ENR Magazine dropped a bomb on us this week. In an opinion piece titled, “The Reshaping of New Orleans Is a National Problem,” the editors of ENR (that’s Engineering News-Record for my friends in Bunkie) advocated throwing in the towel on our fair city.
New Orleans, they say, will never be safe. Cut the dead and dying branches, they say.
“The American people are generous in helping other Americans recover from disasters,” they say, but that charity has limits. No use throwing good money after bad, they calmly advise.
I’ve read a lot of negative, defeatist editorials, letters-to-the-editor and blogs since Hurricane Katrina stomped across Louisiana in her size-69, steel-toed boots. But this one hurts.
This one comes from a magazine for and about engineering and construction. This one comes from people who would directly benefit (handsomely, I might add) from any civil works program to upgrade and improve our hurricane protection system.
And their response to the challenge is, “It can’t be done.”
Wrong. Not only can it be done, it must be done.
The Corps of Engineers recently accepted significant blame for this disaster, admitting to the first mission failure in its 200-plus-year history.
But the Corps is not quitting. They are not sounding retreat like the editors of ENR are, writing from their comfortable offices in New York City. The Corps is rebuilding existing authorized levees, and planning improvements to be built as soon as Congress and the President release the money.
The Army knows that when you lose a battle, it doesn’t mean you lose the war.
Yet the naysayers continue to whine.
Won't it be difficult? Hell, yeah. Just ask anybody down here. But surrender to the “whims of nature,” as the President told America from Jackson Square, would be worse. That is unacceptable.
Won't it be expensive? Like nothing this country has ever done. The amount of dirt that will need to be moved to build a superior barrier around the New Orleans area alone will exceed the total amount of excavation required to build the Panama Canal.
Is it necessary, or even wise? Considering the shortcomings of the hurricane protection system that exacerbated this catastrophe, it is both necessary and just. And consider the shame and demoralizing effect abandoning New Orleans would have on the nation—remember how much it sucked when we pulled out of Vietnam and declared “peace with honor?” It took America a generation to get over the shame of that one.
But it can’t be done, can it? Don’t get stuck on stupid. Americans always have and always will accomplish whatever the hell they set out to do. Engineers in government, private industry and academia are already working out the solutions.
Conviction and courage will bring this city back. It is quite clear to me that’s what the writers at ENR lack, and what New Orleans has in abundance.