Category: Local/State
New Orleans golf course transformed into city’s biggest urban farm with an Eco-Campus
| October 24, 2017 | 9:58 pm | Local/State | No comments

https://inhabitat.com/new-orleans-golf-course-transformed-into-citys-biggest-urban-farm-with-an-eco-campus/

New Orleans golf course transformed into city’s biggest urban farm with an Eco-Campus

New Orleans golf course transformed into city’s biggest urban farm with an Eco-Campus

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A former golf course in New Orleans’ City Park has been transformed into the city’s biggest urban farm—Grow Dat Youth Farm. The seven-acre sustainable farming nonprofit features a low-energy Eco-Campus built with seven recycled shipping containers and designed by Tulane University architecture students. The urban farming and leadership program teaches local youth how to sustainably grow fruits and veggies that are then sold to CSAs, local restaurants, and markets, as well as donated to neighborhoods lacking access to healthy, fresh food.

Grow Dat Youth Farm, Grow Dat Youth Farm New Orleans, New Orleans urban agriculture, New Orleans urban farming, City Park urban farm, cargotecture urban farm, cargotecture New Orleans, recycled shipping containers New Orleans, food justice nonprofit Grow Dat Youth Farm, Grow Dat Youth Farm New Orleans, New Orleans urban agriculture, New Orleans urban farming, City Park urban farm, cargotecture urban farm, cargotecture New Orleans, recycled shipping containers New Orleans, food justice nonprofit

Founded in 2011, Grow Dat Youth Farm wants to do much more than grow delicious chemical-free food. The nonprofit farm’s central mission is to bring local youth and adults from different backgrounds together in a safe collaborative environment where they can learn how to grow their own food and develop personal, social, and environmental change. Most of the educational workshops take place within the Eco-Campus, a simple low-energy structure with an open-air classroom, two climate-controlled offices, kitchen, bathroom with composting toilets, and storage. A bioswale under the front timber walkway prevents flooding and manages water sustainably. The City Park birding corridor runs along the side of farm and provides a more wild contrast to the farmed environment.

Grow Dat Youth Farm, Grow Dat Youth Farm New Orleans, New Orleans urban agriculture, New Orleans urban farming, City Park urban farm, cargotecture urban farm, cargotecture New Orleans, recycled shipping containers New Orleans, food justice nonprofit

Grow Dat Youth Farm, Grow Dat Youth Farm New Orleans, New Orleans urban agriculture, New Orleans urban farming, City Park urban farm, cargotecture urban farm, cargotecture New Orleans, recycled shipping containers New Orleans, food justice nonprofit

Grow Dat Youth Farm has a long-term lease for seven acres of land in New Orlean’s City Park and is currently growing on two acres with plans for expansion. Formerly a golf course that had been uninhabited before Katrina, the site comprised very sandy or mostly clay soils—poor conditions for farming. The team remediated the soil with lots of organic matter—mainly a mixture of coffee grounds, processed dried sugar cane, and chicken manure—and use crop rotations to add minerals back into the earth. Today, the diversified farm grows over 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables, from avocados and satsuma to beets and kale.

Grow Dat Youth Farm, Grow Dat Youth Farm New Orleans, New Orleans urban agriculture, New Orleans urban farming, City Park urban farm, cargotecture urban farm, cargotecture New Orleans, recycled shipping containers New Orleans, food justice nonprofit

Grow Dat Youth Farm, Grow Dat Youth Farm New Orleans, New Orleans urban agriculture, New Orleans urban farming, City Park urban farm, cargotecture urban farm, cargotecture New Orleans, recycled shipping containers New Orleans, food justice nonprofit

Grow Dat Youth Farm, Grow Dat Youth Farm New Orleans, New Orleans urban agriculture, New Orleans urban farming, City Park urban farm, cargotecture urban farm, cargotecture New Orleans, recycled shipping containers New Orleans, food justice nonprofit

“Food justice is a big part of who we are,” said Michael Kantor, Interim Director at Grow Dat Youth Farm, who stressed the program’s primary purpose to develop youth leadership skills. “Black farmers in particular have historically been marginalized so we create opportunities here to give young people of different races the chance to take control of food production, either here or in their neighborhoods, and increase access to fresh healthy produce—something many New Orleans neighborhoods do not have.”

