This blog is closed. For more recent content, visit Chris Clarke's new site Coyote Crossing.

Creek Running North

<< Front and back | Main | Going home! >>

January 15, 2006

Abandoning NOLA

Mike Tidwell, in Orion, says what I have been uncharacteristically afraid to admit I've been thinking.

"[W]hile encouraging city residents to return home and declaring for the media audience that "we will do whatever it takes" to save the city, the President... formally refused the one thing New Orleans simply cannot live without: A restored network of barrier islands and coastal wetlands."

Tidwell details the astonishing loss of wetlands in Louisiana - an area the size of a football field every half hour - and points out that if Katrina had hit in 1945, when much of the wetland still remained, its storm surge would have been as much as ten feet lower by the time it hit the city.

I'm afraid Tidwell is right in his summation:

[S]top the repairs; put the brooms and chain saws away. Close the few businesses that have re-opened. Leave the levees in their tattered state and get out. Right now. Everybody. It's utterly unsafe to live there... To encourage people to return to New Orleans, as Bush is doing, without funding the only plan that can save the city from the next Big One, is to commit an act of mass homicide. If, after all the human suffering and expense of this national ordeal, the federal government can't be bothered to spend the cost of a tunnel from Logan Airport to downtown Boston, then the game is truly over."

Posted by Chris Clarke at January 15, 2006 06:08 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

1 blog(s) linking to this post:

Let's all pretend New Orleans will be OK!
Excerpt: Chris Clarke sees that we're Abandoning NOLA in Orion: "[W]hile encouraging city residents to return home and declaring for the media audience that "we will do whatever it takes" to save the city, the President... formally refused the one thing...
Weblog: Pharyngula
Tracked: January 16, 2006 11:41 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs


Yes we need better and stronger levees, but what American wants to abandon an entire American City? Would it be better to seek Congress to fund something other than a war? We made it safe for Iraqies to vote yet we have to postpone elections in New Orleans while Congress decides what to do about the countries largest natural disaster.

Posted by: JK Schwehm at January 15, 2006 06:47 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Couldn't agree more, JK, but that's just how serious Bush's refusal to fund the wetlands projects is.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at January 15, 2006 06:56 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

I'm living and blogging in New Orleans, and I agree there's little we can do here without significantly improving the levees. Coastal restoration is a good thing, but that's a 50 to 100 year project. We need levees, and we need them soon. If America is unable or unwilling to do this, tell us now so we can abandon the city sooner rather than later.

Posted by: Tim at January 15, 2006 07:13 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Ummm, better and stronger levees is par for the NOLA course for about 3 centuries. "Stand by levees" says the Army Corps of Engineers. But it's an endless struggle, a tragic hubris. There's no easy solution there - if there's a solution at all. In time, bigger levees will ultimately result in an elevated aquaduct stretching across the bay of Louisiana into the Gulf. The whole history of engineering that river is dark humor.

Posted by: Jamie at January 15, 2006 07:22 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

It was a great article. So glad you're talking about it.

Posted by: lene at January 15, 2006 09:38 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

I've been thinking since Day One of the catastrophe that New Orleans was gone. Knowing the Bushies, I was pretty sure it would be this back door thing that the White House is doing -- lots of bluster and pomp, little action, less money.

At this point, it would be better if someone just said "Turns out this was a bad place to build a city. We can either recognize that now, or we can throw $50 billion dollars at it and recognize it later."

Just remember that Bush is the only American president to lose an entire city.

Posted by: Hank Fox at January 16, 2006 08:46 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

That is a really good piece, isn't it? (As is Orion in general)

Just a clarifying comment -- it might be worth the effort to distinguish natural levees (the elevated areas of land that build up when flooding deposits silt along the river banks), from artificial levees (the concrete and metal jobbers humans -- esp. the Army Corps -- have put up on top of them).

That it doesn't make sense to repair the latter while ignoring the former is the heart of Tidwell's argument as I understand it.

Posted by: Rana at January 16, 2006 09:12 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

There was a segment on one of the more obscure euro channels about the probable inundation of the Gulf Coast of the US following the melt off of much of the Greenland Ice Sheet. I wish i could remember the name of the professor who presented the paper, but he was not being alarmist in the least. Rather he was simply demonstrating the projected rise in sea levels coupled with the expected increase in river runoff from more frequent precipitation throughout the central plains. NOLA doesn't have a chance, but then hopes for most of the first fifty miles inland of coastline down there doesn't either.

Posted by: spyder at January 16, 2006 12:25 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

That's an interesting take, Spyder. I'm here in the Pacific Rim area, and it's projected (and not much
talked about in the popular press) that some of the local island nations and/or communities (Tonga, Tuvalu, ...) will end up underwater, given rising sea levels.

Posted by: elissa at January 16, 2006 02:49 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Here's a couple of weather-related stories (thanks to ) that will scare you spitless:

Global warming to speed up as carbon levels show sharp rise:

Environment in Crisis: 'We Are Past the Point of No Return':

Posted by: Hank Fox at January 16, 2006 06:43 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Is it actually New Orleans that needs to be abandoned, or is it parts of NOLA built up in the last century or so (and how do we enforce some justice about putting the former residents more or less where they'd prefer to be, as opposed to permanent exile), or is it something else those ACE levees are protecting? What has happened to all the natural sea barriers, the delta -- we know the effects, but is there a map of all the upstream levees?

(And where have all the Islenos gone?)

What happened in Cancer Alley?

Is it the plastics and petroleum industry that needs to be told to move?

And isn't there an interesting and nastily ironic joke here about all the topsoil we lose down the Mississippi because of sloppy farming practices and all the Mississippi alluvial deposits that should be renewing the marshes and barrierlands at its mouth.

As usual, of course, the crap lands on the heads of those on the economic bottom who've done little or nothing to make the problem and gained the least from it.

Have you real John McPhee's The Control of Nature?

Posted by: Ron Sullivan at January 17, 2006 10:10 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

This is a little bit off the subject. But i was shocked and dismayed by the racist comments by New Orleans Democratic Mayor Ray Nagin. The African-american mayor said that New Orleans was for blacks and that God had wanted New Orleans to be for blacks. As a Democrat, racists comments like this disgust me. Here is the link:

Posted by: Adán at January 17, 2006 05:26 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs