Podcast by Environmentalist Sandy Rosenthal Gives New Voice to Important Issues


Sandy Rosenthal, the woman who pushed the Army Corp of Engineers to admit that faulty engineering was the cause of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, has started a new podcast – Beat the Big Guys, available on Apple, Google, Spotify and other podcast channels.

Rosenthal is also the author of the award-winning non-fiction book, Whispered in Water: Why the Levees Broke in Hurricane Katrina. Written over a five-year period, Whispered In Water talks about how the Corp spent $1 Million in taxpayer money to hide why the levees failed. “They ALMOST got away with it,” said Rosenthal.

Published just last year, Whispered in Water has already sold 2,000 copies. The book has received 5 awards and was reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly. In March 2021, Eric Hoffer Awards listed Rosenthal’s debut book as a Montaigne Medal Finalist. Rosenthal will be a featured author at the New Orleans Book Festival, October 21-23 at Tulane University. 

“Hosting a podcast was the natural next step after my book. I instantly saw the value of podcasts – their reach and possibilities – and how interesting it would be to interview these amazing guests including Lt. General Russel Honore,” said Rosenthal. Sometimes known as “The Ragin’ Cajun,” Honore coordinated military relief efforts as commander of Joint Task Force Hurricane Katrina. Through his Green Army, an alliance of civic, community, environmental groups and concerns citizens, Honore has tackled numerous environmental challenges in Louisiana.

“For 16 years people interviewed me. I heard the same questions over-and-over again. Now I can ask questions and talk about how to help other people beat the big guys,” she continued.  

Other guests who have joined Rosenthal on her podcasts include actor, comedian, producer Harry Shearer and environmentalist Sam Pratt who galvanized Hudson Valley residents to challenge a massive, coal-burning $300 million St. Lawrence Cement “Greenport project.” Until Pratt stepped up, construction of the plant had been considered a done deal. “He led the movement to stop it. The power of a single person is alive and well,” said Rosenthal. 

Late last week Rosenthal interviewed high-powered executives Ariella Steinborn and Amber Scorah, Founders of Lioness, a media relations firm that helps clients tell their stories. The pair provide free communications guidance to female victims of workplace abuse. They vet the women’s stories and connect them to the appropriate members of the media.  

Rosenthal feels the environmental movement in Louisiana is making headway. “I am encouraged that it looks like the Formosa plant is being stopped and will never see the light of day due to the hard work of very engaged people including General Honore, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Rise St. James and other community leaders where the plant was supposed to go,” she said.  

A faith-based grassroots organization formed to advocate for racial and environmental justice in St. James Parish, Rise St. James has been fighting against the Formosa plant in part because graves of people enslaved on former plantations have been discovered on the plant’s proposed footprint. Since the 1990’s, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade has partnered with communities close to industrial sites that pollute air, water and soil. 

Formosa Plastics Group operates three existing facilities in Louisiana with more than 400 employees in Baton Rouge and Point Coupee Parishes. Its main businesses include oil refining, petrochemicals, plastics, fibers, textiles, electronics, energy, steel, transportation, machinery, healthcare and biotech. 

They announced plans to construct a $9.4 billion chemical manufacturing complex on a 2,400-acre site in St. James Parish just downriver from the Sunshine Bridge in Welcome, Louisiana. Governor John Bel Edwards supports the project because of the projected 8,000 construction jobs at peak, even more permanent jobs upon completion and its alleged multi-billion impact on earnings and business purchases for decades. St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel said the plant would double the parish’s tax base and be the area’s largest industry. 

The New Orleans City Council voiced their opposition to the project last April because of its potential effect on the health and environment of nearby residents in St. James Parish and even New Orleanians. Environmental and health advocates have long labeled the industrial areas along the Mississippi between Baton Rouge and New Orleans as “Cancer Alley.”

On May 19, Rosenthal traveled to the Center for Coastal and Deltaic Solutions in Baton Rouge to hear Governor John Bel Edwards’ speak on the passage of the Master Plan which includes the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion Project. “It’s been about 30 or 40 years in the making. We have a long way to go. It’s too soon to relax until we take more action against the oil and gas industry. The master plan is only going to mitigate damage already caused. Stopping the Formosa Plant is just the start. We need to do more,” explained Rosenthal.

The people of Louisiana alone cannot stop big oil and gas, she said. “Sometimes industry has too much money and the people need some help. But we have had some successes. The power of the people is alive and well.” 

Rosenthal says she is thrilled to be included in the upcoming New Orleans Book Festival. “I will get to rub elbows with some amazing authors,” Rosenthal said. Co-chaired by former First Lady Cheryl Landrieu and biographer Walt Isaacson, the festival will feature both fiction and non-fiction works and offer readings, panel discussions, symposia and keynote speeches. All festival events will take place on Tulane’s uptown campus. Proceeds from the festival will benefit the university’s academic mission.  

An activist and philanthropist, Rosenthal founded Levees.Org with her son Stanford Rosenthal shortly after Hurricane Katrina to educate citizens about causes of the levee failures and catastrophic flooding.  

A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, she earned a MBA from Tulane University. In 2018 Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business named her Outstanding Social Entrepreneur of the Year. She received the Pioneer of Purpose Award from Dillard University in 2016 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Louisiana Center for Women and Government at Nicholls State University in 2008.  She also served as an adviser to Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s Coastal Communities Campaign, was a member of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Transition Team Task Force on Flood Protection and is an advisor to the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.        

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