It is a challenge, how to think about the tragedy that is New Orleans and the gulf coast.
Puzzling over why such a thing happens
combines thoughts about physical realities, planning
processes, degrees of knowledge and science.
Having recently returned from a month in Amsterdam it is eye opening to realize that
the physical history of the two cities, Amsterdam and New Orleans, are so similar.
Over a period of 500 years the Dutch managed to construct dikes, canals
and windmill driven pumps to support the growth of a thriving city built
on a sinking peet bog. They defied the North Sea, the Amstel river and the Zuiderzee, an enormous brackish lake.
Similarly, New Orleans sits below sea level on a sinking peet bog bordered by a
river - the MIssissippi, an ocean - The Gulf of Mexico, and a large brackish lake - lake Pontchartrain.
The two cities adopted similar methods of controlling water and protecting valuable real
estate and these methods have worked for a considerable length of time.
To my way of seeing things the difference today, in preparedness for extremes, lies in different degrees of willingness to
accept and act upon the sciences of environmental study. There is a lot of discussion now about whether the severity
of Katrina is a product of global warming and why New Orleans and the surrounding areas have been
shorted on funds for levee improvements in spite of good science and appeals for help.
There is no clear answer about why New Orleans was not better prepared and scientists are among the first to
answer with caution. But the difference I see between the Netherlands and Louisiana is the recognition
that climatic change is occurring in an unprecedented manner and unprecedented events of water inundations
are a probability to be planned for.
The August 19, 2005 issue of this newsletter offered a brief reference to The Internationale
Architectuur Biennale, Rotterdam, May 26-June 26, 2005 titled "The Flood" which focused upon long range planning
for anticipated extreme changes in ocean levels and implications for global coastal communities. Attendence
at the conference was well represented globally; unfortunately (unfortunate from my perspective) Americans were
I listened to an interview on NPR with a professor from Louisiana State University who spoke of the extensive levee
systems of south Louisiana that protect real estate valued at $150 billion. These are lands devoted to
agriculture, oil, gas and tourism. One would have hoped that the best of science and long range planning
would be sought and applied to protect such assets.
The following are links that cover various views expressed in recent days about the role of global warning reflected
in the power of Katrina and other storms expected to come.
Katrina's real name
By Ross Gelbspan | August 30, 2005
Web Link - http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2005/08/30/katrinas_real_name/
Storm Turns Focus to Global Warming
By Miguel Bustillo, Times Staff Writer - August 30, 2005
Los Angeles Times
Web Link - http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-warm30aug30,1,2676962.story?ctrack=1&cset=true
Experts Foresee More Katrinas
Brace for more hurricanes, say experts
Agence France-Presse, August 31, 2005
Web Link - http://www.heatisonline.org/contentserver/objecthandlers/index.cfm?id=5448&method=full
NOAA RAISES THE 2005 ATLANTIC HURRICANE SEASON OUTLOOK
Bulk of This Season's Storms Still to Come
Aug. 30, 2005
Web Link - http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2005/s2484.htm
NOAA CONDUCTS AERIAL SURVEY OF REGIONS RAVAGED BY HURRICANE KATRINA
Aug. 30, 2005
Web Link - http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2005/s2495.htm
Stormy Weather: Can We Link it to Global Warming?
By Jim Motavalli
Web Link - http://www.emagazine.com/view/?2865
Corporate chain stores are consuming undeveloped land at a staggering pace. According to some
estimates, retail space per capita in the U.S. has tripled in the last twenty years.
That's not even
counting the acres of parking and miles of roadways needed to access these sprawling
developments. Most of this growth has been in the form of big box stores. A typical big box
store is three to seven times the size of a football field. It requires 1,000 parking spaces and
generates 10,000 car trips every day. Even smaller chain stores are typically designed to
encourage driving and inhibit walking and other forms of transit. The consequences include
habitat loss and rapidly escalating amounts of air pollution and storm water runoff. This massive
over-building has also led to an epidemic of vacancy as downtowns and older shopping centers
close down. The U.S. is now home to more than 500 million square feet of vacant retail space.
Rebuilding Community-Rooted Enterprise
Stacy Mitchell, Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Author, "Hometown Advantage"
Web Link - Rebuilding Community-Rooted Enterprise
Following is a link to a PDF file addressing agendas and opportunities for - "A socially, environmentally and financially
sustainable global economy must be composed of
sustainable local economies."
Local Living Economies: The New Movement for Responsible Business
By Judy Wicks
President of the White Dog Cafe and Co-Founder of Business Alliance for Local Living Economies
Web Link - The New Movement for Responsible Business