Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Brief Word About Complications

My intention is to get all of the photos up this week (a lofty goal since it's beginning to look a lot like spring, and my attention span goes directly outside where it wants to be for the next 3-4 months), but I do very quickly want to point out something that was mentioned the other day.

I was called out for my supposed "misunderstanding" of the Katrina situation and for falsely attributing post-Katrina damage to the storm itself instead of noting that the bulk of damage came from government neglect of the levee structure or faulty engineering.

But here's the thing- my limited knowledge still tells me that the entire situation is such a perfect storm of complications, it's impossible to isolate one single aspect as "The Thing" that was the tipping point of damage. Even putting aside all the difficulties of evacuation, the socio-economic problems, the poorly up-kept levees, and all of the things that made headlines there are still other problems that contributed to the damage. Over a hundred years ago, loggers and watermen began changing water patterns which led to the complex series of canals and dams that keeps the Mississippi where it belongs and created a more direct route from Lake Ponchartrain to the Gulf. All of these land-moving initiatives and bridge innovations were crucial in the early planning of central New Orleans, but ultimately man's taking over of nature has a price.

Some of the problems with flooding came from storm surge coupled with a man-made change in water flow patterns. Even if the levees had held, it would have been a problematic situation.

In hind sight, I'm sure, we'll find many times over that our man-ipulations (see what I did there? How clever!) of nature upset the natural balances and flows that keep everything where it should be. There are some theorists who conjecture that the recent spike in violent hurricanes is due to changing global weather patterns which; although periodically throughout recorded history these anamolies occur; some attribute to global warming and other indications of our presence on this earth.

I am not comfortable with camping out in any one facet as "The Thing" that tipped the damage from terrible to catastrophic. In all of the infinite complexities, there were failures and coincidences and things both in and out of peoples' control that went wrong.

This is not unique to New Orleans. Inner-city problems in most urban areas, are complex issues of power balance, natural resources, generational poverty, antiquated laws, and a host of other aspects that contribute. Toss in an unanticipated natural disaster and it's chaos.

There is still so much for me to read and learn about this situation. But I did want to point out that I'm not on board yet, and possibly won't be, with isolating any one particular aspect. It's all intertwined, it's all crucial, and it's difficult to mete out responsibility in that fashion.

More photos of glorious Crescent City to come this week! I miss it terribly already.

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