Saturday, September 03, 2005


I wanted to find out information on the levee rebuilding efforts. As a result I've stumbled into hornet nests of Katrina related punditry.

Most punditry takes the "not enough" form. Pundits generally have the feeling that more people should be like them. There are many pundits saying "we are not socialistic enough", others say "we aren't self reliant enough". Several Utah blogs have moral that the world is not Mormon enough.

The general argument given by pundits is that if more people were just more like them then the world would be better off.


I want to read about levees because the whole crisis is a result of a major enginerering failure. Our efforts to control nature led to the situation where a major city sank below sea level. The whole Mississippi Delta is dependent on the silt load from the Mississippi River. We've straightened the river and send the silt out to the sea.

The result of our engineering efforts are that the city sank and is below sea level.

(The Control of Nature by John McPhee is a an excellent collection of essays great engineering efforts to stop geological forces).

Sitting in my little mountain home, I see the plight of New Orleans as a chapter in our struggle to control nature. How do we absorb the shock of geological changes?

I think that people have been doing an admirable job working to handle the humanitarian crisis left in the wake of Katrina. The toll of death and disease is far below similar humanitarian crisises of the past.

Emergency response team were in place quickly after the crisis. The president released an immediate $10 billion in aid and is likely to release more after needs assessments. Americans, and people around the world, have opened their wallets, homes and other resources to relief efforts. I agree give generously to relief efforts.

As for the pontification. It seems to me that it should be about the future. The pundits should be addressing issues about rebuilding New Orleans. Maybe we should ask the question if we even should rebuild the city. If the area is still sinking then the next direct hit will be worse!

Can we design our city on the Delta so that it is more in harmony with nature?

If we build under sea level, how do we design a system to withstand category V hurricanes?

If we can't how can we build the levees so that we can rebuild them quickly?

Can we design levy patching techniques that would let us patch levees during storms?

These are the interesting questions.

People who have a bent to socialism will find confirmation for their beliefs. People who believe in the free market will find confirmations for their beliefs.

Pontificating on such issues does nothing but feed ideological divides. People want to talk about the Hurricane. The most interesting questions are about design and man against nature.

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