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Social justice and mobility in coastal Louisiana, USA

Abstract

Louisiana faces extensive coastal land loss which threatens the livelihoods of marginalized populations. These groups have endured extreme disruptive events in the past and have survived in the region by relying on several resilient practices, including mobility. Facing environmental changes that will be wrought by deliberate coastal restoration programs, elderly residents are resisting migration while younger residents continue a decades-long inland migration. Interviews and historical records illustrate a complex intersection of resilient practices and environmental migration. The process underway conflicts to some extent with prevailing concepts in environmental migration, most notably deviating from established migration patterns. In terms of social justice, selective out-migration of younger adults leaves a more vulnerable population behind, but also provides a supplementary source of income and social links to inland locales. Organized resistance to restoration projects represents a social justice response to programs that threaten the resource-based livelihoods of coastal residents while offering protection to safer inland urban residents.

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Fig. 1

Source Hemmerling 2017

Fig. 2

Source Hemmerling 2017

Fig. 3

Source U.S. Census Bureau

Notes

  1. The state is in the midst of a mandated five-year update of its plan and may include more in the 2017 version, but projects that currently have been prioritized and in more advanced planning stages were outlined in the 2012 plan.

  2. Our interviews explicitly sought out elderly residents who had experience with multiple hurricanes or oil spills. Consequently, the narrative we report on strongly reflects this group, and not the younger generation who are moving.

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Acknowledgements

The resilience research mentioned in this manuscript was funded in part by Award Number U19ES020676 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the view of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences or the National Institutes of Health. Additional funding came from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, through the NIEHS. The maps were prepared as part of the Water Institute of the Gulf’s Science and Engineering Plan.

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Correspondence to Craig E. Colten.

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Colten, C.E., Simms, J.R.Z., Grismore, A.A. et al. Social justice and mobility in coastal Louisiana, USA. Reg Environ Change 18, 371–383 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-017-1115-7

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Keywords

  • Social justice
  • Environmental migration
  • Resilience
  • Louisiana