Friday, September 09, 2005

the obligatory katrina post

It was asked in the comments of the last post what Bodie's thoughts were on Katrina. I'm not sure what he thinks, but here's my $.02, just in case you were wondering...

Katrina, Katrina, Katrina. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? What do I think about Katrina? I think it was a massive hurricane that resulted in a horrible tragedy. Hurricanes happen. We’ve seen it year after year, and if you look at historical meteorological data, we’ve been in a hurricane lull for quite a while (until now, that is). It should be no surprise to anyone that a large hurricane hit the gulf coast. The lack of preparedness is what is so shocking.

I want to make it clear that I am in no way blaming the people that live there. Yes, they chose to live in a city below sea level surrounded by levees on all sides in a historic swamp. Yes, everyone knew that a hurricane could hit New Orleans. However, they had been lulled into a false sense of security by these levees. Why would the Army Corps of Engineers build levees to protect a city if there was a chance they could fail? Common sense makes people think that it would be silly to enable a city to grow with protections that wouldn’t withstand natural occurrences.

I don’t want to turn this into a political debacle. Democrats are saying that the Republicans ignored the problem and we need to blame someone. Republicans are saying that Democrats need to get over it and move on with the relief effort. In reality, both sides are partially right. The situation was handled poorly. People fucked up. We do need to move ahead with the relief effort. We also need to figure out what went wrong so something like this doesn’t happen again. We can’t stop natural disasters. We can be as ready as possible though.

Should New Orleans be re-built? No. Maybe it’s easier for me to say this because I didn’t live there, and I’ve never even visited. From what I understand, it was an amazing city, full of culture and life and music and art. It was also an extremely poor, depressed city. It was a city in a never-ending battle to control nature. What happens when we spend billions of dollars rebuilding it and another category 4 hurricane comes through? What if it hits a little further west this time and does even more damage? Do we simply keep rebuilding?

And no, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t rebuild it because it was poor. If the OC was in a similar situation, I’d say the same thing (okay, maybe that’s a bad example). What about San Francisco? I love that city. If it was in an area that had 8.0 earthquakes every 10-20 years, I would suggest that we not keep rebuilding it (or at least build it to be able to withstand the worst). It is well known that we cannot continue to hold the Mississippi in. (For a really good discussion of this, check out John McPhee’s
The Control of Nature; one third of the book is devoted to the Mississippi.) How many times do we have to see this devastation? How much longer should we lead people to believe they are safe?

Here's a baby seal to make up for the depressing post.


Bodie said...

I agree with what you have said.

The part that bother me that you aren't really hearing though is that the people that live in New Orleans and the surrounding communities (whose voices are on TV anyway) claim total ignorance to the danger, and explicitly blame the "officials" for all of the city's whoes. I just don't buy that. These people have got to take some responsibility for their choices. Maybe they didn't chose to live in New Orleans, and maybe they didn't have means to leave, but it should have been a shock to nobody in a city surrounded by levees on a coast consistently at risk for hurricanes has some inherent risk of disaster. People have got to be aware of their situation or they will continue to be victims.

That said, over the last 50 years the system of trying to control the river has perpetuated through the expenditure of billions of taxpayer dollars a situation where people that live in the lower Mississippi drainage believe that they have an absolute right to be exactly where they are, which is consistently in the path of flood and disaster. It is time we stop subsidizing recklessness and take this disaster as an opportunity to move forward with a sustainable management plan for the lower river. I am tired of paying flood relief every 5 to ten years to the same farmers that lose everything in a flood.

countjrg said...

NICE BODIE! Of course I'd like to see farm subsidizes go entirely, but very well said!