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Scrapbook: Club Tells New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward: 'We've Got Your Back'

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Sierra Club Scrapbook

February 27, 2012

Club Tells New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward: 'We've Got Your Back'

I did not expect to see sleek modern spaceship-like homes with solar panels and platinum LEED-certification in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, where floods wiped out most of the community during Hurricane Katrina.

One of the 75 Make It Right platinum LEED-certified houses in the Lower 9th Ward.

I was also surprised that one important element of the community’s vision is the restoration of Bayou Bienvenue, a cypress swamp bordering the Lower 9th that has been degraded by salt water intrusion.

I was in the Lower 9th with a contingent of Sierra Club and Sierra Club Foundation board directors, staff, and local leaders on a tour led by Environmental Justice Organizer Darryl Malek-Wiley. We started with a press conference at Bayou Bienvenue, where Club Executive Director Michael Brune recognized the work of Tracy Nelson and the Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED) in pushing to rebuild the community in an environmentally sensitive way and with broad input from its residents.

From left, at a press conference overlooking Bayou Bienvenue: Robin Mann, Sierra Club president (in beige jacket); Tracy Nelson, CSED director; Aaron Mair, Club board member; Micheal Brune, Club executive director; Charles Allen, former CSED director; Allison Chin, Club board treasurer; John Taylor, local bayou expert; Lane Boldman, Club board member; and Darryl Malek-Wiley (with the white beard). “The Sierra Club has your back,” Brune told the community leaders. (Photo by Jim Dougherty.)

Brune also said that he had recently sent a letter to President Obama in support of “full restitution by BP” for its 2010 oil spill and the maximum penalties under the Clean Air Act. (The trial opens March 5.)

From the windy press conference on a recently constructed wooded dock overlooking the bayou, we went to visit the 70-plus houses built by Brad Pitt’s Make It Right and a smaller group of home built by Global Green. Malek-Wiley said that the homes were a collaboration with a group of internationally acclaimed architects, like Frank Gehry, and the local residents, who wanted more sustainable homes. The average monthly electricity costs in these new homes is $50-$60 per month compared to the city average of $150-$200.

Here's how you can help restore Bayou Bienvenue.

— by John Byrne Barry


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