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Grow Dat Youth Farm partners with nine local schools to recruit around 60 high school students annually. Starting January, these youth Crew Members participate in a paid, five-month leadership program held after school and on Saturday that prioritizes diversity and inclusion. The program time is evenly split between lessons on sustainable food, cooking, and farming, and team-building and leadership exercises. Graduates of the program are invited to enroll in the next tiered leadership position as Assistant Crew Leaders; a fellowship program brings in extra help around the year.

Grow Dat Youth Farm, Grow Dat Youth Farm New Orleans, New Orleans urban agriculture, New Orleans urban farming, City Park urban farm, cargotecture urban farm, cargotecture New Orleans, recycled shipping containers New Orleans, food justice nonprofit

Grow Dat Youth Farm, Grow Dat Youth Farm New Orleans, New Orleans urban agriculture, New Orleans urban farming, City Park urban farm, cargotecture urban farm, cargotecture New Orleans, recycled shipping containers New Orleans, food justice nonprofit

Related: Inspiring urban farm teaches kids how to grow their own organic food

“Our farm is pretty active from September to June,” said Michael. “That’s when we’re harvesting crops for the CSA, our main distribution channel that starts in October, or for the Crescent City Farmers Market or farm stand. We’ve also sold to restaurants and have been in Whole Foods too. We donate 30% of our food to households without access through our Shared Harvest program.” Grow Dat Youth Farm has donated over 26,000 pounds of food.

In addition to funding from grants, donors, and market sales, Grow Dat Youth Farm raises funds through their seasonal farm dinners, where they invite celebrated local chefs to cook up locally focused, family-style meals on the farm. This year’s first farm dinner, on September 28, features chefs from Cochon and Peche, while the October 8th dinner features a chef from Shaya. Tickets are still available for these farm dinners. Learn more information about Grow Dat Youth Farm by following the link below.

+ Grow Dat Youth Farm

Images © Lucy Wang

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Grow Dat Youth Farm, Grow Dat Youth Farm New Orleans, New Orleans urban agriculture, New Orleans urban farming, City Park urban farm, cargotecture urban farm, cargotecture New Orleans, recycled shipping containers New Orleans, food justice nonprofit

In Houston, Texas – the fourth largest city in the United States – two Chinatown business communities have prospered due to an expansion in US-China cultural exchanges.
| September 30, 2017 | 8:18 pm | Analysis, China, Local/State | No comments

https://news.cgtn.com/news/7a516a4e78597a6333566d54/share.html

Houston Chinatowns prosper thanks to growing US-China exchanges

Culture
CGTN
2017-09-30 17:20 GMT+8

In Houston, Texas – the fourth largest city in the United States – two Chinatown business communities have prospered due to an expansion in US-China cultural exchanges.

The first Chinatown is located east of downtown, but today, a second area of the city has emerged as a thriving international district.

In the 1980s, the younger generation of Chinese entrepreneurs gave rise to this new Chinatown, creating a bustling community that covers an area of 16 square km in southwest Houston, roughly 20km from downtown Houston.

Dun Huang Plaza in Houston’s Chinatown. / Photo via 365thingsinhouston.com

The first business opened in the new Chinatown in 1983, which was designed and developed to meet the needs of America’s car-based society.

Today, thanks to many years of support and nurturing by the local Chinese community, the new Chinatown is home to an array of large and small shops, businesses, supermarkets and national banks, as well as being the shopping and business center for the local Asians population.

Because of the presence of the many banks in what is a relatively concentrated area, this new Chinatown has gained the nickname as “Houston Wall Street”, exemplifying its prosperity and importance.

And the prosperity of this new Houston Chinatown goes hand-in-hand with the rise of the new generation of ambitious and upwardly mobile Chinese.

“In the past, the old immigrants needed to spend a lot of time and hard physical work to make bread (money), so the progress was slow,” said Kenneth Li, chairman of Southwest Management District and member of Houston mayor’s International Advisory Board.

The Houston Police Department’s Chinatown station. /Photo from China Daily

Many young Chinese in Houston are now students and have a high educational background which gives them a bigger advantage in society and the marketplace, Li said in an interview with Xinhua.

Ruling Meng, a retired superconductivity scientist at the University of Houston and founding president of the Chinese Association of Professionals in Science and Technology (CAPST), said that she is a beneficiary of US-China people-to-people exchanges.

