When Rachel Maddow broadcast from the French Quarter the Friday night before the Super Bowl (how long ago that feels!), she surely did not imagine she would be back a few months later covering the hugest godawful environmental catastrophe this nation has ever seen. Since the Earth Day Blowout Rachel has been to Venice , Louisiana, down in the Birdfoot, as has her NBC comrade Brian Williams, and on Wednesday she broadcast from the west bank of New Orleans, with the city and the river behind her. Tonight (Thursday) she will broadcast from Grand Isle , Louisiana.
Today’s Lesson: Why Louisiana’s Wetlands Are Important
Rachel visited the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve , about 15 miles from the Quarter, and spoke with park official David Muth and Dr. Larry McKinney, research director of the Harte Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M–Corpus Christi, about why coastal wetlands are important: not only for all the life within them but also because every 2.7 square miles reduces hurricane storm surge by about a foot. The swamps are a buffer for New Orleans and other human settlements in coastal Louisiana. But because the state is losing about 25 square miles  every year, or 50 acres a day—1,900 square miles have disappeared in the past century—the 15-, 20-, and 25-foot storm surges that come with hurricanes grow more catastrophic every year. Parks official David Muth tells Rachel:
Our biggest concern is that as we enter hurricane season, when we have a storm in the Gulf, even if it doesn’t come ashore, it can push enormous amounts of water up into this estuary. And once that happens, then a lot of that oil has the potential to come much farther inland, even into a fresh water swamp like this than we might otherwise have thought possible.
We wrote a few weeks ago in some detail  about how the oil slick threatens the vegetation that holds the wetlands together—the sea grass and cypresses whose roots hold the soil together and put the “land” in wetlands—and how the Oilpocalypse thus threatens the long-term survival of the Crescent City, long after it may wipe out the livelihoods of the shrimpers, oystermen, and fishermen along the Gulf Coast. We are grateful to MSNBC for sending Rachel and her crew, and to NBC for keeping environmental reporter Anne Thompson  on the scene, and for sending, again and again, Brian Williams , whose affection for New Orleans and Louisiana is evident and, we hope, contagious. Thanks for keeping the spotlight on.