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Diary: Louisiana Underwater

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Diary: Louisiana Underwater

London Review of Books,

5 min read
4 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Changing climate may be altering the Louisiana landscape, but locals want to maintain the status quo.

Editorial Rating



  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


Rosa Lyster visits Louisiana during a climate and environmental degradation crisis – but no one she meets there seems to accept the reality of the situation. After four major weather events – including Hurricane Laura – in less than a year, residents fiercely rebuild to old specs, knowing that another weather event will soon ravage them again. Petrochemical plants Sasol and Citgo play an outsize role in the devastation due to their emissions and habitat destruction, but now, even erosion and weather threaten their infrastructure, too. In this strange, almost mystical hellscape, as Lyster writes in the New Yorker, she no longer wonders why everyone yells, “Be safe!” every time she leaves her motel room. 


Lake Charles in Louisiana is a harbinger for the destruction climate change can cause in coastal areas.

Lake Charles (pop. 80,000), which lies six hours by train from New Orleans, is surrounded by water on three sides: “a river, two lakes, three bayous and a shipping channel.” Petrochemical plants have polluted the air and the water. Hurricanes Laura and Delta destroyed buildings, and labor and materials are in short supply, so the city remains in disrepair months after the latest storm. When journalist Rose Lyster asked local architect Jolee Bonneval if the city expects more disasters soon, she replied “Yes, absolutely, and yes, the damage would be the same.”

Louisiana real estate publications advertise houses based on their resilience in a disaster. In parts of Lake Charles, floods ...

About the Author

Rosa Lyster has a book upcoming about the global water crisis and is also the author of a book of poetry, Modern Rasputin. Her work has appeared in numerous publications.

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