“I have always said that I am very grateful to the motherland for my training,” said Meng, who is over 80. “I was a college student in the 1950s in China, and the United States provided me with new opportunities for development.”

Meng said that economic conditions were not good then for Chinese people, but everyone studied hard. Even today, Meng is grateful to those who helped her along the way, and said she founded the CAPST in 1992 in order to give this type of care and support to younger Chinese scholars in Houston’s campuses when .

A shopping center in Houston’s Chinatown. /Photo via texasmonthly.com

Charlie Yao, president and CEO of Yuhuang Chemical Inc., which is based in Houston, is the former chairman of CAPST. He is among the new immigrants from China to the United States.

Many young Chinese today are white-collar professionals who have critical thinking skills and are open-minded, he said.

“China’s vigorous economic growth has helped to promote overseas Chinese to a higher level of living,” Yao said. “No other country in the world has been developing at a rate of more than 10 percent in the past few decades, but China made it.”

Jon R. Taylor, political science professor of University of St. Thomas in Houston, agrees with Yao. He said young Chinese professionals moved to Houston from other parts of the United States in pursuit of job opportunities and a better life, which in turn pushed the development of the new Chinatown in Houston.

Dun Huang Plaza in Houston’s Chinatown. /CNN Photo

Furthermore, Kenneth Li encouraged the new generation of Chinese to treat American mainstream society as a way of promoting the development of US-China cultural exchanges. It’s a win-win proposition as both cultures learn from and gain knowledge about each other.

Li believes that cultural exchanges are two-way in nature, as some local Chinese groups invite Americans to visit China.

“We should try our best to promote the people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States,” Li said. “With Confucian thought prevailing, Chinese are peace-loving people. We must send that message to the world.”

The street signs along Bellaire Boulevard in Houston’s Chinatown are posted in Mandarin characters as well as English script. /CNN Photo

Brian Lantz, a senior executive of Schiller Institute in Houston, said he is glad to see the emerging young generation of Chinese professionals in Houston, both in Chinatown and elsewhere.

“America will benefit from the growing roles of American Chinese and Chinese who are here in business,” he said.

While Chinese people are doing important work in academia and science, they also are bringing about improvements in the greater Houston community, saying, “I think we can all benefit.”

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency
Can we talk about our relationship to the oil industry? It’s not our savior | Opinion
| September 29, 2017 | 7:58 pm | Analysis, Economy, Local/State | No comments

http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2017/09/time_to_face_the_crude_truth_a.html

Can we talk about our relationship to the oil industry? It’s not our savior | Opinion

Tugboats tow the Delta House oil and gas production facility away from port facilities in Aransas Pass, Texas and into the Gulf of Mexico. Covington-based LLOG Exploration began installing the $2 billion production facility in the Gulf of Mexico in late September 2014. (Photo by Redding Communications)
Tugboats tow the Delta House oil and gas production facility away from port facilities in Aransas Pass, Texas and into the Gulf of Mexico. Covington-based LLOG Exploration began installing the $2 billion production facility in the Gulf of Mexico in late September 2014. (Photo by Redding Communications)(Bob Redding)

Louisiana and its politicians have long embraced some unhealthy myths: Corruption in our politics isn’t so bad. Teachers are the real problem with our schools. Poor people are lazy. Climate change is a hoax. Oil is crucial to our economy because it employs so many workers and funds our government.

Few myths have damaged us more than the last one. Our blind allegiance to oil and gas has led to lax or poorly enforced environmental laws. The worst actors in the industry have contributed to the disappearance of our wetlands and poisoned our water.

And our eagerness to subsidize this industry has cost us billions in tax revenue. A 2015 report by the Legislative Auditor found that one exemption from one state tax — the severance tax on horizontal drilling — resulted in the loss of $1.1 billion from 2010 to 2014. Last year, the 27 state tax exemptions Louisiana grants to oil and gas interests amounted to $195 million. In 2012, during the height of the oil boom, the state let slip away $527 million in oil revenue; the following year, $462 million.

Since 2013, Louisiana has absolved one natural gas company, Cameron LNG, of more than $3 billion in property taxes. Since 2010, the state has awarded Cheniere Energy and its subsidiaries more than $3 billion in local and state tax subsidies. And in 2016, Louisiana gave Venture Global LNG $1.86 billion in property tax exemptions.

Total permanent jobs promised by those companies in return for the tax exemptions: about 1,400 (an average of $5.5 million in state and local subsidies per job). Industry officials claim without these generous tax breaks, they cannot afford to do business here.

