It is quiet as can be and all I can hear are the sounds of bugs chirping. To be honest I am not entirely certain what type of insects they are. Maybe that pegs me as a “City Girl,” but I don’t mind the title this week because I am definitely out of my element. I am lucky enough to be working down deep in the Gulf Coast re-planting wetlands and cleaning up the oil spill. I am volunteering with a wonderful non-profit called Restore the Earth. Just as the name implies, Restore the Earth, works to re-generate the environment. They are a dedicated team who has worked tirelessly to re-plant wetlands that are disappearing at an alarming rate.

So here is the situation: I am down here for one week with 30 other volunteers from around the country. We are all staying in cabins at the “End of the world” as locals say, but I like to say we are at the end of Louisiana’s boot. Actually we are in a region called Pass a Loutre, a part of Plaquemines Parish. During our time here we are planting over 4,000 mangroves and native grasses directly where the Gulf of Mexico has come into the Mississippi channels. On top of re-planting the wetlands, which are disappearing at an alarming rate, the soil in the mangroves and grasses contains oil eating microbes. This is to combat the damage still ravaging the land and water here in Louisiana due to the Deepwater Horizon spill which occurred last year.

Restoring the wetlands is vital to Louisiana, New Orleans, and the entire country. The wetlands are a natural habitat for the state bird, the brown pelican, as well as many other native species. They also act as a natural barrier or shall we say levy to protect the city of New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast. In addition, the locals, which include Houma Indians and Cajun French, live off the water via fishing. In fact 30% of seafood sold in the US comes from this area. However, the wetlands are disappearing fast and have been drastically doing so since the 1930’s. In fact, we have already surpassed the 2050 predictions for the amount of wetland degradation. Experts say every year, wetlands the size of Manhattan disappear!

Hurricane Katrina was a tough lesson about the necessity of wetlands (they drop storm surges down by miles). And the recent oil spill just adds salt to old wounds. On top of degradation, now the remaining wetlands have to deal with contamination. This hurts more than plants including fish, birds, alligators, and humans alike. Restore the Earth and others like them are looking to reverse the damage through their Gulf Saver initiative.

In the week I am here, I will be re-planting an entire stretch of wetlands with my fellow volunteers. Please be on the lookout for other blogs detailing my adventure. There is a deep connection between water, land, plants, animals, and humans here and we aim to balance it. Please join us on our journey.

Gina Williams