Is Middendorf’s rescue a sign of Louisiana’s end time?
by Len Bahr, Ph.D.
Perhaps it’s this gloomy December, or perhaps it’s the close of 2016, one of the two most frightening political years in my memory,* which also includes the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. At any rate, some members of my extended family have recently discussed the end times, when they’ll happily fly away from all of life’s problems, leaving us heathens behind. I probably don’t have to point out that these folks obtain modern ‘factual’ information primarily from Facebook and Fox.
Anyhow, the subject of end times for earthly citizens prompted my train of thought to switch down the track to the far more likely end times for South Louisiana, marked by the inundation of virtually all the landscape below I-10. Evidence for this approaching calamity includes reams of quantitative, testable data that show an inexorable and accelerating rise in relative sea level. We no longer need to make plans based on scraps of papyrus manuscripts containing the cryptic thoughts of ancient, unidentified scribes writing in dead languages.
On December 6, the eve of the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day and America’s entry into the largest war in history, The Advocate published an article by Ian McNulty about extensive new renovations to Middendorf’s Restaurant in Manchac, Louisiana. How can that topic possibly be as serious, you may ask, as our entry into WWII in 1941; a narrowly-averted nuclear holocaust in 1962; and now, at the end of 2016, an incoming POTUS who candidly aspires to head up a Yankee oligarchy similar to Putin’s Russian model?
Allow me to explain.
For non-local readers unfamiliar with the drive between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Middendorf’s was built in 1937 on the fragile swampy isthmus between Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain. The most telling renovation described in McNulty’s piece was to elevate the main dining area by five feet. The extensive modifications have been necessitated, as specifically noted by the author, because of the combined impacts of hurricanes, coastal erosion, climate change and, by implication, relative sea level rise.
McNulty included links to relevant articles on the rapid changes in the landscape of America’s Delta, including this May 2016 piece by Bob Marshall in thelensnola.org. He also linked to an August 2015 article by former A/P reported Cain Burdeau. Here’s the quote that got my attention, including the all too rare phrase that I highlighted:
The new dining hall isn’t so much a renovation as an act of self-preservation as erosion and climate change play out along Louisiana’s delicate coastal areas.
McNulty’s article strikes me as particularly noteworthy in that it represents one of the rare acknowledgments by either state or local reporters of the specific effects of climate change on Louisiana (Bob Marshall and his former colleague and environmental columnist Mark Schliefstein are exceptions). A media reference to climate change has become analogous to the unmentionable crazy aunt in the attic. How ironic that this politically incorrect phrase is buried in the context of an article about food, one of our most commonly discussed subjects.
The list of local and state authorities who eschew mentioning the ominous signs of climate change includes official state climatologist Barry Keim. He was interviewed by Grace Toohey for a December 14 article in The Advocate about the near record 2016 rainfall in Louisiana, approaching 90 inches, rather than ~60. Just as in past interviews on unprecedented weather events, Keim scrupulously avoided broaching the climate change issue. In contrast, Ms.Toohey quoted Alex Krautmann, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Slidell as follows:
“Even though it has been a really extreme year, any one event or year cannot be attributed to overall climate change,” Krautmann said. “But these trends we’re seeing of warmer Gulf temperatures and heavy rainfall do fit into observed trends from climate change.”
The statewide repertorial blackout of the climate change meme was particularly blatant and obvious during the U.S. Senate runoff, when underdog Foster Campbell’s call for taking action on climate change was virtually ignored by reporters and pundits. John Kennedy easily won, with most voters uninformed about the candidates’ contrasting positions on Louisiana’s most pressing environmental issue.
In my opinion, the most incomprehensible and incongruous avoidance of the issue of climate change in Louisiana is demonstrated by three national environmental groups who claim to lead the effort to save the Mississippi River Delta. These are the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the National Wildlife Federation, and the national Audubon Society. This silence is particularly hypocritical and egregious in light of a current national EDF fund raising campaign – a campaign based on the issue of climate change – that I’m reminded of every time I turn on my laptop.
Local EDF spokesperson Steve Cochran is presumably responsible for his NGO’s silence on the Senate runoff. I say this because it was apparently Cochran who oversaw a very hefty EDF campaign contribution to the successful 2014 congressional campaign of Garret Graves, now a staunch supporter of Donald J.Trump. If the folks who contribute to EDF on the basis of climate change only knew.
Meanwhile, S. Louisiana’s end times loom ever more likely, and all eight of our state ‘faculty members’ of the Electoral College today cast their votes for the demagogic class-less clown of 2016.
Here’s a little piece of doggerel that I composed to honor the clearly obsolete 18th century Electoral College.
Electoral College, class of 2016
by Len Bahr
Faced with a woman of substance and a man with no clue,
the Electoral College did as it was expected to do.
And we got Mr. Trump, who turned to red, states formerly blue.
Worse, his E.C. ‘diploma’ is real, unlike one from Trump U.
He’s an ‘invalid-dictorian,’ class-less clown with an orange hue,
lacking presidential qualities that we’ve been used to,
such as empathy, insight, and knowledge, to name just a few.
None of which is important, from his point of view.
The Donald thrives on an ego, greed, and intolerance stew
that sates his wrath for critics, whom he loves to sue.
My question is when/if his backers will eventually rue
Their foresightless votes for this fountain of poo.
*I was a mere five months old on December 7, 1941.
Editor’s note: After posting this piece I remembered another Louisiana journalist who’s shown the courage to publicly discuss climate change as though it weren’t locker room language. Keith Magill, editor of The Daily Comet in Houma, published this article on December 3.
Coincidence? As if to prove me a liar, on December 20, one day after this post appeared, The Advocate carried an article by Bob Marshall that: (1) projects higher risk to Louisiana residents from climate change-induced intense rainfall events; and (2) quotes Barry Keim in agreement!