Just watched Hurricane on the Bayou, a simple yet poignant look at Hurricane Katrina through the eyes of two musicians. The documentary tells the story of these two individuals, a man who lives in the wetlands and a teenage girl from New Orleans, who got together to raise awareness of the importance of the wetlands to hurricane mitigation specifically and the local biosphere in general.
The 40+ minute documentary is generally well done and provides an intriguing, if brief, look at the wetlands and their important role. Hurricane on the Bayou never mentions global warming or climate change, focusing instead on man’s land use impacts, specifically (i) the levees that have prevented the seasonal flooding responsible for transporting silt that would otherwise rejuvenate and restore the wetlands, and (ii) the canals that were built through the wetlands for navigation convenience, but which have unfortunately allowed a significant influx of salt water, killing many of the plants that would normally inhabit this ecosystem. The only thing that could even be construed as global warming related is the reference to the fact that the loop current in the Gulf was approximately 2 degrees warmer than usual at the time of Hurricane Katrina, which experts believe may have contributed to Katrina’s large size (although if memory serves, in terms of strength Katrina had dropped to a category 3 by the time it made landfall).
Thus it was all the more strange to hear Dr. Heidi Cullen introduce the film in the following words: “This is climate expert Dr. Heidi Cullen of The Weather Channel, where we are dedicated to helping you understand the facts about climate change.” She goes on to say that the wetlands are an important part of the ecosystem, which is why The Weather Channel was proud to support the film. Given that the film was introduced with this climate change statement, I was prepared for the worst and wondered if I could endure 40+ minutes of tenuous climate change ties to Katrina, but, thankfully, the film itself did not stoop to this level.
Perhaps this reference to climate change is just a standard PR one-liner The Weather Channel throws in, regardless of whether what follows has anything at all to do with climate change. Perhaps Dr. Cullen didn’t actually watch the film before introducing it and just assumed it would tie Katrina to climate change — after all, Al Gore clearly implied in his Oscar-winning “documentary” that Katrina was a result of human-induced climate change. Perhaps the producers got The Weather Channel to sponsor the film by saying they were going to study the impact of “human activities” on the Bayou, and someone at the Weather Channel just assumed they must be talking about climate change. Whatever the reason, Dr. Cullen’s introductory reference to climate change was an obvious, if minor, sore thumb sticking out from an otherwise enjoyable and down-to-earth production.