Two of my New Orleans tour guides recommended this wonderful movie called “Hurricane on the Bayou” that was showing at the IMAX Theater in the same building that houses the Aquarium. They said it would explain why Katrina’s devastation was so horrific. So I went down there on Monday afternoon and watched it.
The movie was filmed during and in the aftermath of Katrina to raise awareness of the rapidly depleting wetlands that used to buffer New Orleans from hurricanes. Louisiana contains 40% of the wetlands in the U.S. These wetlands are disappearing at the rate of a football field per 30 minutes. Experts predict the coast itself will move 30 miles inland within the next 50 years due to the loss of the wetlands. How did this happen?
Because human beings, as usual, had to go and muck with things. We built levees to keep farmland from flooding, but in the process of doing so, also prevented silt deposits from flowing down the Mississippi River to the deltas to constantly replenish the wetlands, as they once did. Channels were also dug through the wetlands, introducing sea water to a fresh water environment, killing much of the natural plant and animal life there, including the trees that used to provide a windbreak for the city. Nature had provided its own buffer to protect the city of New Orleans from hurricane winds and floodwaters, and human beings–without realizing what we were doing–destroyed that buffer.
Ironically, Greg MacGillivray began this movie to educate people about the dangers of allowing the wetlands to erode before Hurricane Katrina hit, not realizing that the movie’s point was about to be made in a very real and catastrophic way during the filming. Much of the film’s footage now includes the hurricane’s devastating aftermath. You can read more about the film at its website.
What’s especially important to know is that the damage is not irreversible. The wetlands can be rebuilt by making sure silt gets naturally deposited there again and replanting essential flora in the area. It will take a lifetime, and then only if the government applies the necessary resources to make it a priority. According to the website, “every 2.7 feet of wetlands can reduce deadly storm surges by a foot.” If that’s not reason enough to do it, I don’t know what is.
In addition to being educational, this film is gorgeous. There are some stunning shots of the bayous. I still can’t figure out how they managed to get some of the shots they did of the alligators. It is also a very emotional film, as you can imagine. There was a lot of sniffling in the theater when I saw it (including me). If you have an opportunity to see this film in New Orleans at the IMAX theater, I highly recommend it. You can also purchase the DVD here.