Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Flooding in New Orleans
Here are shocking satelitte images of the flooding of New Orleans, before and after, from NASA. The picture of the flooding is on the top; the picture of New Orleans before the flooding is on the bottom.
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No, it's not an offensive suggestion. There is plenty to be said for the idea that it makes no sense to live in an area prone to terrible disasters each year. However, it would have been offensive (and unsound) had you argued that we shouldn't give aid to Katrina victims because they assumed the risk of living in an area prone to disastrous flooding from hurricanes. (A poster on the VC and I had a spat about exactly that earlier today.)
Many people will choose to move out of New Orleans after things settle down. I don't thing the city will fully recover from this; if it does, it will be many years from now. Still, I agree with you that hard decisions will need to be made about what to do to prevent something like this from happening again. Politically, I think the idea of abandoning New Orleans is a non-starter; practically, I don't see how you'd do it. You couldn't force people out. And I suppose while you could cut off all subsidies and refuse to give people flood insurance, governments would still be obligated (morally if not legally) to rescue people and provide assistance when the next hurricane strikes. Let's also not forget that there are good cultural and economic reasons to keep New Orleans around in some form.
Practical reforms that I think could work include:
1) Freezing all new development.
2) Forbidding redevelopment in the areas hardest hit by the storm (New Orleans east and the Lower Ninth Ward) by using eminent domain.
3) Heavily funding a wetland restoration program. (Spending, say, $10 billion now is worth saving $20 billion in damage later.)
4) Building a 30+ foot high gate to surround the French Quarter. (Such an idea has already been proposed, and at least it would save the most historical part of the city.)
Let's hope that, after all this has passed, New Orleans will have the political will to take the likely drastic steps that will be needed to ensure that there won't be another catastrophe like this.
By the way, I don't mean to be full of doom and gloom. In fact, this will be my last post concerning the hurricane. I was just concerned that people weren't realizing the magnitude of the disaster soon enough and felt compelled to spur people to action. I didn't target only this blog; I basically went down the Technorati list of the 100 most popular blogs and posted on or sent email to the most popular ones that didn't have any aid links on their sites. (I even emailed Amazon, Ebay, and Paypal, all of which finally put up donation links today.)
This is a legal blog, after all, not a disaster blog. And a good one at that. That's why I started reading it and will continue to do so, albeit by leeching of my Houston friends' wireless internet access.
Posted by: Stephen Aslett | Sep 1, 2005 2:15:32 AM
I know this is a sensitive topic, and my heart, prayers, and dollars all go out to the people that have been hurt, killed, or displaced by this accident. But I think it's worth asking at this point if we should really rebuild New Orleans.
It seems that most people are taking it for granted that we will, in fact, rebuild the city. This kind of seems like a stubborn, typically American attitude: if you knock it down, we'll build it right back!
But I just wonder whether this is the appropriate action. The city, after all, is almost entirely under sea level. I'm no civil engineer, but I wonder if we can ever build a levee system that can keep the city safe from hurricanes like Katrina. It seems to me to be increasingly possible that these terrible hurricane seasons are getting worse, possibly because of global warming. Why, then, spend all of the money and effort rebuilding a city that could easily get re-destroyed? Wouldn't it just encourage more deaths, more property loss, more widespread social and economic dislocation, and more homelessness? Why not cut our losses?
I apologize if this is offensive to Stephen or anyone else. I realize that these are sensitive issues and that this is a trying time for everyone. I just hope that by raising this concern (or rather, by being one of many, many people that raise this concern), we may hopefully spare ourselves from this type of pain and loss in the future.
Posted by: sensitive topic = anonymous | Sep 1, 2005 12:03:34 AM
It's still truly awful, but we were lucky in one respect: Mississippi suffered far more wind damage.
Here are recently released satellite photographs of the Mississippi coast:
It's possible to see a line of plywood where the waves must have stopped. The vast majority of houses in subdivisions (including what appears to be my uncle's) are gone.
Here's a representative photo (be sure to zoom in):
Posted by: Stephen Aslett | Aug 31, 2005 10:36:44 PM