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Photo Essay: A Sinking Louisiana Builds Climate Resilience

Louisiana residents have been among the first in the U.S. to feel the brunt of climate change.

As executive director of the KCETLink environmental series "Earth Focus" and Chief Correspondent, Visuals at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Nicky Milne traveled to Louisiana to report on how residents are building climate resilience. She photographed some of the beauty unique to the region and spoke to some of the people who are preventing Louisiana culture from sinking with its land.

Below we feature photographs of a post-Katrina Louisiana that is balancing cultural retention with climate adaptation, from the 9th Ward in New Orleans to sinking Isle de Jean Charles in Terrebonne Parish, the soon-to-be-former ancestral home of the Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians.

Scroll your mouse over the photos.

William Walters, a New Orleans resident photographed outside of his 9th Ward home.  | Nicky Milne/Thomson Reuters Foundation
New Orleans resident William Walters. | Nicky Milne/Thomson Reuters Foundation

Photo Essay: A Sinking Louisiana Builds Climate Resilience

William Walters, a resident of New Orleans' 9th Ward, says his neighborhood understanding the realities of climate change and learning to live with water.

Seagulls resting in front of several elevated homes in Louisiana. Nicky Milne/Thomson Reuters Foundation
Homes in New Orleans and across Louisiana are increasingly elevated to protect from flooding.   | Nicky Milne/Thomson Reuters Foundation

Photo Essay: A Sinking Louisiana Builds Climate Resilience

New Orleans is responding to extreme weather events with climate resilience programs. Arthur Johnson of the Center of Sustainable Engagement & Development says many more homes are being raised to mitigate damage from frequent floods. His organization runs public education and advocacy programs and helps build above-ground gardens to prevent homegrown fruits and vegetables from growing in the toxic soil left behind by floods.

A young boy wearing colorful regalia participates in a New Orleans parade. | Nicky Milne/Thomson Reuters Foundation
A young boy wears colorful regalia as he participates in a New Orleans parade. | Nicky Milne/Thomson Reuters Foundation

Photo Essay: A Sinking Louisiana Builds Climate Resilience

A young boy wears an orange suit and dons colorful regalia as he participates in a parade taking place on New Orleans streets. The beauty of New Orleans culture is at risk of washing away with the water, says 9th Ward resident Otis Tucker.

 Aerial image of Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana. (medium) | Nicky Milne/Thomson Reuters Foundation
Aerial image of Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana. (medium) | Nicky Milne/Thomson Reuters Foundation

Christopher Brunet, a resident of Isle de Jean Charles, whose family has lived there for seven generations, says the only mode of transportation to and from the island was by boat until a single road was built in the 1950s.This road has a history of frequent flooding, leaving residents stranded when they need to go to work or need medical services. Brunet says the sinking island is but a skeleton of the wildlife haven it once was. The tribe has lost 98 percent of its land to erosion and rising sea levels since 1955.

Albert P. Naquin is traditional chief of the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians, located in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. | Nicky Milne/Thomson Reuters Foundation
Albert P. Naquin is traditional chief of the Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians.Nicky Milne/Thomson Reuters Foundation

Photo Essay: A Sinking Louisiana Builds Climate Resilience

Albert P. Naquin, traditional chief of the Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians, compares the sinking of the island to watching a family member wither away with cancer. He and Chantelle Comardelle, the tribal executive secretary of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw band, say the subsiding Isle de Jean Charles is important because it has been home to the births, lives and burials of their ancestors. The tribe decided to resettle from its rapidly eroding ancestral land after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers realigned the Morganza to the Gulf levee, leaving the island out.

Chantelle Comardelle, the tribal executive secretary of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw band, walks with her family on the site destined for the tribe's relocation. | Nicky Milne/Thomson Reuters Foundation
Chantelle Comardelle walks with her family. | Nicky Milne/Thomson Reuters Foundation

Photo Essay: A Sinking Louisiana Builds Climate Resilience

Chantelle Comardelle, the tribal executive secretary of the Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians, walks with her family at the site designated for the tribe's relocation near Schriever, Louisiana. The resettlement is considered the first government-funded climate relocation program and a test pilot for future cases.

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