Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The End of Tabasco Sauce?

If you are like US Person, when you eat at an appropriate restaurant, you look for the iconic little bottle full of red sauce that is one of the most flavorful pepper sauces around.   You should be interested in this story.  As connoisseurs of hot sauces know, Tabasco sauce is made on Avery Island, Louisiana by the seventh generation of McIlhennys.  Edmund McIlhenny discovered a wild pepper plant growing by a chicken coop 150 years ago on the salt dome island.  Hot peppers grew extensively on Avery until the 60's when Tabasco turned from cultivation to importation from Mexico and South America.

Avery towers over the flat marshes of the Louisiana coast, 163 feet above sea level, but rising sea levels threaten the island's perimeter. The salt dome is surrounded by marshes, a couple of miles from Vermilion Bay, the site of extensive oil and gas operations.  Every year salt water from the bay intrudes 30 feet into the marsh, killing it and turning what was once marshland into open tidal flats.  Storms also grind away at the island, as it sinks a third of an inch a year.  Two more feet of sea level rise according to NOAA will leave only the highest elevations of the island above water.  All of this concerns the family making Tabasco, who are taking action to stop further erosion of their idyllic island home. [photo credit: Tabasco].  A family member said, "we could make Tabasco somewhere else. But this is more than a business: this is our home.”

the 'great wall' of LA built to protect New Orleans
Avery Island's predicament is not unique.  Louisiana looses a football field of land every 100 minutes.  Since the 1930s the state has lost land the size of Delaware stemming from over-development of the Mississippi river, an unquestioning embrace of extensive drilling, and now the wrenching global consequences of climate change. Wetlands have disappeared as extensive channelization and levee building in the Mississippi Delta has drastically curtailed sediment deposition. Western Louisiana where Avery Island is located faces the most dire consequences of sea rise.  Almost all of its barrier wetlands are gone, a consequence of oil and gas infrastructure building, which allows hurricanes to plow ashore unobstructed.    Consequently, the state has decided to put all of its funds into restoring natural land barriers in the eastern part of the state.  Most residents of the Louisiana coast do not have the means to construct extensive flood protection, unlike the Tabasco company which wrapped its building in a 17 ft high dike after a hurricane flooded the island's interior.  To its credit, the company is working hard to restore wetlands and provide habitat for the wild creatures such as black bears, snowy egrets, and alligators that still live there.  The drowning of coastal Louisiana is a reality that cannot be denied.

But here is the intersection of reality and politics motivated by greed: more Repugnants are now skeptical of the human cause of global warming than before.  A poll released by Gallup shows that people who identify themselves as Democrats overwhelmingly think that global warming is happening now and it is caused by humans. (89%).  Only 40% of people who consider themselves Repugnant think global warming is anthropogenic, down from 35% a year ago.  What is astounding about these figures is the capacity of the human animal to deceive itself for the sake of Mammon.