That might be a stronger argument if energy exploration and refining weren’t already among the most profitable enterprises on Earth. Five of the 12 largest corporations in the world (by revenue) are oil companies, despite the slump in oil prices.

But these corporations provide plenty of good jobs for Louisiana workers, right? “The Louisiana oil and gas industry is one of the leading employers in the state,” the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association claims. The most recent employment numbers on its website — 64,000 — are from 2013, when oil was around $90 a barrel. The American Petroleum Institute (API), meanwhile, claims 291,00 Louisiana workers were employed in the industry in 2015.

The August 2017 report on industry employment from the Louisiana Workforce Development Commission, however, pegs the number working in or supporting oil and gas at about 40,000 or 2 percent of Louisiana’s total workforce. It’s likely the API’s 2015 numbers were wildly inflated. Even Louisiana oil industry lobbyists acknowledge a sharp jobs downturn caused by slumping oil prices.

Nationally, the API claims the oil and gas industry employed more than 10.3 million direct and indirect workers in the U.S. in 2015. Meanwhile, the BLS, which does not count indirect jobs, estimates the industry’s current national job number is 178,000.

Counting indirect jobs from a specific industry is an inexact science, so let’s consider only the API’s claim of 2.9 million “direct impact” jobs in 2015. According to the API study, almost a million of those jobs were at gas stations, where employees also sold cigarettes, beer and slushies.

The myth of oil as a once-and-future major employer and massive contributor to the economy is dangerous not only because it absolves the industry from paying its fair share in taxes; the myth also has strengthened the industry’s case as it lobbies to avoid or evade environmental regulations in Washington and the states.

The jobs narrative has led to another harmful myth: We can have oil industry jobs or a clean environment, but we cannot have both. Well, look no further than California, where the nation’s toughest environmental regulations exist in harmony with a vibrant oil and gas industry. (To their credit, Gov. John Bel Edwards and six coastal parish governments are suing to hold oil companies accountable for how they damaged portions of our coast.)

Pitting jobs against a clean environment is also how industry supporters crush regulations to address climate change. That jobs-versus-environment argument ignores that oil and gas companies are automating tasks that once required warm bodies.

The real issue is not jobs so much as how states like Louisiana suffer when the oil and gas industry doesn’t pay its fair share in taxes. As the oil companies automate, their profit margins will increase. And their lobbyists continue persuading legislators in places like Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma and Washington, D.C., to increase or maintain billions in “drilling incentives.”

For decades, Louisiana has acted like providing corporate welfare to the oil industry is our patriotic duty. We’ve behaved like a feckless colony and allowed oil companies to swoop in, scoop up our oil and gas and pay us little in return. The industry buys the fealty of our politicians who have persuaded us that it’s our salvation.

It’s not. And if Louisiana wishes to enter the 21st Century, it’s time to wake up, smell the crude and quit behaving like a third-world petro state.

Robert Mann, an author and former U.S. Senate and gubernatorial staffer, holds the Manship Chair in Journalism at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. Read more from him at his blog, Something Like the Truth. Follow him on Twitter @RTMannJr or email him at bob.mann@outlook.com.

The peculiar patriotism of Confederate monument huggers | Opinion

Updated on September 25, 2017 at 2:05 PM

http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2017/09/national_anthem_protests.html

In “Bart-Mangled Banner,” a 2004 episode of The Simpsons, 10-year-old Bart Simpson offends the town of Springfield when it appears to them that he’s mooning the United States flag.  It’s all a big misunderstanding, one that can only be understood by watching the whole episode which includes Bart going temporarily deaf, Bart taunting a donkey at a donkey basketball game and that donkey ripping Bart’s shorts off with its teeth right before the flag is displayed for the national anthem.  The people of Springfield are outraged at Bart’s apparent disrespect.

“How dare he?!” a character of obvious Southern extraction yells.  “That’s the flag my grandpappy rebelled against!”

I think we need to stop pretending that episodes of The Simpsons don’t predict the future.  “Bart-Mangled Banner” aired more than 13 years ago, and, yet, it seems to precisely predict the contradictions being noisily aired in 2017:  so-called patriots shedding tears over the erasure of Confederate iconography from the public landscape while simultaneously professing allegiance for the flag the Confederates opposed.

