Warehouse K
Doomed City
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Why Are They Rebuilding New Orleans?


By James Donahue


President Barack Obama was in New Orleans this week to praise the city’s leadership and state and federal agencies that have been actively rebuilding the place after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina five years ago. But is the restoration of that historic city worth the effort or a waste of money?


The City of New Orleans has been a national treasure. While the territory was under French rule in the early 18th Century, New Orleans was among the first established colonies in the new world. It grew to be a major port city for ships arriving from overseas and steamboats traveling on the Mississippi River.


New Orleans is a very old city, filled with the ghosts of the past. It was the home of the great jazz bands, the Marti Gras, and all of the colorful stories linked to the birth of the nation.


But New Orleans has been a city in trouble for a long time. Built on a river delta, the community was originally safe from hurricanes because of the miles of natural marshland surrounding it. Over the years, as the city grew, and channels were dug to allow larger and larger ships to enter and leave that port, things changed.


Developers used dykes, levies and pumps to keep the water out as they constructed new housing projects deep into areas that were protective marsh and below sea level. Even though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers erected  concrete levies that were supposed to hold back the surge waters from most hurricanes, everyone knew it was only a matter of time before a major storm overpowered the levies and flooded New Orleans.


What they did not know was that serious design flaws in some of those all-important levies intensified the probability of that disaster waiting to happen


The hurricane that ravaged New Orleans was Katrina. And meteorologists are predicting more great storms of that magnitude or even worse looming in the future as global warming heats the Oceans. Also as the world glaciers and ice caps melt, the sea levels are rising . . . some estimates are as high as 13 to 20 feet above current levels. That means cities like New Orleans, Venice, Miami, and even New York may all be in danger of future flooding.


After New Orleans was left in ruins the logical question was why should we rebuild it? Sure, a lot of people have property ownership there. They also have memories of the great city that once was, and they longed to return to that city and that life style. But it hasn’t quite worked out as the people had expected. Where construction has occurred, low income housing has been replaced with more costly facilities, thus making it impossible for many of the impoverished natives to return. The Corps of Engineers is spending billions on new and larger dykes and pumping systems. What is evolving there is something much different than the old historic New Orleans once known and loved.


And there remains that nagging question. Is there any guarantee . . . even with the government pouring billions of dollars into new and better levies to keep the water out . . . that the disaster of 2005 will not occur again this season, or next?


Because we did not heed the warnings of overpopulation, industrial pollution, deforestation and all of the other problems created by the rape of our planet, nothing can ever go back to life as we once knew it.


New Orleans may be another disaster in the making. Is it a foolhardy enterprise for us to be spending government tax dollars to rebuild a city in a hole at the edge of the sea? This is a hard question to ask the natives of that beloved city but it must be asked. Scientists tell us with all certainty that as the ice caps continue to melt, the sea levels will eventually be high enough that the looming storms from climate change will probably overpower the best of levies.


In fact, they warn that all ocean-front towns and cities may be facing a grim future. It is time for people to wake up to reality. We have severely damaged our environment. If we don’t change our reckless way of ravaging the earth and polluting the land, seas and the air, nothing can ever be the same.