Thank you all for your wonderful participation yesterday. (LINK: to yesterday’s discussion of BAYOU FAREWELL by Mike Tidwell)
Now we know how we got here, to a place where Katrina could devastate the coast. Let’s use this diary to continue our discussion of the book and especially to talk about what happened to the coast during Katrina and what happens, or doesn’t, next.
Please bring any info you have found about post-Katrina and share your thoughts about the solutions.
And now, here’s Mike Tidwell writing after Katrina:
By Mike Tidwell
LINK: Complete Essay
. . .of the many shocking stories emerging from Katrina, here’s the most shocking: Right now, with similar irresponsibility, the Bush Administration is ignoring raw data and reports from its own agencies that say every single coastal city in America – from New York to Savannah to Los Angeles – could soon become a New Orleans. (. . .)
In all the recent coverage, the media seem to have uncritically accepted the very weird fact that the city of New Orleans lies below sea level. (. . .)New Orleans is a sunken, walled city essentially jutting out like an exposed chin toward the fast-approaching fist of the Gulf. Had Katrina struck two hundred or one hundred or even fifty years ago, the destruction would not have been the same. In 2005, there simply were no land structures left to slow Katrina’s sledgehammer blow.
The good news is there’s a plan to recreate much of that lost land. A detailed restoration scheme has been on the table since the 1990s to literally “re-engineer” the coast, according Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco. The plan is to build up to a dozen dam-like “control” structures right into the levees of the Mississippi. These would then release the sediment-thick water into canals or pipelines that would surgically direct the liquid soil toward the barrier islands and the buffering marshlands that need immediate restoration. This so-called “Coast 2050” plan (visit www.crcl.org) will take many years to fully implement, but the cost is ridiculously cheap at $14 billion. That’s just two weeks of spending in Iraq or the cost of Boston’s “Big Dig.” Yet tragically, like Louisiana’s pre-Katrina requests for federal help bolstering insufficient levees in New Orleans, the Bush Administration has spent four and a half years repeatedly refusing even modest investments in the larger coastal restoration efforts. Given the horror of Katrina, one can only assume the President will now reassess his budgetary priorities. As a nation, our first responsibility is to address the storm’s great humanitarian crisis of this storm. Beyond that, however, it would be criminally irresponsible of us to fix a single broken window in New Orleans or pick up a single piece of debris or fix a single cubic foot of levee without simultaneously committing – as a nation – to the massive plan to rebuild the entire Louisiana coast. To do one without the other is to simply set the table for the next nightmare hurricane.
Global warming: We all live in New Orleans now
(. . .a section on the world-wide effects of Global Warming on sea levels). . .turn on your TV right now. Look at New Orleans. Tomorrow is on full display at the 17th Street Canal and the littered Convention Center. It’s there in the 9th Ward rooftop evacuations and the military occupation of historic streets. Global warming, left unchecked, will spread New Orleans like a curse to every community within earshot of waves and tides. (. . .)
One Last Chance
If only we could turn back the clock 25 years and rebuild Louisiana’s marshes and barrier islands exactly the way those lonely activists – warning of an approaching Katrina – had been asking for over and over and over again. If only we could go back just a year or two and at least reinforce a few New Orleans levees. But we can’t go back. The clock has run out. The nightmare has come in full. But for all the world’s other coastal cities, there’s still time. We can avoid the mistakes of New Orleans or at least dramatically minimize them. We don’t need massive new levees right now to protect Miami. We need a rapid global switch to modern windmills for our electricity. We don’t need sea walls to save San Diego. We need hydrogen fuel cell cars and energy efficient appliances and bio-fuels. The Kyoto Protocol is just too expensive for our country to adopt, George Bush says, presumably the same way bolstering the 17th Street Canal levee was once deemed too expensive. We’re now spending billions of dollars and burying thousands of people because of that mistake. How much, in the end, will global warming cost us?