Southeastern's Burley publishes book on land loss in coastal Louisiana
Contact: Tonya Lowentritt
HAMMOND – To most longtime residents of south Louisiana – many with roots that go back generations – the land here is special, according to a Southeastern Louisiana University sociologist.
And losing that land, through ongoing coastal erosion and subsidence, has lifelong impacts on their lives, says David Burley, assistant professor of sociology, who has published a new book about land loss in Louisiana.
“Losing Ground: Identity and Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana” explores how coastal Louisianans communicate the significance of place and environment. Through interviews taken before the 2005 hurricanes, Burley, a New Orleans native, helps illustrate the residents’ sense of urgency and fear about losing their property, familiar surroundings and their identity.
“It’s about what it is like to lose the place you live. But, more than that, to lose the place you live slowly while feeling powerless to do anything about it,” Burley said. “The book is based on interviews with coastal Louisiana residents. As they speak about land loss, they discuss the oil and gas industry at length, and I give a brief history of the impact of the business on the region.
“In light of the BP oil spill, their comments take on an even stronger meaning,” he added. “The oil spill disaster adds to the daily loss of land that the residents of the coast have been experiencing for two generations now, much of it caused by other activities of the oil and gas industry.”
Burley said the idea for the book came out of his deep interest in environmental sociology and the work he was doing as a graduate student at UNO on a project studying coastal communities for the Center for Hazards, Assessment, Response, and Technology (CHART).
“I also think the book is about hope, a hope that we can do things differently in ways that empower communities and promote healthy environments,” Burley added. “I hope people see the urgency of coastal land loss and, most importantly, the need to deeply involve local residents in the restoration of their home.”
The book is available from the publisher, the University Press of Mississippi, or from Amazon.com and other popular online sellers, as well as Barnes and Noble in Mandeville.