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Speak Up for the Wetlands

December 13, 2007

Mary Ann Travis

Students concerned about the future of the Louisiana coast may want to check out the course Gary Brooks is teaching in the spring semester.

Gary Brooks

Gary Brooks will teach a course this spring semester giving students an opportunity to help save endangered wetlands. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

Brooks, a visiting faculty member in the Department of Political Science, is teaching two sections of “Political Science 101.” As part of the course, students will perform 20 hours of public service working with the Gulf Restoration Network.

The Gulf Restoration Network is an environmental advocacy group that promotes a healthy Gulf of Mexico, including healthy water quality, sustainable fisheries, protection against further coastal land loss, restoration of coastal marshes and prevention of needless destruction of cypress forests in Louisiana.

Brooks’ course — and the public service credit associated with it — fulfills the first phase of the public-service graduation requirement that must be completed during the first two years of a student’s undergraduate education at Tulane.

The course will focus on issues related to Louisiana coastal restoration and its implications for areas outside the Gulf region, says Brooks.

“We will learn about the many aspects of the issue, the strategies and tactics used by advocacy groups, the role of the federal, state and local governments, and acquire skills we can use to be effective policy advocates in the American political system,” he says.

Louisiana wetlands are 40 percent of all wetlands in the United States, says Dan Favre of the Gulf Restoration Network. But Louisiana is experiencing 80 percent of the entire country’s wetlands loss.

A startling fact that Favre points out is “a football field of wetlands is lost every 40 minutes in Louisiana.”

Students will work with Favre and the Gulf Restoration Network to get the word out about the urgent need for Louisiana coastal restoration. Among the students’ activities, they’ll learn to write opinion editorials for their hometown newspapers.

“We want to create a national constituency of support and engage the whole country in bringing the wetlands back,” says Favre.

Louisiana produces, refines and transports 30 percent of the oil and gas consumed in the United States. The entire nation has benefited from the state’s natural resources. Louisiana seafood is eaten around the country. The port of New Orleans is the largest port, by volume, in the United States. And, of course, there is the distinctive music and culture of New Orleans. “As the wetlands go, so goes the culture,” Favre says.

Tulane students, who come from all across the country, “have a powerful voice to tell people” about coastal restoration issues, says Favre.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000