NEW ORLEANS - As we approach the eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, people around Southeast Louisiana are reflecting on how far they have come come and where they can improve.
Elected officials and community leaders say climate change and coastal restoration should be part of the conversation.
Nearly eight years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. There has been rebirth and renewal.
“We have come light years in eight years,” said Anne Milling, founder of Women of the Storm.
And while there are still some signs of devastation, much has come back, like the Treme Community Center, where dozens gathered Saturday morning to remember the lives lost and call for action as Louisiana continues to rebuild.
“Moving forward, if we're going to have action, our action has to be on the change in the climate, rising sea level, and what we're going to do to strengthen our coast,” said Telley Madina, Oxfam America’s Coastal Communities program director.
Elected officials and community leaders say climate change and Louisiana's disappearing coastline could make our state more vulnerable to future storms.
Coastal wetlands are Louisiana's natural protective barrier against hurricanes, and they rapidly shrinking.
Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts rising sea levels and warmer oceans will increase hurricane intensity.
“Specifically to the tourism industry, it's really about the jobs that are affected if we don't do something about what is happening,” said Mark Romig, New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation. “New Orleans tourism depends on visitation coming in from people to enjoy the many assets that Louisiana has and when we're losing a football field every so many minutes, it becomes a very ridiculous equation not to do anything about.”
Experts say Louisiana’s master plan for coastal restoration spells out a realistic path. They hope a significant portion of BP’s oil spill fines will help fund the plan, through the Restore Act.
“Coastal restoration is multifaceted, as we all know, and it's going to take a collective effort and the willpower to do this and make it a priority,” said Milling.
Community leaders say everyone must do their part to make a difference and ramp up the conversation.
“It is my moral obligation and your moral obligation and our obligation together to do three things: to be very concerned about climate change. To pray for God's wisdom and enlightenment that we can do something about it. And thirdly, that we can act,” said Gregory Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans.
Tourism officials say there are a number of ways to help curb climate change, like making buildings more energy efficient, using hybrid taxis and buses, and creating more bike paths.