West Nile Virus

Sept 26 (Reuters) – More than 400 new U.S. cases of West Nile virus emerged in the last week, in an outbreak that remains the second worst on record but has begun to show signs of slowing.

States with large number of cases include Mississippi, Michigan, South Dakota, Louisiana, Oklahoma, California, and Texas.

West Nile Virus: Another 400 Cases Reported In The Last Week, CDC Says http://huff.to/RiAHoT via @HuffPostGreen

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I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad, and the Beautiful

Last night we watched a screening of Academy Award®-winning director Jonathan Demme’s documentary film, I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad, and the Beautiful.  The film profiles Carolyn Parker, a fearless civil rights activist and resident of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, and her five-year crusade to rebuild her beloved house, her church, her community — and her life — after Hurricane Katrina.  Her courage and resiliency are inspirational.

by Jonathan Demme

Watch I’m Carolyn Parker – Trailer on PBS. See more from POV.

What would you do if you had to walk in her shoes for five years?

This inspirational portrait documentary film can be seen online at PBS through December 13, 2012.

Storm Surge & The Next Generation

What is this film about?

Contrary to the title, Storm Surge is a not a disaster movie, but rather a film that celebrates the hope, optimism, and self-determination needed to build disaster resilient communities in advance of catastrophic shifts in ecosystems and the related impacts to our weather and our communities.

From super tornadoes, droughts, floods and fires, to the lingering impacts of hurricanes and the BP oil spill, millions of Americans now find themselves living in the cross hairs of a looming planetary emergency – global climate change.

Storm Surge is a film that’s more than what you see on the screen. It’s a movement, an educational campaign, an attempt to raise the level of climate consciousness with a younger generation.

Targeting middle and high school youth, Storm Surge‘s educational campaign will include study guides, bonus features, in-depth interviews, community discussions, town hall meetings, and a traveling lecture series – featuring Stacy Noland and other leaders working to help communities adapt to climate change and become more disaster resilient.

Resiliency in the Gulf Coast

“One thing you know about folks in Louisiana, they are resilient.  People in Mississippi they are resilient.  They know what tough times are like, but they know they can bounce back.”President Barack Obama, September 3, 2012

Today marks the 127th day of production.  Since leaving Seattle, we’ve visited over a dozen communities that have experienced the deadliest and most devastating disasters in American history.  Along the way, we’ve heard some truly amazing survival stories and met some incredibly inspirational people.

Right now, we’re in Jean Lafitte, Louisiana.  It’s a small fishing village (pop. 1,904) located at the southern end of Louisiana Highway 45 along Bayou Barataria.  As the crow flies, it’s just 15 miles from New Orleans.  But culturally, it’s a world apart.  Primarily inhabited by a proud, tight knit group of Cajun, Creole, and Spaniards with ancestral roots dating back to the early 19th century, the oral history of Jean Lafitte is so rich and colorful that one might think the War of 1812 was fought last week.

We’re here because it’s one of the coastal communities most severely damaged by wind, rain and tidal surge during Hurricane Isaac.  According to Mayor Tim Kerner, “It’s the 8th major natural disaster to hit my town in the last 7 years.”  The town also suffers from the long acknowledged lack of flood protection, the loss of wetland and wildlife habitat, polluted air, and the ongoing scourge from the BP oil spill and use of the oil dispersant, Corexit.

Chris Areas

My life has been turned upside down,” says Christopher Areas, a former shrimp fisherman.  “The commercial fishing industry that was central to the economic health of the community, notice I said past tense, has been utterly devastated.   My wife who owns a seafood restaurant has been damaged again, the BP oil spill hurt her business and now I’m not sure how we’ll come back after Isaac, but we will,” confides Areas, whom we met while he was attempting to salvage his home after it stood flooded for two days with over a foot of water after Isaac.

Meanwhile, our plan is to embed ourselves here for the next six weeks alongside Cherri Foytlin and our partners at 28 Stones, a Gulf Coast based media organization developed to highlight individuals, groups and communities who are working to combat social and environmental injustices, and to connect them with national and global concerns through the use of art, music, video and written word outreach.

Collectively, our goal is to conduct an in-depth character study documenting the reasons why the residents of the Gulf Coast are considered the most resilient of all Americans.  We also want to learn why the national media refuses to cover the plight of the people here, given the wrath of natural and human-caused disasters they’ve suffered through in recent years.

The content produced in Jean Lafitte will serve as the main storyline for Storm Surge.  It’s the thread that ties three years of production, 35,000 miles of travel, and 200+ hours of interviews and background footage into three centralized themes – Survival, Resiliency and Recovery.

Storm Surge Ain’t Gon Stop Us

Louisiana has been known for its seafood production for generations.  While in Jean Lafitte, we spent time with the Roy and Lisa Marris family of Westwego, LA, as they processed a catch of shrimp they caught hours before Hurricane Isaac made landfall.  Their motto, “storm surge ain’t gon stop us!” made our day.

Where is Our Levee Protection?

Hurricane Isaac caused an unusual amount of flooding after slow crawling through southeast Louisiana for two and a half days.  While the $14.5B dollar levee system built by the US Army Corps of Engineers to protect New Orleans worked as designed, many of the parishes around the New Orleans metropolitan area saw worse flooding than they did during Hurricane Katrina.

Automated Levee Floodgate
Levee Floodgate

Since 2005, state officials have lobbied the federal government for a comprehensive plan to provide flood and hurricane protection, wetland restoration, and the construction of  an all-inclusive levee system to protect low lying areas outside of the New Orleans.

Where is Our Levee Protection?
Where is Our Levee Protection?

Christopher Areas, a resident Jean Lafitte in Jefferson Parish, explains how he breached a rock levee near his home to allow flood waters to flow back into Barataria Bayou after Hurricane Isaac.  “We had a foot of water in our house for two days, ” said Areas.

Adding insult to injury, Chris’ wife, Katie had over two feet of water inundate the seafood restaurant t she’s owned for over 30 years.  “I just paid off the SBA loan I got to renovate my restaurant after Hurricane Katrina.  I’m not sure that I’m going to rebuild this time.  I’m tired,” said Mrs. Areas.

Like many Gulf Coast residents, Area believes the storm surge from Isaac bounced off the levees and floodgates built to protect New Orleans, while sacrificing the surrounding communities.  “The water had to go somewhere and it came here,” he said.

Christopher Areas

Goose Bayou – Days 3 & 4

During our second day in Lafitte, we were invited by Mr. Roubin Maise, Jr., a former DEA Agent, and his neighbor Mr. Lindburg Santini, a shrimp fisherman, to visit Lower Lafitte and experience what it was like to live in their community in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac.

We spent two days living in near 100 degree heat and 100% humidity.  We ate MREs, patiently waited for ice and water delivers by the Jefferson Parish  Police Department, and for the restoration of electricity and phone service .  To pass the time we interviewed their neighbors, explored the flood and wind damage, shot a lot of video and took a ton of pictures.