Consider Beth Mizell, the Republican state senator from Franklinton who failed in her attempts to protect four Confederate monuments in New Orleans from being removed.  In June, she released a 4-minute video explaining her opposition to the monument-removal trend.  It includes this doozy: “No real citizen was screaming for those monuments to be torn down, but now they’re gone.”

You’re a citizen of the United States at birth if you were born in the United States or one of its territories; or if you were born abroad to parents who were citizens. You can also be foreign-born and apply for naturalization.  Everybody I know personally who was opposed to the monuments to Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, P.G.T. Beauregard and the White League is a citizen, a real citizen.

Mizell is doing that thing that so many conservative politicians do: dismissing people who disagree with their opinions as phony or fraudulent Americans, as inauthentic. She doesn’t even concede that the anger at the monuments might be real, vowing to keep fighting to protect disputed monuments “regardless of who wants to pretend to be offended.”

In her mixed-up worldview, being an American means honoring those people who took up arms against America to perpetuate the enslavement of black people.

If Mizell were by herself, we could respond to her comments real citizens with a laugh and a “whatever.” But she’s not by herself. She’s one of many who have expressed the peculiar belief that reverence for the Confederacy and its symbols is part and parcel of reverence for the United States.

Even the president of the United States falls within that group. Donald Trump has criticized those who protest “our beautiful (Confederate) statues and monuments,” and he’s criticized those who, he says, are disrespecting the American flag by declining to stand respectfully as the national anthem is played.  On which side would Trump have fought in the Civil War?  Or would he have taken his morally evasive “bad people on all sides” approach?

It certainly is confusing to hear people declare allegiance to the United States flag at the same time that they’re weeping at the removal of Confederate flags and monuments. Some people might believe that some black people are sending mixed messages when they criticize they, say,  properly criticize the Confederate battle flag as treasonous and racist and at the same time support professional athletes who kneel during the national anthem.  But it should be fairly easy to understand:  Most sensible black people hate the Confederacy and its images and find it foolish that anybody would expect them to harbor anything other than hatred for the army that fought for their ancestors’ enslavement. Protests that intersect with displays of the United States flag aren’t coming from a place of hatred but disappointment:  How come America isn’t as good as she claims to be? Why won’t Americans collectively demand that everybody be treated fairly and justly?  In a country that has a Constitution and says it follows the rule of law, how is that police officers, government agents, get to kill black people with near impunity?

Martin Luther King Jr. expressed that disappointment the night before he was assassinated when he said, “All we say to America is, ‘Be true to what you said on paper.'” After pointing out the promises explicitly guaranteed by the First Amendment, King declared that “the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.”

A Gallup poll conducted two years before his assassination revealed that a large majority of Americans had a negative opinion of King. That should let us know that anybody who points out that America isn’t what she says she is, anybody who demands that America stop doing black people wrong, is going to be criticized – reviled even.

But somebody’s got to point out the hypocrisies: the hypocrisy of lingering racism in a country with a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution and the hypocrisy of so-called patriots championing the Confederacy and its imagery.

Jarvis DeBerry is deputy opinions editor for NOLA.COM | The Times-Picayune. He can be reached at jdeberry@nola.com or at twitter.com/jarvisdeberry.

Jefferson Davis was never a president | Opinion

In the recent debate over removing Confederate monuments from public spaces, defenders of the statues have argued that such action was part of an attempt to “erase history” and suggested that adding historical information to the sites would better serve the public.

That raises the question of what history will be added and who gets to write it.

“History is always written by the winners,” author Dan Brown says. “When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books — books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?'”

But until recently, the history represented by the Confederate monuments was written by the losing side, a fable honoring men who were committing treason in a rebellion against the United States. The statues have been rightly ridiculed as the 1860s equivalent of participation trophies.

The historical markers written by “winners” would not likely please supporters of the monuments to Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the Confederacy.

Christopher Wilson, director of the African American History Program and Experience at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, makes that point in a piece on Smithsonian.com under the headline “We Legitimize the ‘So-Called’ Confederacy With Our Vocabulary, and That’s a Problem.” The summation is that “Tearing down monuments is only the beginning to understanding the false narrative of Jim Crow.”

“Most of these monuments sprang from the Lost Cause tradition that developed in the wake of the war, during the establishment of white supremacist Jim Crow laws around 1900, and as a response to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s,” Wilson writes. “Those artifacts are not the only way we legitimize and honor the deadly and racist 19th-century rebellion against the United States. Much of the language used in reference to the Civil War glorifies the rebel cause.”

