I Remember When…

As we get older we tend to remember the past as being better than the present and probably even better than it actually was. This was my reaction to a story written by Kathryn Eastburn in the Houston Chronicle of 2/4/19 which has to do with the loss of our wetlands habitat. Ms. Eastburn describes what has happened to our wetlands between the coastal prairies south of us all the way to Galveston. According to her story, most of this precious wetlands habitat has been lost to urban housing and commercial industrial development, subsidence due to the drainage of groundwater for industrial and residential use, man-made erosion, and the proliferation of invasive species of trees and other vegetation. Rice University professor John Anderson is quoted as saying that nearly half of Texas wetlands had been destroyed naturally or by human intervention by the mid 1980s. Anyone driving from here to Galveston can see that this trend is, if anything, accelerating. If you are over 50, you will recall that in the Fall and Winter you would typically see thousands of geese and ducks feeding and resting in fields along US 290. If you have fished in coastal Louisiana, you can easily see the massive erosion of the marshes. In fact, if you ask your fishing guide where the marsh used to be during his career, you will find it hard to believe how much has been lost and you will ask yourself how much longer it can possibly last.

Global warming is causing sea levels to rise which harms wetlands. It is also causing extreme weather patterns, As a duck hunter who has spent more than 50 years in the Navasota River bottom, I can assure you that we have seen more extreme flooding events in the last 5 years than ever before. I know this because we keep records. This flooding causes damage to property and it has also permanently harmed the “hardwood bottom” habitat. Global warming will compound and accelerate the wetlands problem. It is interesting to note that while U.S. politicians dither and prevaricate about whether global warming even exists, all the largest oil and gas companies in the world accept global warming as a fact and are taking action to save themselves. In the same 2/4/19 edition of the Houston Chronicle, Gretchen Watkins, Shell’s president of U.S. operations, said: “Climate change is real and is a problem that society needs to engage in, and we want to engage in a leading way.” Ms Watkins then goes on to describe Shell’s efforts to diversify its energy portfolio. She has no intention of allowing Shell and its shareholders to be caught flat-footed and holding the bag.

The only problem with what Ms. Watkins says is that society can’t take action on the massive scale required without bold political leadership and we are being held back by those who prefer the status quo or, worse, going back to the good ol’ days.

I have previously written about the many ways that the Trump Administration is attempting to eliminate environmental rules, some of which are intended to protect wetlands. The New York Times of 12/27/18 had an excellent feature, “This Is Our Reality Now”, which needs to be read to understand the full scope of what Trump has done. This feature includes a list of 78 important environmental rules that Trump has either eliminated or is attempting to eliminate.

If you are interested in this topic, may I recommend “Formation and Future of the Upper Texas Coast” by John Anderson. For a look at the systematic destruction of Florida’s wetlands and the failed George W. Bush policy of “No Net Loss”, I recommend “Paving Paradise”, by Craig Pittman and Matthews Waite. For a wonderful overview of the history of the entire Gulf Coast, I think you will enjoy “The Gulf – The Making of an American Sea” by Jack E. Davis.

I have nothing against Buc-ee’s, but I would rather see geese.