Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rising Tide 5 this Saturday

You may not have heard of Mac McClelland, and thus you haven't realized what you were missing. Here is your opportunity to correct that.

Mac is the human rights reporter for Mother Jones, the famously non-mainstream journal of American progressive thought. And lately, she's been the most steadfast voice for the New Orleans region who wasn't born and raised here.

When the national news tried to say the oil spill wasn't all that bad, Mac took them to task. When they tried to say the oil had simply vanished, Mac took them to the woodshed.

And now she's brought out a Louisville Slugger to respond to the vapid scribblings of a Washington Post reporter who wants you to believe that everything's better now, especially in the Lower Ninth Ward. Oh sure, only 1/10th of the Lower Nine's pre-Katrina population is back, but it's all good, right?

Thankfully, we have Mac at bat for us. Her column at Mother Jones is worth regular reading.

Mac just also happens to be the keynote speaker at the Rising Tide Conference this Saturday. Come on out and hear her in person, and join me in thanking her for being a true friend of New Orleans.


Michael Mizell-Nelson said...

Hi Tim, I really enjoyed your presentation today. My Johnstown Flood story: we passed through there on our way to our long-term Katrina evacuation destination. The hotel clerk looked at my license & picked up a little stuffed bear decorated with a ribbon & said that they were selling these to help us. I asked if she could help us by giving us a break on the room rate, and she said no. Historical memory.

granzombi said...

I also enjoyed your presentation, one follow up question, If you simply build "500" or "1000" year levees, don't they actually exacerbate the problems in some ways? Isnt it important to find ways of living with the flow of water, so it can pass in and out rather than living behind higher and higher walls so when they do breach the effects are even worse?

Tim said...

There is no question that we cannot simply destroy water that is pushed at us by hurricane storm surge. When we build levees, we stop the water from advancing on our city but it still has to go somewhere. It would be nice to think we could build canals or conduits to route water through or around New Orleans, but it's just not feasible. Hurricane Katrina pushed a storm surge 18 feet or more in height and about 30 miles wide. It's just not feasible to think we could store or route that much water.

What has been happening that makes the damage worse is that once we build a levee, people assume it's safe and they build more eagerly in the protected area. Government at all levels has done a poor job of communicating risk to the public, so that a lot of houses are built way too low and frankly in the wrong places. That's what I think leads to greater losses over time.

One final note: my presentation was all about levee safety, but in no way am I suggesting that levees are the full and final answer. There was a question from the audience on this and I think I responded that we need multiple lines of defense to protect ourselves and our property. Levees are great but they can't do it all.

We also need land in front of levees to buffer the storm surge and weaken waves. We need storage areas behind the levees to store water that overtops or falls as rain during the storm. We need better building codes that require or encourage elevating structures. We need more property owners to buy insurance, and we need insurance premiums to reflect the true risk of individual homes.

And, we need levess that are designed and maintained as a life-safety system.