Written by Carolyn Heneghan
Green New Deal 101: NOLA Musicians’ Edition
Climate change legislation may not be top-of-mind for New Orleans musicians and music lovers. But as a city historically impacted by extreme weather conditions, from hurricanes to street flooding, the effects of climate change beg the attention of all of us, including local artists.
The Green New Deal resolution itself has had a bumpy introduction within Congress, but behind the scenes it is better understood as a 10-year mobilization effort wherein policy is just one part--albeit an important one--of this multi-tiered movement. The Green New Deal proposal reignited the national conversation around a need for legislation addressing critical climate change challenges just as 2020 presidential and congressional candidates begin their campaigns.
So why does something like the Green New Deal matter to New Orleans music professionals? This quick snapshot breaks down parts of the Green New Deal--and related legislation to come --that will be critical to the future of New Orleans’ ecological and economic stability, including the arts, entertainment, and tourism industries.
1. More extreme and severe weather conditions translates to more intense hurricane seasons.
The simmering quiet of the summer is tough enough on New Orleans musicians and their finances. If hurricane seasons intensify or lengthen, artists may miss out on additional commissions from early fall tourism bumps, like fall festivals and conference season.
2. Polluted drains continue to be more prone to flooding.
If load-ins weren’t logistical nightmares already in this city, imagine how much more mental gymnastics artists will have touting gear to gigs when streets start flooding during low to moderate rainstorms.
3. More regular severe weather could mean more mass migrations from the city.
Knocking on wood while typing this, but if the city is due another more intense storm, that could be the final push for a wave of people to migrate from New Orleans, similar to the early post-Katrina years.
Locals already end up leaving the city for a variety of reasons, from employment to lifestyle changes, but more intense weather patterns could also put a damper on local tourism. Besides the threat of hurricanes, more severe weather patterns could also mean even higher summer heat and humidity, more humidity in the winter, and other less than desirable weather patterns that could keep tourists from visiting the city.
If more people leave the city, on top of tourists not visiting as often, that means fewer people to leave dollars in tip jars, pay a door cover, or buy drinks at the bar--all critical to musicians’ percentages and take-home pay.
4. Severe weather means increased risk of damage to public infrastructure and real estate.
Potholes--do you really want more of them? A city built on a swamp continues to sink slowly but surely over time, unabated and unsurprisingly to the locally initiated. But the destruction to infrastructure we both gripe and meme about could intensify if exacerbated by frequent floods saturating the ground these buildings stand on.
And, not only does street flooding cause complications while the water is still rising or lingering. But even after the floodwaters have drained and dried, severe flooding risks costly damage to music venues as well as homes and cars of artists, audio engineers, etc. and all their equipment housed inside.
5. Musicians deserve better and more guaranteed pay for their performances.
Last but certainly not least, this “New Deal” legislation proposal isn’t solely about climate change. Like the original New Deal, this resolution also calls for greater awareness of stark income inequality (sound familiar, New Orleans?), wage stagnation, and a lack of good, high-wage jobs, including for those in the creative sector.
Learn more about this climate change activist movement by attending the upcoming Gulf South Green New Deal Town Hall on May 7th.
Note: The Green New Deal is not a bill in the traditional sense of proposing legislation in Congress. Suffice to say, it may be time for a nationwide revisiting of Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill.” Instead, this resolution merely brings awareness to the intensity and timeline of the environmental crisis we currently face by utilizing congressional legislative tools to bring these talking points forward on the national stage.
Carolyn Heneghan is a New Orleans writer covering all things relevant to informing the local community about impacting rather than just existing in their environment. Read more of her work at carolynheneghan.com. If you are lucky, she might be available to write for you.