The Future Of Coastal Preservation

April 11th, 2018

The Future Of Coastal Preservation Is In The Hands Of High Schoolers

By Michael Stahl

In trying to save one of the United States’ most important stretches of land from succumbing to the effects of climate change, southeast Louisiana is calling in the cavalry: 45 prospective ninth-graders.

The state’s coastline abutting the Gulf of Mexico is disappearing at an alarming rate. Studies show that about 45 square miles of wetlands are vanishing each year there, due in part to rising sea levels connected to climate change, along with the building of dams and levees throughout the area. If these current land-loss trends continue, Louisiana residents will see their three million acres of wetlands disappear over the course of the next two centuries.

The impact is frightening, to say the least. Erosion in this area ensures greater instances of flooding at the mainland, like that seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Roughly one-quarter of the nation’s energy supply, which is generated across the gulf, is at risk, too, not to mention the impact the environmental changes will have on wildlife, as both native and migrant animal species will be forced to seek land elsewhere.

The situation is so dire that Gov. John Bel Edwards recently declared a state of emergency there, hoping to procure additional government funding to address the crisis.

But instead of waiting for the state and federal bureaucracies to funnel resources into the area — which could take years, if it happens at all — a group of designers, philanthropists, and teachers have stepped up. They recently founded a high school with the mission of educating students across disciplines while preparing them for potential careers in coastal preservation and restoration. In other words, a real win-win.

In the fall of 2018, the faculty of Louisiana state charter school New Harmony High, located in the Orleans parish, will welcome its inaugural class of students. Educators at New Harmony High will equip students with the knowledge and skills to engage in local projects that address current ecological concerns while seeing to it that they meet statewide education standards.

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