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  • Monday, September 04, 2006


    Washed on My Shore: Books about Post-K NOLA

    The last night of my recent visit to NOLA, I went to a potluck gathering at a residential home on S. Carrollton Ave. My sister and her husband had attended two or three previous meetings and were impressed. This group gathers about once a month to listen to speakers and writers talk about the past and future of NOLA. The group has a long name but I wasn't attentive enough to catch the full name, only it's first two words: Huddled Masses.

    There were 35 or so people at this gathering to listen to Mike Tidwell speak. His most recent book is The Ravaging Tide: Strange Weather, Future Katrinas, and the Coming Death of America's Coastal Cities. Mr Tidwell has a bit of the evangelist in him and his presentation strongly pointed to two things that must be done to save NOLA and, indeed, all coastal cities.

    First, southern Louisiana has lost a million acres of marsh/delta land over the last century due to overcontrol of the Mississippi River. The remedy is to allow the river itself to deposit it's silt in the areas needing shoring up. A detailed plan already exists called Coast 2050. The delta area has lost 3 ft of practical elevation: 2 feet from subsidence (the settling and compacting of the land) and 1 foot of ocean level rise.

    His second point was that taking such measures to restore the wetlands won't do much good if global warming continues to raise the ocean levels. Sea level will rise in the near future will undoubtedly severely impact many coastal cities. Few people seem aware that Manhattan is one such area as well as the city of London. There is no engineering miracle when the storms come. Sea walls are breached and the water comes in. NOLA is the "canary in the coal mine", the first but by no means the last of such events. Even if production of all greenhouse gases were stopped today, this instant, the momentum of warming and sea level rise will probably carry on for decades. And I really doubt we will stop producing greenhouse gases in the near future.

    What really startled me about the "Huddled Masses" meeting was the number of local authors in the gathering. There were at least three other published authors at the gathering. One had penned Tubby Meets Katrina, a detective story I believe. I was very impressed with this group.

    I have only read a couple of the many books about Katrina but I've seen a few authors on BookTV on C-SPAN who have impressed me. Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City by Jed Horne is one which I'm very interested in reading. Another is Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security by Christopher Cooper and Robert Block. A snippet I heard in an interview was so unbelievable I really doubt I heard correctly: among the "lessons learned" from Katrina was for Homeland Security or FEMA to focus on having communities all over the country prepare for hurricane emergencies. Not an natural emergency like a hurricane but specifically a hurricane. So Los Angeles and St. Louis should give priority to hurricane preparation response as opposed to, say, emergency preparation for earthquakes or tornados.

    I reiterate: I must have misheard this. I can't imagine incompetence of this magnitude, even among Bush political hack appointees. It's too staggering. Do NOT quote me on this.

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