Hurricanes Laura, Delta, Zeta, and Ida:
The frequency and intensity of hurricanes in Louisiana have reached alarming levels in recent years. Hurricanes Laura, Delta, Zeta, and Ida stand as stark reminders of the escalating impact of climate change. These storms have caused widespread destruction, displacing communities, and exacerbating existing vulnerabilities. Rising sea levels and warmer ocean temperatures, directly linked to climate change, fuel the intensity and destructiveness of hurricanes, leaving lasting consequences on infrastructure, livelihoods, and public health.
I know this all too well having lost my home during Hurricanes Laura and Delta. I was forced to live in a 3 bedroom FEMA trailer with my 6 children that I was finally approved for almost a year later. This is when I faced the stark reality that FEMA doesn't really help those that are marginalized. If you're not wealthier and whiter you're less likely to get maximum benefits from FEMA even if you need those benefits more. I learned this the hard way. This harsh reality is what propelled me into starting my organization Vessel Project of Louisiana and ultimately what led me into becoming an Environmental Justice Champion.
Winter Storm Uri:
While Louisiana is primarily known for its hot and humid climate, the state faced an unprecedented winter storm in 2021. Winter Storm Uri brought freezing temperatures, power outages, and water shortages, exposing the vulnerability of the state's infrastructure to extreme cold events. This event further highlights the far-reaching impacts of climate change, demonstrating that it encompasses more than just rising temperatures.
During this time Vessel Project launched publicly. We were able to crowd source to help place as many residents as we could in hotels because they were still in recovery from the two hurricanes that had occurred mere months prior. We had a new influx of homelessness and it seemed local and state officials weren't doing anything. This led into a full fledge disaster recovery, mutual aid operation. It's still going today, 3 years later.
Historical Flooding in Lake Charles, Extreme Heat, and Current Wildfires:
In May 2021, Lake Charles experienced historical flooding that inundated homes and infrastructure, leaving a devastating aftermath. This year (2023) we have record breaking wildfires that have become an emerging concern in Louisiana, fueled by prolonged periods of drought and rising temperatures. We've also been under a heat advisory for the better part of the summer. These events underscore the multifaceted effects of climate change, resulting in both water-related and fire-related disasters that further burden communities already grappling with other climate-induced challenges.
Disproportionate Impact on Low income, Black, Brown, Indigenous, and People of Color Communities:
It is crucial to acknowledge that climate change disproportionately impacts marginalized communities in Louisiana. These communities often bear the brunt of environmental injustices, as they are more likely to reside in areas vulnerable to climate hazards and are less equipped to adapt or recover from disasters. Furthermore, the concentration of fossil fuel industries along the Gulf Coast perpetuates environmental racism, contributing to the adverse health effects and economic disparities faced by black communities.
The series of climate-induced disasters that Louisiana has faced over the past three years serves as undeniable proof of the urgent need to address climate change.
The record-breaking hurricanes, winter storms, flooding, and wildfires are clear indicators of the intensifying impact of climate change on the region. Moreover, the disproportionate burden borne by marginalized communities highlights the urgent need for equitable solutions that address both climate change and environmental justice. By transitioning to sustainable energy sources, implementing resilient infrastructure, and prioritizing the needs of marginalized communities, we can work towards a more just and sustainable future for Louisiana and beyond.