When the dust (or mud) settles, there will commence an argument over what to do next.
First, despite the President’s protest that “nobody expected levees to break”... the people of New Orleans knew something like this was looming. As illustrated by the predictions of countless local officials... as well as a silly sci fi author, years ago... the recent calamitous loss of an entire American city was not unexpected. The citizens of NoLa asked for help, often.
And, in fairness, for many years they got it. Till budgets for levee maintenance were cut. And their National Guard units got pulled away. And (arguably) storms grew exacerbated by warming seas... a confluence that hit especially hard on people who were living paycheck-to-paycheck in districts that never vote for today’s ruling clique.
But blame-casting is going on elsewhere. I want to turn constructive. So let’s put our priorities straight. Above all, this is a time for rapid action to help people. I’ve donated some money. Plan to give give more. Tomorrow I have an appointment to give blood. Do what you can.
And then, when this is over, join organizations that will maintain vigilance for you. (Recall “proxy power”... the modern way to be active, by hiring others to be active for you.) You might even look into some of the few “citizen reserve” programs that exist in some communities. Hospitals, fire departments and even police departments do have a few... though mostly for officers who change jobs but want to stay connected. (This is an area we all need to look at, in more detail.)
.But there’s more. Since we’re the forward looking futurist/modernists here - (right?) - it must also be our role to give serious thought to new ideas... considering what must change.
Shall we contemplate how this great city should be rebuilt?
First off, I do not believe in reflexive partisan hate fests. We should all triage our reactions, with an eye toward quashing reflex indignation. For example, I think it is wrong of the left to pile onto House Speaker Dennis Hastert, for off-the-cuff wondering if something else should be tried, other than simply rebuilding New Orleans exactly as it was.
Hastert Tries Damage Control after Remarks Hit a Nerve:
... House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert began his day yesterday explaining that he really does not want to see New Orleans bulldozed, and he ended it defending his absence from the Capitol when Congress approved a $10.5 billion hurricane aid package. In between, a former president hinted he would like to throttle the Illinois Republican....
(Well, for other reasons, I would not mind seeing Hastert get a little Three Stooges action. But that wish fantasy is irrelevant here.)
What is the most practical and beneficial way to help the people and the great city of New Orleans? What should be done with a below-sea-level isthmus of soggy, termite-ridden ground that lies between the Mississippi and a Gulf bay called Lake Pontchartrain? As was the case at 9/11 Ground Zero, this ravaged place deserves some pondering of alternatives.
First, let us admit that Hastert has a point. What made sense in 1718 is not true today. Glancing at geography, nobody in their right minds would build there right now, starting from scratch. We would not let them. And if we all do rebuild there, we will be committing our descendants to a hugely expensive ongoing war against groundwater, mildew, termites, and a river that has become the city’s worst enemy.
And yet... how can we not rebuild a city that was so grand and wonderful and fun...
...and where (one night) I was graciously handed the biggest darn Hugo Award in the history of science fiction. (More than a meter tall, it weighs half a ton. Well, kinda.)
So? Any suggestions what should be done?
I will start weighing in with a few unconventional possibilities. First with one that’s only a modest variation.
Suggestion #1: Use the same zone to rebuild a smaller/dispersed urban center.
Certain parts of NoLA can be restored as-was for historical cultural and tourist reasons. With new INTERNAL dike systems to protect what's rebuilt.
Some other areas can be raised, as they did with Galveston after a similar disaster.
But much could also be turned into low-lying parkland. As for the dispossessed, remake whole neighborhoods in more suitable areas above flood level. Do it well. Really well. So well that they’ll be happy, even if thousands no longer live in walking distance to Bourbon Street.
Next time, a suggestion that will be vastly more controversial.