Monday, March 12, 2012

Natural Resiliance

Below is an article published in the Times Picayune that talks about a community's resiliance.   If you've read any news in the past 6 years you've probably heard about at least 2 of the disasters that affected the Barataria community: Katrina & the BP Oil Spill.  While the article is short on detail the fact that these communities are made up of individuals who live close to nature and who understand how they are interdependent on nature *and* each other is at the core of their capacity to survive.

It makes a unique kind of South Louisiana sense when you come from an area named after the immeniently adaptable Pirate, Jean Lafitte, when you live in an area named for the Pirate Jean Lafitte  will you get someone saying that the secret to their success is that they are like a Pirate, Jean Laffite.
They were able to adapt and change in order to continue,” Peterson said. “It’s kind of the lessons from what we can learn from Jean Lafitte.”

Full Article captured for reference below:
Barataria area is model of resiliance.
Allen Powell II - March 11, 2011 - Times Picayune

Most communities couldn’t survive six natural disasters in six consecutive years, particularly if they destroyed hundreds of homes and cost hundreds of people their jobs. But if you ask residents of Lafitte, Barataria and Crown Point, they’ll tell you they aren’t most people, and according to a recent study from the University of New Orleans’ Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology, they’re right.
Researchers found that residents of the fishing enclave are extremely resilient, which is evident in how quickly their communities have rebounded from hurricanes, floods and the BP oil spill, said Kristina Peterson, a senior researcher with CHART. The group studied those communities to determine the root cause of their resiliency in the hope that it might help others.

“They were able to adapt and change in order to continue,” Peterson said. “It’s kind of the lessons from what we can learn from Jean Lafitte.”

Researchers used “participatory action research,” a method that lets residents drive the focus of the study. Peterson said researchers spent four years meeting with residents and developed an oral history of the communities. They discovered the skill sets and practices that made the areas stronger and made residents more willing to reinvest despite the damage caused by hurricanes like Katrina, Rita and Ike.
Peterson said researchers presented their findings to residents several times, and then residents would tell them whether those findings were accurate to provide a complete picture. She said this type of research is more valuable than simple surveys or data mined from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“They told us their story,” Peterson said.
What researchers found was that despite the lack of outstanding public infrastructure, the communities had intense and extensive private bonds that provided a helpful social network. In addition, certain skills that were essential to disaster recovery, like carpentry, were often tied to the livelihoods of many residents. Residents said they had a close relationship with public officials, and that allowed them to minimize or eliminate the red tape that slowed recovery in other areas, she said.
Jean Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner said the study validates what he already knew about the area. Residents in those communities are willing and able to do their part to recover, but they do need a helping hand from politicians to make certain that things are not too difficult.

Lafitte, Barataria and Crown Point, Kerner said, play an important role in the Louisiana economy as well as the nation because of its fishers, and oil and gas workers. He said he hopes the study will stand as testament to the will of those individuals.

“I think what they saw is that the people here bounce back faster and stronger than some other areas,” Kerner said. “If you look, we’ve been through six disasters in six years, and if you drive through Jean Lafitte, Crown Point and Barataria, it doesn’t look like we’ve had one.”
Allen Powell II can be reached at or 504.826.3793.

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