This shrimp season was going to be a big one for Louisiana fishers. The 2009 season had been difficult, and many had made major investments in their boats and equipment. It was a gamble that cleared out many families' savings, but the potential payoff made the investment seem worth it.
Then BP choked the Gulf of Mexico with oil, killing seafood throughout the Gulf region.
Now, the 2010 shrimp season is a wash. So are the next several shrimp seasons down the line. Those families, already having gone through their savings, now have no income for the foreseeable future. As Patty Whitley of the faith-based organization BISCO (Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing) said, "The fact that they now have no income and no savings is devastating. What do people do when they have only known this way of life? What options are available for them to reorganize their lives?"
With a heavy base in the fishing industry, the local Vietnamese community has been one of the hardest hit. Now community leaders are determined to create quality, long-term green jobs to offset the economic costs of the oil spill. The Mary Queen of Viet Nam Community Development Corporation supports New Orleans East, a large Vietnamese and African-American community, providing business development, affordable housing, urban farm, community organizing, social services, healthcare outreach, and environmental justice programs. In the wake of the disastrous oil spill, Mary Queen of Viet Nam's plans for a 28-acre Viet Village Urban Farm provide a look at a sustainable future for New Orleans. This farm will create green jobs and provide healthy food to the community. The organization is hoping to break ground in 2011.
This community-based push towards urban agriculture is happening at the same time as a push from the City of New Orleans for energy efficiency and conservation. The city just won the Retrofit Ramp-Up Grant, which will support a revolving loan fund that will help local residents and businesses make their homes and buildings more energy efficient. And city officials are working with the Department of Energy and local partners to complete the city's first energy conservation grant.
With progress at both the community and city-government levels, New Orleans is not just recovering from Hurricane Katrina or this year's oil spill. It is recovering from the old, pollution-based economy and building America's clean-energy future from the ground up.