Wilson builds on a 2015 article by Michael Landis urging his fellow historians to reconsider the terms and language they use when writing about the Civil War and the issues leading up to it.

Landis suggests that we call plantations what they really were, slave labor camps, and to stop referring to the United States as “the Union” and the rebelling states as “the Confederacy,” suggesting a conflict between two equal nations. The Confederacy was never officially recognized by any other world government, and in the view of President Abraham Lincoln and others, the United States never ceased to exist, including those 11 states in rebellion.

Wilson says legal historian Paul Finkelman has made a compelling case against the label “compromise” to describe the legislative deals that kept the slaves states from bolting sooner. Compromise, Finkelman says, implies that both North and South gave and received equally in the bargains over slavery.

He says “appeasement” is a more accurate term as the northern lawmakers gave the slave states almost everything they demanded, “including an obnoxious Fugitive Slave Law, enlarged Texas border, payment of Texas debts, potential spread of slavery into new western territories, the protection of the slave trade in Washington, D.C., and the renunciation of congressional authority over slavery. The free states, in turn, received almost nothing (California was permitted to enter as a free state, but residents had already voted against slavery). Hardly a compromise!”

And as long as we are letting the winners write the inscriptions, we should let President Lincoln have his say.

Lincoln consistently referred to the seceding states as the “so-called Confederacy” and made a point of ignoring Davis’ claim to be president of the CSA, calling him — and never by name — only the “insurgent leader.”

And, if we’re are being strictly accurate the highest rank Robert E. Lee achieved in the U.S. Army was colonel. Given that he achieved the higher rank only in service to a failed rebellion, should we really refer to him as Gen. Lee?

Wilson offers a look at how the current debate might look if we rescued our history from the viewpoint and vocabulary of the Lost Cause.

“When news reports about the debate over monuments say ‘Today the City Council met to consider whether to remove a statue commemorating General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army,’ what if they instead were written in this way: ‘Today the City Council debated removing a statue of slaveholder and former American army colonel Robert E. Lee, who took up arms in the rebellion against the United States by the so-called Confederacy’?”

Tim Morris is an opinions columnist at NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. He can be reached at tmorris@nola.com. Follow him on Twitter @tmorris504.

Let’s face facts: Louisiana is sick and dying | Opinion
| September 10, 2017 | 8:44 pm | Economy, environmental crisis, Local/State | No comments

http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2017/09/lets_face_facts_louisiana_is_s.html#incart_most-readopinions

Let’s face facts: Louisiana is sick and dying | Opinion

Two questions have dogged me lately: If I could go back 18 years, would I raise my children in Louisiana? Would I still view this as a place that would nurture and educate them, offer opportunities for personal and financial growth and help my wife and me imbue in them the values important to us?

When my son and daughter were born, I believed the answer was yes. I had hope. Even three years ago, I still had faith in Louisiana, as I wrote in a column to young people who considered abandoning the state: “Stay here, find like-minded people, organize them, expand your influence, demand change, but don’t give up on this amazing, beautiful place. Its good people — flawed as we might be — are worth your efforts.”

When I wrote that, I believed Louisiana had brighter days. I hoped there was a small flame of desire to recreate something great here. I thought Louisiana’s people wanted to redeem their state.

I was wrong.

Today, I ask only, “Is this as good as it will ever be?” The answer, I believe, is yes. It’s not getting better and could get much worse.

For all its rich and diverse culture and abundant natural resources, Louisiana is the sick man of the United States. We’re an economic basket case and a toxic waste pit of environmental neglect and misconduct.

We are the state most adept at missing opportunities and abusing and wasting our abundant natural resources.

Louisiana is my home in every way and, at 59, I cannot imagine living anywhere else. And yet it’s time to admit this is a place with no visible promise and little hope. To pretend otherwise is to engage in delusional thinking. We must face facts.

I’m not saying everyone should give up and leave. I’m staying and fighting for our future. There is much work to do, and I believe I can make a difference. I suspect most of you feel the same. But if we’re staying, we must be honest about Louisiana’s deplorable condition and bleak future.

Blame our leaders, if you like. But the problem is us. On average, we aspire to mediocrity; we are happy with good enough. We live in a land of plenty but view the world from an attitude of scarcity.

