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Two Years After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Still Hurts
Emily Gertz, 17 Aug 07

Here in the United States, we have a metaphorical "north and south" in addition to the historical domestic North and South. The fracture points between them are often those of income and livelihood. Such social and economic dynamics are playing out in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, where the poorer population was, and seems to remain, more at risk and more burdened in the aftermath.

In today's edition of The New York Times, reporter (and, full disclosure, acquaintance via online community) John Schwartz chronicles the rebuilding effort. Two years after the storm and over one billion US dollars into reconstruction, much of the city would still be under water if another storm on the order of Katrina hit the city. And where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has most successfully rebuilt flood controls, they're protecting more prosperous neighborhoods, while poorer ones remain at high risk -- such as the Gentilly neighborhood, which would see water levels reduced by a whole six inches if another "once in a century" flood hits the area. Meanwhile, nearby and more wealthy Lakeview would see the water drop by about five and a half feet.

The entire flood system still provides much less protection than New Orleans needs, and the pre-Katrina patchwork of levees, floodwalls and gates that a Corps of Engineers investigation called “a system in name only” is still just that.

The corps has strengthened miles of floodwalls, but not always in places where people live. It has built up breached walls on the east side of one major canal, but left the west side, which stood up to Hurricane Katrina, lower and thus more vulnerable. It has not closed the canals that have often been described as funnels for floodwaters into the city.

And its most successful work, building enormous floodgates to cut off the fingerlike canals that brought so much flooding into the city, had a divisive effect. The gates now protect prosperous neighborhoods like Lakeview, and though corps officials say there has been no favoritism, the effect has been to draw out old resentments and conspiracy theories in a city that never lacked for them.

One of the best words on what could be for New Orleans is Alan AtKisson's Sept. 2005 Worldchanging post on Dreaming a New New Orleans. I'm going to look around in the coming week and try to chronicle the efforts of those who are bringing his vision about.

Alex has written this week on possibilities for equitable solutions to portioning out the costs of mitigating atmospheric carbon pollution between the Global North and South. We're going to need equally creative action -- domestically as well as internationally -- to portion out these costs (whose neighborhoods are saved? whose are lost?), and ensure that everyone gets the benefits of protection from climate disruption's impacts.

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whoa this article is sooooo amazing

Posted by: doodoo head on 4 Sep 07

whoa this article is sooooo amazing

Posted by: doodoo head on 4 Sep 07



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