Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans - A Warning About Accountability

"Interestingly, last year's string of Florida hurricanes didn't seem to cause much doomsday rhetoric. But Katrina is different for a few important reasons: It's much larger than usual storms; it hit a region that is home to one-fourth of U.S. oil production at a time when Americans are feeling tremendous anxiety over rising fuel costs; it happened a couple weeks after Israel pulled out of Gaza; and it conjures horrific images of fetid water contaminating a city with a Sodom and Gomorrah reputation." Quote from

An apocalyptic scenario - in a City that knew the day would come. In a nation that knows the day will come. New Orleans has apocalypse now. The nation's is yet to come. The common thread? Indifference to the most important things. Preoccupation with the frivolous.

There are excuses for what happened in New Orleans, but no good reasons. Even after "dodging the bullet" - avoiding the "worst case scenario" with Katrina jogging 30 miles to the east - the City is in ruins. The excuses? A strong category 4 hurricane? C'mon...these occur once every few years. Come to think of it, there aren't even any good excuses!

The City had a preoccupation with being "the Big Easy", whatever that means. Prideful of their "culture". Known best for their sleaze. Now known best for being one of the most vulnerable cities in the world to natural disaster. Built 20 feet below river and lake level. A levee system designed to hold back a 15 foot storm surge in a century of 20-30 foot storm-surge hurricanes. With a disaster preparedness plan that was obviously as full of holes as their levee system.

This strikes me as the quintessence of self-absorbed pleasure-seeking gluttony at the expense of community responsibility. The evidence speaks for itself.

Unfortunately, many communities are in similarly precarious situations - pre-occupied with being entertained or entertaining others - paying little attention to their own preservation in the face of statistically very probable disasters.

The parallel: This nations' reliance on foreign oil, and on petroleum as our primary energy source generally. For the last three decades, we have heard voices in the wilderness crying out for energy independence, greater energy efficiency, use of alternative fuels. The irony is there is no more progress toward these goals than there was 30 years ago! Now we are grasping at Islamo-fascist politics in the middle east to keep us in the oil loop. And we have a Venezuelan Communist president courting Islamo-fascists and drug trade on the one hand, and threatening to cut off oil to the US on the other. Now we have one quarter of our domestic oil production cut off by a storm.

We are preoccupied with entertaining ourselves and others at the expense of focusing on the important things. What is the apt historic parody: "Nero fiddled while Rome burned." We are "fiddling" with our survival by our lack of attention to the essentials. Apparently we lack the leadership to make the important things "sexy" enough to devote our collective interests and energies toward doing. Our head in the desert sand energy policy is the equivalent of New Orleans' party atmosphere, finger up the dyke mentality.

The final kicker is that the national taxpayer will be spending untold billions of dollars to restore the result of other people's careless indifference - and to restore our beloved Sodom and Gonnorhea playground.

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