We mask our state’s profound illness and disease with colorful festivals and spicy food.

We tolerate — sometimes celebrate — our corrupt politicians. (Witness the recent outpouring of affection for disgraced former Gov. Edwin Edwards on his 90th birthday.)

Speaking of celebrations, nothing makes us happier than college football, which is our true religion. In the fall, we worship on Saturday nights in Tiger Stadium, the state’s holy shrine. Meanwhile, what transpires across campus — in the classrooms and lecture halls — barely concerns us.

Our elected leaders sell their souls to big oil and the chemical industry. The first has spoiled our land, pillaged our resources and damaged our coast, while the other has poisoned our air and water.

We are 47th in environmental quality. Perhaps it’s no coincidence we have the nation’s highest cancer rate.

Almost a third of our children live in poverty, the third-highest rate in the nation. That’s not changed for decades.

We have the seventh-lowest median household income and the third-highest unemployment rate. After decades of so-called “reforms,” we still have the worst public schools in the country. We’ve cut higher education funding more than almost every other state.

I could go on. We are first in almost everything that’s bad and last (or near last) in almost everything that’s good. In most cases, even mediocrity seems beyond our reach.

The experience of the last four decades should settle any question about whether Louisiana and its people will soon awaken from their coma of complacency. We know well the diseases of ignorance, poverty and pollution that afflict us — and have accepted them as sad facts, not obscenities.

The question isn’t whether there is much hope or aspiration left in Louisiana’s people. There is not. The question, instead, is whether this is a place our promising young people should abandon as soon as possible.

So here’s what I’ll tell my children: If you want to stay, then regard Louisiana as a mission field. However, if you want a place that will enlarge your life, expand your horizons, offer new opportunities and challenge your thinking, you should look elsewhere.

Our insular, prehistoric ways will not soon spawn a dynamic, creative culture to revive our economy and attract bright young minds to study at our universities and, after graduation, remain here to build a vibrant state. Our people have said loud and clear over the decades that we do not desire such a state.

It’s time to admit that Louisiana is sick and dying.

Robert Mann, an author and former U.S. Senate and gubernatorial staffer, holds the Manship Chair in Journalism at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. Read more from him at his blog, Something Like the Truth. Follow him on Twitter @RTMannJr or email him at bob.mann@outlook.com.

Hurricane Harvey: a Man Made Tragedy that Never would have Happened in Cuba
| September 6, 2017 | 9:18 am | Local/State | No comments

Hurricane Harvey: a Man Made Tragedy that Never would have Happened in Cuba

By Bill Hackwell on September 1, 2017

When I moved to Houston in 1964 with my sisters and my mother I remember how huge, flat and sprawling with cris crossing freeways it seemed. Coming from Newport New Hampshire, population 5,000, it really was big but back then Houston, in the national scheme of things, was a major port city but with less than a million people and just barely in the top ten of the largest cities.

Since then Houston has exploded in population and is now the 4th largest city in the U.S. with just under 7 million people.  This is the city that is the nation’s fossil fuel capital in a state where even the mention of climate change is considered heresy.  The rich of Texas still look at it like it is the wild west under the god given premise that if you own land you are entitled to do whatever the hell you want to with it. That is why there are virtually no zoning laws to speak of and why housing sub divisions now butt up against toxic chemical refineries as well as under the shadows of the two large dams on Buffalo Bayou.

Personally I would never have called it paradise but, to take a phrase from a Joni Mitchell song, Houston paved paradise and put in a parking lot, a massive one.  In a short period of time the natural areas of Houston have been dramatically turned into huge areas of land that are covered with what scientists refer to as impervious surfaces. Breaking that down I understand that to mean when it rains water has no way to seep into the soil and can only do one thing, roll and flood.

Houston, like New Orleans, sitting on the Northern side of the Gulf of Mexico, is situated where the question has been proven not to be if a major hurricane is going to land but in this period of global warming,  when, how often and how big. While global warming did not necessarily produce Hurricane Harvey it had everything to do with its intensity. What fuels the hurricane’s fury is the temperature of the water it is over. This year the temperature of the Gulf of Mexico, for the first time since records have been kept, did not go below 73 degrees.  Harvey is the first hurricane ever in the gulf to actually gain intensity in the 12 hours prior to hitting landfall. This is not a debate but rather scientific facts.

Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath is still wreaking relentless havoc on the people of Houston and all of Harris County and their recovery will be a long time coming. On the 12th anniversary of Katrina in a cruel ironic twist it hit Louisiana as well. Today Trump, the ultimate climate change denier, showed up in Texas making sure he looks concerned and not appearing like the disconnected George Bush in 2005 when he flew over and peered down from 10,000 feet at the flooded devastated and neglected city of New Orleans where 2,000 people died. It is hard to forget Bush’s finest imperial moment when for no reason he slapped his disgraced FEMA chief Mike Brown on the back and told him, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” FEMA’s ineptitude dealing with Katrina was just the beginning of their crimes. In the recovery over 55,000 families displaced along the Gulf Coast were awarded trailers as housing that were laden with toxic formaldehyde.

Like Katrina, where people where left to their own devices to get out of the Mississippi Delta and figure out their future, the people of Houston are also facing a similar fate. There was no contingency plan from any level of government and the only thing collective when the massive storm hit was confusion. Trump mentioned how happy is with the co ordination of the rescue operation; what co ordination was that?  The mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner told everyone to just sit tight and ride out the storm at home about the same time as Texas Governor Gregg Abbott called for the people in Houston and surrounding areas to evacuate. Maybe Trump was talking about the rescue helicopter pilots who were fearful of hitting each other in the sky because there was no navigation center co coordinating their efforts in the air and on the ground. There are hundreds of people from all over the country who spontaneously volunteered with their boats lining roads waiting for orders to go into the water to rescue people. The government told people to put a white towel out the windows of their home if they needed rescue. They also told them to write their name and social security number on their arm….just in case.

Random acts of bravery versus centralized search and rescue

CNN in particular has raised the rescue efforts of random brave individuals into more than a virtue of success instead of hammering the government about the lack of any comprehensive civil defense plan for such a catastrophic event. Everyone knew for almost a week the magnitude of the storm but they did little to nothing to prepare with no infrastructure to activate.  The hundreds of people rescued by strangers willing to jump back into the water is remarkable but they can be no substitute for a co ordinated centralized search and rescue and recovery plan.

Katrina and Harvey are not just aberrations of how the U.S. approaches natural disasters. We see the same thing time and time again. In 2016 as Hurricane Matthew approached the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. reactionary Florida Governor Rick Scott, instead of providing some level of leadership, created an atmosphere of panic in the state by telling everyone to flee because, “this storm will kill you!!”. What he failed to tell people was where to go and how. And like all these storms there is absolutely no preventive consideration for the most vulnerable, those without cars, the homeless, the infirmed, the poor, the incarcerated and immigrants fearing arrest.

When the next hurricane or earthquake hits we can expect the same thing to unfold,  the hit or miss rescues, the price gouging in the stores and at the pump and the hundreds of thousands displaced who have lost everything, including those with inadequate insurance. It is hard to imagine that the lack of resolve from the government could get any worse but it will considering that the Trump administration is calling for $667 million to be cut in FEMA grants that includes pre-disaster prevention programs. He is also planning to cut the budgets of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center by 16 percent as well as a 32% cut on research on the oceans and the atmosphere.

Cuba’s Approach to Disasters

When Hurricane Matthew hit Eastern Cuba a whole other scenario took place. The prevention measures were well in place days before the storm was even close and institutions were activated. It took a full mobilization of the society that included students, workers, farmers and others who brought all their energies into a collective force. Extra medical professionals were brought in as well as trucks, buses and provisions. Through the community organizations everyone knew where to go and all the other details of the evacuation.

Raul went for Concern of the Safety of his Country, Trump went for a Photo op

President Raul Castro went to Barracoa, the target of the storm, early to check on all details of the preparedness, unlike Trump who is now spending a moment in Houston handing out hot dogs in a food serving line telling people a whole lot of disingenuous platitudes.

No one should think that if Hillary Clinton was president the outcomes of Hurricane Harvey would be different because as awful as Trump is he is just a symptom of the rotten system of capitalism that cannot correct itself or provide for its own; let alone be a humane model for anywhere else.

In Cuba human life is more important than anything as the mobilization during Matthew illustrated. Over 375,000 people from 2 provinces were evacuated during that storm and there was not a single death. The example of Cuba, a poor blockaded country with its bigger than life international sense of humanity, should be the model held up for everyone to emulate.

Source: International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity