Archive - Luce Semester Fa06

So let me set the scene for “y’all”. We are still south of the Mason-Dixon line, somewhere in Virginia. I think no one would disagree if I said that we smell bad, like old laundry and van. And right now the communication between the vans consists of holding walkie-talkies up to the speakers to volley songs that others may consider obnoxious back and forth. Heiman’s van instigated with “Fish Heads” and Candie’s was quick to throw some Australian attitude right back at us with “Tie me Kangaroo Down Sport”. If you’ve never heard either, you should listen to both about 400 times. And we are all looking forward to the luxuries life off the road, such as not waiting in lines to use bathrooms, personal time, and total freedom of music choice. That doesn’t mean that we won’t miss the life once we’re back in Carlisle.

By random draw my job today is to sum up the experiences and adventures of the past 3 weeks. Three weeks that could easily be made into a novel, or screenplay. I wish everyone could have this experience. Packing up and searching out the problems in person and talking to the admirable individuals who are fighting them was something I would do again in a heartbeat. I loved watching the landscape change on our drive down and spending time with people who were strangers back in August. By people I mean the 14 women and 2 men and 2 amazing professors of LUCE who get outraged or amazed by the same things. We’ve seen each other at high points and low ones and have shared many ridiculous and hilarious experiences.

One of the themes we encountered again and again was absence. Mountains that are blown up, marshes that turn into water, and the lack of meaningful government action are the challenges that confronted us at every turn. I feel like I have an obligation now to tell other people about what is happening to our country and to try to make a difference like all of the activists, organizers, and scientists who took time to talk to us.

Regardless of what disheartening sights we may have seen, we can’t let the negative weigh us down into inaction. The problems are big, but allowing that to intimidate our generation will just make things worse. There is hope, and as I write this a truck loaded down with the turbines for a windmill heads south on 81 …

However, Jensen just got silly putty stuck in his ear …. I guess he finally cracked.

Lucers 06 — back safe and sound at Kaufman.

The Environmental Studies Department welcomes us home!

The leaves are changing colors, the wind is getting bitterly cold, and we are heading north. Our time in Louisiana has ended and we are going home. Today we stopped at the Tennessee Aquarium for a break from the long drive. There were two buildings: one dedicated to fresh water and the other to the ocean. As we explored exhibition after exhibition, we were making our way from the upper Mississippi to the bayous, just as we had done during our trip! We saw sturgeon like those we saw when we went to the Horn Point Laboratories during the Chesapeake Bay trip, but this time we got to touch them! We also got to touch stingrays, which I may add, are slimy. The stingray got agitated and started to flap its body trying to get out of the tank. It was hilarious; we thought it would attack us, since stingrays have become infamous in the news for attacks to humans such as the incident with Steve “the crocodile hunter” Irwin.

We also got to see amazing creatures like seahorses, giant spider crabs (which can get to be as big as 15 feet from toe to toe), and the long-awaited alligator. The group had been dying to spot an alligator the entire time we were in Louisiana, but they were in hibernation. It is no wonder they have survived since the age of dinosaurs, since female alligators can control the temperature of the eggs they lay to determine their sex. There were two ancient looking turtles mating in a tank as well. A turtle nursery followed where the aquarium successfully breeds turtles to protect them from extinction.

In another section of the aquarium there were two scuba divers (complete with Santa hats) talking from inside the tank to a group of elementary school children. They were teaching them about the different species of animals found in the ocean and about the disappearing coral reefs. A butterfly garden was in the mists of the aquarium, covered in hundreds of beautiful and colorful butterflies. A macaw greeted us with “hellos” and laughter, otters danced for us as they noticed they had a large audience to perform for, and jellyfish pulsed in their tanks. It was a beautiful place and I felt peaceful as I gazed at tanks of swimming creatures.

Cristina Cardona

TN Aquarium (fresh water exhibits in the left building, oceans in the right building)

Teacher in a tank

Touching stingrays

Giant spider crab

Yesterday we began the long journey back to Carlisle. We left New Orleans at 10:00 in the morning, drove through Alabama, crossed a corner of Georgia, and arrived in Chattanooga, Tennessee about twelve hours later.

For the last time, we looked out the van windows at the gutted houses, boarded-up buildings, and abandoned streets of New Orleans. We drove on a bridge that had collapsed during the hurricane, looked down over the intercoastal waterway, and passed above Lake Pontchartrain. On the other side of the lake we saw houses that had been damaged by the wind of the hurricanes and trees that had been literally snapped in half like toothpicks. We passed through Bayou Sauvage, the largest urban wildlife refuge in the country. We’ve become so accustomed to observing the effects of resource use on the land, that now we see it everywhere we look. In Alabama the highways were lined with pine plantations. We noticed a huge timber staging area, where mounds of logs were being sprayed with water, presumably to prevent a fire. We passed a lot full of innumerable FEMA trailers, sandwiched side by side. I could only wonder what they were doing along the highway while people in New Orleans remained homeless. Outside of Birmingham, an integrated steel mill stretched on for miles. In Tennessee we drove over a navigation channel, one of many Tennessee Valley Authority projects that have altered the landscape of the region over the years. We watched as the topography changed from low-lying wetlands, to cotton fields, to mountains once again.

The hours of simply sitting and gazing out of the window gave me time to make sense of our experiences and consider what we can do next. With each new thing I learn, I try to think of how I can turn that information into action. I am eager to return to Dickinson where we will have the opportunity to give back to the communities we visited and show our gratitude to those individuals who inspired us. Some students are interested in returning to New Orleans to volunteer during winter or spring break. Or perhaps someone will join the fight to save the hillbillies by enrolling in Mountain Justice Summer next year. We could organize a letter writing campaign to encourage revenue sharing for the state of Louisiana. Because the federal government takes most of the off-shore oil and gas revenue, Louisiana serves a large portion of the nation’s energy needs, but remains too poor to preserve the wetlands and protect the state’s residents. A similar problem keeps the people of West Virginia impoverished and the mountains of Appalachia in danger, however, through letters to the governor, citizens could help put an end to destructive mining practices.

In addition to letter writing, we students could develop a presentation on the threats to the natural and cultural treasures we discovered during our journey. Or we could encourage the cafeteria to purchase more of its seafood from the Chesapeake Bay and Gulf Coast. As Judy Bonds of Coal River Mountain Watch reminded us, alternative energy and conservation campaigns are another great way that students can have a positive impact from their college campus.

In a couple of days, I will step out of the van for the last time with fond memories and new friends. Most importantly, I will take away stories and photographs with the power to educate others and affect change. I look forward to sharing all of these experiences with friends and family over steaming bowls of gumbo and jambalaya, so that they will taste why the protection of coastal Louisiana is so important. Then they will see the pictures of mountains ravaged by mining, chemical facilities that stretch on for miles, telephone poles that now stand in water, and neighborhoods that were destroyed by an unnatural disaster. And I will show them the pictures of the people who live there. Perhaps I cannot speak for everyone, but I think that this trip is only the beginning. In the coming months we will have time to reflect on these experiences, to spread the word to others, and to take action for our nation’s resources and our fellow citizens.

Audrey Fisher

The view from the red van.

The finalists in an intense game of stick at an Alabama rest stop.

Exercise – van style!

Dinner at last!

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