Rivaling the streets of New Orleans in raw sewage and toxicity is the content of most of the partisan commentary I've heard, seen, and read on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I think it is safe to say that there are failures of organization, communication, and mobilization at every level here. The way to channel the frustration we all feel is into good deeds to aid and comfort those in the Gulf Coast and careful preparation for the next threat to our welfare, whether an act of nature or terrorists.
I've been following two new (to me) blogs lately, because I think they are making sense--asking the right questions and doing the right research to point the way to a better outcome the next time a potential catastrophe heads toward the area.
Matthew Kahn of the Environmental and Urban Economics blog is walking us through the decision-making process for how to think about the future of New Orleans and the sensible way to assign responsibility for protecting the city from surrounding water. Great posts and the making of a real contribution to the blogosphere.
Dave Schuler of The Glittering Eye is providing some very thoughtful commentary on how Katrina should change our thinking about base closures, misguided attempts to affix blame too narrowly, and relevant examples of disaster and recovery (and the importance of local control in particular). Quoting from the last of these:
There are several key factors that were present in all of the disasters reviewed above:
* Civil order was maintained immediately (sometimes ruthlessly) even while the disaster was in progress.
*Reconstruction efforts began immediately and were completely under local (and mostly private) control.
*Funding for relief and reconstruction was almost exclusively through private investment and philanthropy.
*Although large parts of all of the cities were destroyed, large parts remained.
None of these factors are true in New Orleans.
New Orleans will be re-built if the people of New Orleans want to re-build it. And if they do it themselves it will be a New Orleans they can be proud of and love. It will be their New Orleans.
If, on the other hand, they wait around for someone else to re-build their city for them, it won’t be the New Orleans they loved. It will belong to somebody else. And New Orleans will be dead.
Maybe the best post on any topic that I've read in long while.
ADDENDUM: I should know better by now--if it's smart commentary on "organization, communication, and mobilization" you seek, the place to go is EagleSpeak. Great analysis of what South Carolina has and has not in the way of hurricane planning, using New Orleans' experience as a template.