Ok, I admit it: I’m a news junkie. (Given my journalism background, is that really any surprise?)
I’ve been following the news updates from the Gulf coast pretty closely, especially those coming “out of” (for a lack of a better term) New Orleans. With everything that’s going on there, the news makes for some frighteningly addicting — uhm — entertainment. (Again, for a lack of a better term.)
I won’t bore you with all the news about lootings and fires, or the Mad Max-like post-Apocalyptic scenes taking place there since you can find those on just about any news website. (For video, check out FoxNews.com and MSNBC.com. For updates straight from the city itself, check out NOLA.com) What I’ll bore you with instead is the following question: Is New Orleans worth re-building? And if so, why?
First of all, let’s start with what may seem like a crude, tasteless, and extremist comment: Let’s forget about rebuilding New Orleans. Sure, it was fun while it lasted, but let’s face it, it’ll take years to rebuild, it’ll cost billions of dollars, and unfortunately this will probably happen again. Why not just give the money that would be spent in rebuilding to the refugees and businesses, and have them rebuild somewhere else, maybe somewhere that’s not, you know, below sea level?!
This, of course, doesn’t include all the shipping that goes on through these. That needs to be rebuilt, but the city itself hasn’t served the purpose of a trading port in a long time, and the port can be self sufficient. Heck, it would also probably be more secure.
Now, since it’s my tax dollars going to save their butts, maybe I should have a say, right? I mean, isn’t that how democracies work? Yeah, I know, we live in a republican democracy. Ok, so then we’ll do it the Republican-Democratic way: I vote for funds to be given to them if they rebuild somewhere else (democracy), but they can play Toxic Crusader and rebuild in Swamp New Orleans if they want (republic). Just not with my tax money. (Libertarian!)
Ok, so on top of this we have the whole cultural issue. Isn’t that more a “people” thing? If you moved the whole city inland, would the soul of the city be lost? I mean. more than it will already be anyway, because — let’s face it — most of those people will settle somewhere else, and when given a chance, they probably won’t come back. Landowners and homeowners might. Business owners may, unless it’s a large corporation. (This excludes franchises.) In that case, why bother. Get the insurance money and go build another store somewhere else. Go build another home, rent another apartment, and get another job.
Of course, most of these concerns come from the fact that, geographically speaking, it’s dumb to try to save the city as it is. It’s under sea level. In fact, the city’s shaped like a bowl. (What, it flooded?! OMG!!). This will happen again. The can rebuild the pumps and all the protection the city had — at the cost of billions. But once something stronger comes along — like, say, that Category 5 with 180mph winds that was expected to hit, before it went down to a Category 4 — it’ll happen again.
A bit of a side note: This whole situation — at least, the flooding part of it — reminds me of a quote from Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail:
When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that’s what you’re going to get, Lad, the strongest castle in all of England.
Fitting, isn’t it?
Now, I won’t take into consideration the fact that New Orleans has pretty much proven itself to be the crap-hole of humanity. I mean, even New Yorkers had enough decency to drop the “we be tuff” act for a while after 9/11. (I still admire New Yorkers for that. I may not like the city, but daing it, at least they’re classy.) These idiots are shooting the frig’n help/rescue personnel that’s trying to get them to safety, feed them, and give them medical attention. And why, so they can get their next drug hit?
(I won’t get into the looting of stores part, since it’s pretty obvious that if it’s for survival, it’s necessary, and you don’t need 17 DVD players to survive. )
On the bright side, I’ve heard that 2300 troops are being sent in, hopefully to enforce the “comply or die” type of martial law. Maybe that will calm things down, if only a bit.
Speaking of which, I’m glad to hear some foreign aid is finally getting in. Sad to hear how long it’s taken. Then again, maybe it just seems long because I’ve already been hearing about Katrina for almost 10 days, having gone through the Category 1 version of the storm myself. And not all of it is the foreign government’s fault: I’m sure that if we asked England, we’d have some of their disaster rescue teams here within a day. Key words: “If We Asked.” The US doesn’t exactly need money. What it needs is organizational experience. On top of that, for now, what it also needs is man power, seeing as the Louisiana National Guard — whose job is to take care of stuff like this — is over in Iraq hunting down Baghdad Bob. But that’s an argument for another time.
Now, I haven’t forgotten that it’s not all about New Orleans. Mississippi and Alabama both need help, but then again, they don’t have the problems New Orleans has; bad geographic location and more than its share of bad people. Mobile and Biloxi will rebuild. It’ll take time, but they’ll rebuild. And in those cases, it’s worth it.
Ok, so I’ve given enough reasons why New Orleans isn’t worth saving, but let’s face it: New Orleans is a jewel in the world of the arts. (And besides, the “Shreveport Saints” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.) Maybe the city should welcome its new watery overlords, and take a hint from Venice. Can New Orleans become a River City? Well, why not? It’s in a swamp, it’s sinking, and the buildings are pretty much already all built with a super-strong infrastructure. And, like Venice, I’m sure the rest of the world would have at least some interest in keeping it around, at least enough to help fund its survival like Venice.
Alright, enough of this. This was a rant, plain and simple. The arguments set forth here are the arguments of someone who hasn’t the foggiest ideas of the logistics involved in moving a city, building a river/water city, or whatever. Still, I’m not the only person to ask these questions, and I guess I’m just plain interested in hearing some answers other than “We’ll have to spend $30,000,000,000 of your money to rebuild this city. Live with it.” I don’t mind helping out with hurricane repairs — after all, hurricanes happen, just like tornadoes, earthquakes, and blizzards. But since nature’s already done us the “favor” of tearing down most of New Orleans, why not come up with some imaginative ways to raise it back up?