This post was also previously published in New Orleans City Business.
The Gulf of Mexico has created and sustained jobs in my family for generations. My grandparents met during World War II in Panama, where my grandfather was a shipping agent. Although they had no other ties to the region, after the war they chose to settle their new family in New Orleans because my grandfather could find a job in the maritime industry.
He passed on his love of ships and the Gulf to my father, who served in the Navy and later spent his career working in New Orleans for Tidewater Marine, a provider of offshore service vessels to the energy industry.
My own chosen career working for The Nature Conservancy, is, like my father’s and grandfather’s, tied to the Gulf of Mexico. Although some might view my career path in restoration as a diversion from my relatives’, who were focused on more industrial uses of the Gulf, I view industry and restoration as inextricably linked.
The Gulf is a working body of water--fueling and feeding our nation and serving as a critical shipping corridor, among its other functions. However, its ability to provide these services is wholly contingent upon healthy, restored ecosystems. Ports such as New Orleans and Mobile cannot provide our nation with goods if their infrastructure is damaged by storms or their communities under water. Louisiana’s fisherman cannot supply our country with abundant seafood if we continue to lose wetlands at an ever-alarming rate. Finally, lest we forget, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was an acute reminder of the severe economic losses that stem from an ecological disaster.
Despite the decades of environmental decline experienced in the Gulf, in my view there are several reasons to be optimistic about the future of the Gulf.
First, Louisiana has adopted the Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast, a 50 year, $50 billion dollar plan that outlines the projects needed to restore our coast – among them, constructing river diversions to rebuild wetlands, restoring barrier islands and upgrading and building flood protection structures. If funded and implemented, the Master Plan will truly change the course of history for our state.
Second, I am optimistic about our future because of the creativity and commitment of the private sector leaders I have met who are working to “be the change” they want to see in the Gulf – from engineering cutting-edge restoration projects, to inventing new products that will halt coastal erosion, to training young people to enter the restoration workforce. These leaders are part of an emerging restoration economy in this region that is on a growth trajectory. A recent economic study estimates that fines to be paid from the oil spill could create up to 57,697 new jobs in the next 10 years alone.
Like my grandfather and father, I chose to live in Louisiana not only because it is where I have a job, but also because it is a unique and special place whose scenery, food and culture sustain me. I applaud those business leaders who are also working to ensure the long-term health and prosperity of this truly special place.
To learn more about how Gulf restoration is good business, click here.