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First U.S. Climate Refugees

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Although all of our eyes turned to the faces of the Louisiana bayous following the largest oil spill in U.S. history, we slowly adapted to Gulf Coast headlines moving below the fold to web only news -- to nothing.

Rachel Maddow recently revived pieces of this story with the startling coverage of the forensic examination on the Deepwater Horizon blowout preventer, but it was only after watching a few minutes of an in-development documentary that I got on-the-ground information on breaking news.

As a result of oil and gas industry negligence, residents of one of these same coastal communities, Isle de Jean Charles, are on a path to becoming the first U.S. climate refugees.

The opening sequence of Last Stand on the Island reveals that Southeast Louisiana is the fastest disappearing landmass on earth.

Every half hour, a piece of land the size of a football field slips into the Gulf of Mexico. Oil companies have dug 10,000 miles of canals through Louisiana's coast causing widespread saltwater erosion.
Isle de Jean Charles is sinking.

Oil companies left their mark on the island well before the most recent leak. They descended on Isle de Jean Charles in the 1930s and built no less than six oil rigs and endless vines of canals through oak and cypress forests, black mangroves, bird rushes and golden marshes. The canals funneled salt water into the Native American refuge and rapidly began to erode the land. After not finding oil, these companies conveniently jumped ship by the 1960s and left the once 24 square mile island gripping for life today at a half mile long and a quarter mile wide.

We meet Edison Dardar in The Last Stand on the Island, a man born on a fisherman's boat 74 years ago, a man whose grandfather and father grew up on the island, and a man who recently bought $200 worth of ammunition to fight for his sinking home. Following the five most recent hurricanes the island community has shrunk to just 25 families. For many, moving inland is not only financially unrealistic but it would mean the dissolution of their tribe, a band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaws that have lived together since the 1840s escaping the persecution of the mainland.

A word from the filmmakers, Evan Abramson and Carmen Elsa Lopez:

We were moved by Edison's unflinching passion for his island home. Despite the terror each hurricane brings to his little bit of land, he still remains. Even if he has to rebuild his house over and over again, it's his home. His grandpa died here, his daddy died here and so will he. "What will I do in the city? Stare at the highway?" asks Edison, making me question the value of my own urban existence amongst the multitude of traffic lights and cement walls in New York City.

Abramson and Lopez need your help to finish the story. It's possible that their film could help the island gain federal recognition to then better its chances of being included in the Morganza-to-the-Gulf Hurricane Protection Project, a 72-mile levee being built by US Army Corps of Engineers that is leaving out Isle de Jean Charles.

They're half-way to their April 10th goal of $10,000. I suggest you donate.

Become a fan of The Last Stand on the Island on facebook.

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