Tabasco sauce has been made atop the Avery Island salt dome for more 150 years, but climate change might be the top threat to the next 150.
See, Avery Island is in southern Louisiana, where from 2010 to 2016 the coastline receded at an average rate of a football field every 100 minutes, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune.
The 2,200-acre island towers above surrounding marshlands at 163 feet above sea level but still faces the threat of one day being swallowed up by rising sea levels brought on by global warming and canals dug by the oil and gas industry.
“It does worry us, and we are working hard to minimize the land loss,” Tony Simmons, who represents the seventh generation of Tabasco ownership in the McIlhenny family, told the Guardian. “I mean, we could make Tabasco somewhere else, but this is more than a business. This is our home.”
Specifically, it’s home to two of the three most important ingredients in Tabasco, salt and chili peppers, according to the Sierra Club. But in 2018, when the company will celebrate its 150th year in business, it’s a vulnerable home.
A sea-level increase of just two more feet would leave just the core of Avery Island above water, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And guess where sea levels are rising the fastest in the Western Hemisphere?
Right off the coast of Louisiana. If the trend continues, Avery Island could be rendered an island in the literal sense of the word.
To stave off the elements for as long as humanly possible, the McIlhenny Co. is pouring millions of dollars into its own levee, pump system and backup generators, while planting grasses to reclaim land in the marshes and orchestrating a broad effort to re-engineer the flow of water in and out of the surrounding bayous, the Times Picayune reported.
“A lot of oil canals were put in here in the ’30s or ’40s, but we learned very quickly that those were damaging,” Harold “Took” Osborn, executive vice president of McIhenny Co., told the newspaper. “We’ve been trying to plug those up ever since.”
Those canals make man-made wetlands nearly impossible, Oliver Houck, a Tulane University land-loss expert, told the Guardian.