Website discusses La. environment

From the coral reefs off the coast of Louisiana to the historical struggle for environmental justice, a new website shows Louisiana residents about the multifaceted nature of the state.

The website, http://www.sola2050.org, launched Friday as a production of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, provides a different way for people to tell their story of the state’s environment, good and bad.

“The main reason was we noticed that during big disasters, like BP (oil rig explosion of 2010), a lot of people were made aware of big events,” said Paul Orr, LEAN member and one of the organizers of the website. “But they didn’t have an understanding of what’s happened in the past.”

In addition, he said, there was a realization that there needed to be a place to tell positive stories of the state in terms of environment in the past, now and into the future.

“There’s a huge knowledge gap with young people,” said Marylee Orr, executive director of LEAN.

There are years of environmental history in Louisiana, but people forget about those struggles and the people involved, she said.

“A lot of people’s stories were being lost,” she said.

With the help of Jon Bowermaster, a documentary filmmaker who made “SoLa: Louisiana Water Stories” looking at south Louisiana’s environmental issues, brothers Michael and Paul Orr put together a long list of people they want to include on the website.

Each video on the website now includes a film about six minutes long on topics ranging from hazardous waste near the community of Alsen to the great variety of coral and marine life that can be found around the thousands of oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

Included on the same page are maps, related links, documents and other resources that allow people to explore each topic.

“It’s a different way to present these perspectives to people,” said Michael Orr, LEAN member and one of the organizers of the website. “It’s personalizing these lessons and going around the stigma of ‘what an environmentalist thinks you should know.’”

Over time, the website will expand to have all kinds of perspectives that will show the linkage from a person who has spent years teaching about native plants to hiking to bird watching to fighting pollution.

“But it’s really all the same knowledge,” Michael Orr said. “It brings it all together.”

In preparing the website material, LEAN staff tried to find anything similar on the Internet and found that there wasn’t, Marylee Orr said.

“This is something that meets a need,” she said. “It’s a very broad-based look at Louisiana.”

The current videos include a link to Bowermaster’s “SoLa: Louisiana Water Stories,” as well as original interviews and stories about Louisiana residents.

One page highlights Greg Guirard, a photographer, writer and crawfisherman, who talks about his experience and love of the Atchafalaya River basin.

Another features Florence Robinson, a retired biology professor, and her work in raising awareness about the hazards of Devil’s Swamp, which was contaminated by hazardous waste and the impacts to the community of Alsen.

A third video focuses on Scott Porter, a staff scientist at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium in Cocodrie, and his work in researching the coral reef ecosystems that have sprung up on the thousands of oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Original music for all three was provided by Bill Grass.