I'm getting frustrated with all this talk of not rebuilding New Orleans, and how it's economically unsound (which is wrong) and untennable engineering-wise (which is false) to have a city there. This meme is being pushed hard by Bush supporters. It's a great way to deflect blame and avoid accountability. It's also, in effect, an exercise in blaming the victim.
Now that the federal government, in the immortal words of Mayor Nagin, finally got off its ass, it's time to start thinking about these issues. As noted by Chris Bowers at MyDD, based on the SUSA poll, 31% of Americans now say the city of New Orleans should not be rebuilt, up 7 points in the past 24 hours. The right-wingers' campain to shift blame is already working, and New Orleans is going to pay dearly for it if they get their way.
More on the flip, with meme-fighting LTE suggestions.
New Orleans is there because the country needs it there.
A huge area of the country relies on having a port at the mouth of that great river, where containter ships meet the river barges coming from all over the basin.
See map of Mississippi River Basin.
The economic benefits for this huge section of the country dwarf the costs of the engineering projects required to keep a small chunk of the delta dry. The culture, the music, the food are wonderful side benefits that people focus on first becaure they're the most visible side of the city (and, in my book, enough to be worth rebuilding it). But, fundamentally, New Orleans is a port, and an economically sound one.
The engineering problem is not such a big deal, given a couple billion dollars. This is peanuts compared to Iraq and to the pork in the energy bill. It's also peanuts compared to the costs we're facing now due to the disaster.
One third of The Netherlands is below sea level, and North Sea storm surges can get to 10 feet on top of very high tides.
See the Deltawerken web site (there's a video with good views of the Oosterscheldekering, the biggest of all storm surge barriers).
London is also vulnerable to the storm surges from the North Sea cyclonic storms. The mouth of the river protected by the Thames Barrier, which can be closed when needed.
See the Thames Barrier (wikipedia).
Building practices on the wetlands around the city have been completely irresponsible (and there no rebuiling should happen), but that's not New Orleans' fault. In the NY Times, Mark Fischetti has more details on the history of the city's defenses, and on what should have been and was not done.
See Mark Fischetti's column in the NY Times.
Suggestion on what you can do: Fight the meme! Write letters-to-the-editor saying:
- New Orleans is needed where it is, a large part of the country depends on having a port there.
- Protecting the city against the sea is a feasible engineering task (and cheap compared to the benefits). The Dutch have done it not just for a city but for a whole third of the country (and they have storm surges too).
- It's shocking that this Administration let the sea defenses deteriorate so badly by underfunding the work of the Army Corps of Engineers.
- It's outrageous that Bush supporters are now blaming the victims, the people who kept a city the country needs running. This is an obvious attempt to deflect blame for the lack of disaster prevention and preparedness over the past four years.