The vast majority of U.S. states and a number of its territories have issued directives to residents to stay at home. The Navajo Nation is sheltering in place, and much of Europe and Asia is on lockdown. Millions of lives have been upended. People are facing extreme insecurity when it comes to jobs, food, and other basic necessities. No one knows what the future may hold or when this might end.
On a broad scale, the coronavirus crisis presents us with an opportunity to empathize with communities that have long been facing similar threats from a changing climate. One such place is the Louisiana Delta, whose richness sustains a complex estuary ecosystem as well as the state’s economy. But between 10 and 32 square miles of land are lost here every year because of sea level rise, erosion from storms, and a gradual sinking called subsidence.
A series of short documentaries out today on the Smithsonian Channel introduces viewers to locals who have deep roots in and multigenerational ties to these coastal areas: A fisherman looking for alternatives after his shrimp harvest has plummeted because of freshwater intrusion; a researcher working to restore wetlands with sediment from the Mississippi River to keep New Orleans afloat; and a Houma tribal member sharing oral histories to prevent her Indigenous culture from being lost along with her ancestral lands.
The cinematography is captivating and the characters compelling. Whether you have newfound downtime on your hands or are looking for educational ways to entertain little ones, this five-part docu-series, Last Call for the Bayou, could be just what you need (and all five episodes are free to watch, without a subscription). As articulated by a landscape photographer in the first episode: “Experiencing this place drew me in and kept me exploring.”
Breanna Draxler is a senior editor at YES!, where she leads coverage of climate and environmental justice, and Native rights. She has nearly a decade of experience editing, reporting, and writing for national magazines including National Geographic online and Grist, among others. She collaborated on a climate action guide for Audubon Magazine that won a National Magazine Award in 2020. She recently served as a board member for the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Northwest Science Writers Association. She has a master’s degree in environmental journalism from the University of Colorado Boulder. Breanna is based out of the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people, but has worked in newsrooms on both coasts and in between. She previously held staff positions at bioGraphic, Popular Science, and Discover Magazine.