By Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation
Next in our Faces of the Delta series, you will meet Justin Mack: New Orleans native, environmental educator and restoration advocate.
Name: Justin Mack
Location: Lower 9th Ward, New Orleans, Louisiana
Occupation: Science Coordinator at Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School in the Lower 9th Ward
Tell me about your connection to south Louisiana. I was born in New Orleans and moved to Houston as a child. I came back to New Orleans for grad school at LSU in February 2005, and I have family here.
What does south Louisiana mean to you? South Louisiana is the cultural heart of the state. It’s a major economic and cultural heart of the south.
What are your favorite things about the area? I enjoy the laid-back lifestyle, food and fun!
How has coastal land loss impacted your life? The destruction of Hurricane Katrina. I started grad school the month Hurricane Katrina came and I worked in the East Jefferson Hospital at night. My school was uprooted and moved to Baton Rouge. I lived in the hospital for a month, sleeping in a hospital room.
I came to MLK School in the Spring of 2008. Today, the students are more aware of their environment.
Why do you think coastal restoration efforts are important? Restoration is most important because it protects people and the community from future flooding and disaster. It maintains human life.
What obstacles do you see hindering restoration? Lack of funding and mistrust of the Army Corps and government (in New Orleans).
What do you fear losing if we don’t take action to restore coastal Louisiana? The ability to recover because people will lose their fight and the nation will lose interest.
What should people around the country know about efforts to rebuild New Orleans and surrounding communities and protect this area from another powerful storm that they don’t know right now? Where someone chooses to live somewhere — it’s their right to live there. No one’s home or community is more important than others.
How do you think restoring the wetlands will help the people and the economy of coastal Louisiana/the state/the nation? The fishing industry would be helped because you restore ecosystems to bring back fish, crustaceans and other wildlife. Restoring the coast also creates green jobs. It will also give people confidence in their home so they will feel comfortable and safe. It will be good for people to see things getting done (restore confidence in the government).