Canals cut through the marsh by oil companies are thought to be a primary cause of land loss around Isle de Jean Charles.

Gay Hanks became an environmental activist in Kaplan in 1978 after losing her young daughter to leukemia, a diagnosis she believed was to linked to their environment.

She founded the Vermilion Association to Protect the Environment and fought to close more than 50 oilfield waste sites in Vermilion Parish, and she helped rewrite regulations governing oil and gas exploration and development.

Hanks was one of many across Louisiana pioneering environmental activism in their communities, like Clara Baudoin and Florence “Flo” Gossen. They founded a grassroots organization called Save Our Homes and Land, sued the city of Lafayette and stopped a major expansion of a municipal solid waste landfill.

They continued their environmental activism, Gossen fighting a permit for a commercial injection disposal well north of Rayne and Baudoin serving in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1996-2008. She helped revise the solid waste regulations for the state.

Canals cut through the marsh by oil companies are thought to be a primary cause of land loss around Isle de Jean Charles.

Their stories have been documented, archived and curated through the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) in partnership with Louisiana State University, and soon they’ll be available for use in K-12 classrooms as part of a free, open-source curriculum being created through a grant from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

LEAN was awarded the $1.2 million grant and is partnering with professors at Tulane University and a group of Louisiana K-12 teachers to produce an environmental justice curriculum over the next five years.

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