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Honors College Convocation

Honors College Convocation

Mike Tidwell addresses Honors College Convocation

LSU Honors Convocation:

Students Welcomed Back, Author Mike Tidwell Reflects on Hurricane Katrina, Importance of Coastal Restoration


Some 500 students, faculty, staff and members of the community came together as the LSU Honors College welcomed their students back to campus and officially kicked off the fall semester at the LSU Honors College Convocation on Aug. 26.

            LSU Honors College Dean Nancy Clark and LSU Chancellor Michael Martin welcomed the students to campus, and Mike Tidwell, author of “Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast,” addressed them on the importance of coastal restoration in Louisiana.

“To all of the honors students, know how pleased we are to have you as part of the LSU campus,” Martin said. “It’s been a wonderful journey for the Honors College with the growth and development that’s taken place. While it depends heavily on a strong dean and great faculty participation, ultimately, it comes down to the students and engaging students in the very significant challenges of being an honors student at this institution, and then carrying our flag as you go out beyond this place in 2013.”

            This year’s convocation highlighted Tidwell’s “Bayou Farewell,” a book that is being read by the honors freshmen and will be used in many of their honors classes. Martin told the students of the importance of them reading “Bayou Farewell” and how their studies at LSU can impact the coast and the issues regarding coastal erosion.

            “As you may know in our Flagship Agenda, we have launched some larger initiatives across the campus, and one of those is Big Coast,” Martin said. “We look to focus this on what LSU can do both in research, education and ultimately engagement to help address many of the issues that Mike addresses in his book. So reading and studying ‘Bayou Farewell’ fits in perfectly with who we are, how we intend to serve this state, and it’s a kickoff to a great fall.”

            After being introduced by Robert Twilley, LSU associate vice chancellor of research and economic development, director of the Coastal Sustainability Agenda and professor in the LSU Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Tidwell opened his discussion with a moment of silence to recognize the hundreds of people who were killed, the millions who were displaced and everyone overall who was affected during Hurricane Katrina four years ago.

            Tidwell talked to the group about his travels through southern Louisiana in 1999, five years before Hurricane Katrina devastated the area, and the issues he saw regarding the effects of coastal erosion.

            “My goal tonight is not just to help educate you a little bit better,” Tidwell said. “My goal is not just to inspire you to be a bit better. My goal is to move you into action the way that I’ve been moving into action. I’m not even from Louisiana, and I care this deeply and want to preserve the coastline. Those of you who are from Louisiana should do the same. You should take action.”

            Tidwell talked about the ways students could get involved with groups such as the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Restore or Retreat and the Gulf Restoration Network. He told students that grassroots efforts are some of the most effective methods to take.

            “Levees alone are not enough; we have to have coastal restoration,” he said. “I come to you just a few days before the fourth anniversary of Katrina to appeal to you that our work is incomplete. We are just as vulnerable in South Louisiana to a major hurricane at this date as the country was on Aug. 28, 2005, and it is your voice – the grassroots organizing – it is the insistence that we don’t need a second Katrina to learn our lesson to rebuild this coast.”

            Tidwell is an author and filmmaker, and in his 2003 book, “Bayou Farewell,” he predicted the Hurricane Katrina disaster. He has written five books centered on the themes of travel and nature. These include “Amazon Stranger,” detailing efforts to save the Ecuadorian rain forest, and “In the Mountains of Heaven,” chronicling travels to exotic lands across the globe. His newest book, focusing on Hurricane Katrina and global warming, is titled “The Ravaging Tide: Strange Weather, Future Katrinas and the Coming Death of America’s Coastal Cities.” His most recent documentary film, “We Are All Smith Islanders,” vividly depicts the dangers of global warming in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

            Tidwell is founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. He has been featured in numerous media outlets including NBC’s Meet the Press, NPR, the New York Times and the Washington Post. He is also the co-host of the nationally syndicated radio show “Earthbeat,” which features ground breaking global warming news and interviews live from the nation’s capital. 

            Tidwell, a 1984 graduate of the University of Georgia, received the Audubon Naturalist Society’s prestigious “Conservation Award” in 2003. Two years later, he received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Nicholls State University. A long-time resident of Maryland, Tidwell lives in Takoma Park with his eleven-year-old son, Sasha.

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