In recent years, Mississippi has seen its share of tangible damage caused by the likely effects of climate change. During the last half century, the coastal area of the state has been ravaged by several major hurricanes, including the most recent two, Rita and Katrina, during which many lives and much property were lost.
Although hurricanes are not something new or even uncommon to the Mississippi Gulf Coast area, it does seem as if these storms have become more forceful and destructive during the last decade. Not only have these massive storms affected people, animals, vegetation, and overall economic conditions along the Gulf Coast, they have affected something else - marine life. And a major part of cleanup efforts post-Rita and Katrina has involved cleaning up underwater debris in the Gulf of Mexico in an effort to prevent its potential impact on marine life there.
My earliest memories of the Mississippi Gulf Coast are fantastic memories. But the Coast then was quite different from what I recall in recent years, even before the hurricanes of 2005 changed life there forever. Gulf coast beaches in the 1960's and 70's were pristine and uncluttered by the economic changes of the last two decades. My young memories recall few structures actually built on the beach side of U. S. 90 (Beach Boulevard). And the waste created by the many large hotels, casinos, and restaurants that now line the coast were non-issues. But economic growth along the Coast has had an environmental impact with far-reaching implications, and it is still too soon to know the final results.
Like the high-rise hotels and casinos that cast a daytime shadow over Beach Boulevard, the offshore drilling rigs that shine like Christmas lights on the ocean at night have increased in numbers in years past. One can only wonder their contribution, directly and indirectly, on climate change along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and throughout our world.
Most of us realize that we don't have all the answers when it comes to climate change, its implications, and its overall impact. And most of us certainly realize we don't have the solution. But we do recognize that we should be good stewards and do our part, however small, in protecting this planet.
It belongs to all of us.