Monday, November 29, 2021

Monarch Glimmer

Naturalists in the Californias (Baja and the one north of the border) have some rare good news about an imperiled species: the glorious monarch butterfly.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images via WBUR

The Butterflies Are Back! is a recent report on NPR that describes a small rebound in the west-coast population of the migratory insect. The enthusiasm of those who monitor the annual migration reminds me of the thrill I had when observing the migration at my former home in Pharr, Texas. There we could observe the migration of the east-coast monarchs without even trying. At times they would simply waft past us in their thousands. 

The report concludes with an important word of caution: the modest rebound is a cause for optimism but not for complacency. We are in the midst of a century of human population growth that biologist E.O. Wilson describes as The Bottleneck, which I described in some detail in my 2016 post Good News from Gorongosa.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Tremé Hopes

I have been teaching an honors colloquium about New Orleans for the past several spring semesters. It has been a chance to learn from afar about a city I have known -- so far -- only through books, music, radio stories, and of course maps.

It was only recently, however, that we learned about the 2010-2013 dramatic series dramatic series Treme and the Tremé neighborhood in which it takes place. I learned 

The series is immersed in the political ecology of Katrina on the one hand and the cultural geography of the city's food and music on the other. In fact, many New Orleans musicians (and a few visitors) appear as themselves throughout the series. A professor played by John Goodman delivers a brilliant soliloquy that captures the paradox in just 92 seconds; HBO elaborates on Tremé as cause for celebration on the program's web site.

Our Tremé immersion has coincided with the ongoing saga of (pathetic) Congressional wrangling over infrastructure spending. For those reading this after 2021 -- or for those not following the (pathetic) saga, Congress has spent most of the calendar year debating two bills on infrastructure, and in November finally got the first "easy" one signed into law. 

We learned about a longstanding problem in the Tremé neighborhood because of hopes it would be addressed as part of the $1,700,000,000,000 of roads-and-bridges spending that had finally been approved. Hopes were raised, according to NY Times journalist Audra D.S. Burch, by $20,000,000,000 that had been included to address the racially imbalanced impact of the Eisenhower-era construction of interstate highways.

As the map of the neighborhood makes clear, Tremé suffered a common fate of African-American communities. Highway construction tended to connect prosperous places without disrupting them, and to do the opposite to less powerful people living in less expensive locations. Because of the legacy of redlining, highways divided neighborhoods that would have been left intact if the properties were more expensive or the residents better connected. In the case of Tremé, Interstate 10 rumbles through the 442-acre neighborhood, separating the legendary Congo Square -- the point of origin of African music in North America -- from its neighbors.

The details, sadly, are far less hopeful than the headline. Congress removed 95 percent of what the Biden administration had requested for such projects nationally, leaving just $1 billion to address a problem that cost $20 billion to address (through the notorious Big Dig) in the city of Boston alone.

Lagniappe 

At the top of this post, I mention having only recently learned of Treme the show and Tremé the neighborhood. I learned of them from journalist Melissa Harris Perry's recent interview with Wendell Pierce, a star of both The Wire and Treme who is a native of New Orleans as they discussed his response (in both thoughts and deeds) to Hurricane Ida, which had befallen his beloved city the week before. 

Wendell Pierce as Antoine Baptiste (Image: HBO)

And finally, when I do get to New Orleans, I will be visiting the Tremé Coffee House and lodging at La Belle Esplanade, both in the neighborhood. 

Friday, November 12, 2021

NOLA Woes & Glories

 As Professor Creighton Bernette, John Goodman reads the 1880 work of Lafcadio Hearn about the miseries and glories of New Orleans near the end of the first season of Treme

In this scene, Goodman's character references Lafcadio Hearn -- also known as Koizumi Yakumo -- was himself an enigma and a bit of a NOLA legend. I look forward to learning more about him.

Though it aired a decade ago, my favorite librarian only recently began watching Treme. The 2010-2013 series explores New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, the hurricane that had devastated the city in 2005. 

I learned of the series when journalist Melissa Harris-Perry interviewed actor Wendell Pierce on WNYC's The Takeaway in September. (Terry Gross also interviewed Pierce for Fresh Air back in 2010.)

These paradoxes make New Orleans an ideal topic for geographic exploration. In my one-credit colloquium New Orleans: Global City, I meet just one hour each week with students in BSU's Commonwealth Honors program, most of whom are not geography majors. We explore the rich human geography and precarious physical geography of the city as a group before each student delves into a particular facet for their own research.

Lagniappe 

See the Tremé Hopes post I wrote a couple weeks after this one, with much more on the geography of the neighborhood for which the series is named.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Delaying Justice

 



"Australians want action on climate change, and so do I. But ..." said Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Glasgow,  going on to say that Australians "will not be lectured."

There could not be a greater contrast between P.M. Morrison and his counterpart Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, who implored Glasgow COP26 recognize the trivial contribution of Bangladesh to global greenhouse emissions in the context of the huge costs it bears. The NPR program On Point chose Bangladesh as one focus of its in-depth discussion of climate reparations at the beginning of the second week of the conference. Journalist Riton Quiah explains how sea-level rise interacts with increased storm activity to compound the vulnerability of Bangladesh and similar places.

In the same discussion, author David Wallace explains the temporal and spatial imbalances of climate change with great clarity. 

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