Saturday, July 14, 2007

Creation and destruction

Here is the irrefutable fact about creation and destruction in the natural universe: destruction is fast and easy, but creation takes time.

It takes years to grow a tree, but you can cut it down with a chainsaw in a matter of minutes.

It takes months of gestation and years of nurturing, nutrition and support to produce an adult human being. But you can snuff out his life with bullet faster than he can emit a scream.

It took years of planning, design and financing, as well as millions of man-hours to build the World Trade Center Towers in Manhattan. But it took barely a dozen religious terrorists less than two hours to completely destroy both of them with two jumbo jets.

Destruction is always faster and easier than construction.

So why do so many people lament about "the slow recovery of New Orleans?" Is it because they don't understand this simple rule about creation and destruction?

More likely it is because they do not appreciate the magnitude of the destruction.

We're not talking about a few dozen houses clipped by a twister. We're not talking about a few lost shingles and some fallen trees.

We're talking whole subdivisions in which every house was flooded. Almost 400 of them in my own Vista Park neighborhood alone. To the roof. For more than two weeks.

All this destruction in a matter of days. Most of it in the span of a few hours.

I've heard it estimated that 200,000 homes just in Louisiana suffered severe or major damage due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. How long does it take to repair and rebuild that many homes? One year? Two?

According to the US Census Bureau (Manufacturing, Mining and Construction Statistics), 1.6 million new single family homes were constructed in the entire United States in 2005.

So 200,000 new houses is about 12 percent of the home-building capacity of the entire nation. It would take a monumental shift in building resources to make that happen. Stretch it out to two years, and it would take locating 6 percent of the nation's home-building resources in this one state for two years to rebuild that many houses.

Could we really expect that many houses to get built in a state that is home to less than 2 percent of the US population?

As the expression goes, "Rome was not built in a day." And New Orleans will not be rebuilt in a year, or two, or even three.

So let's do ourselves a favor and quick talking about why things are going slowly, or why things are taking so long to get done. Every day we move forward is a good day. Every month we measure progress is a good month. Every year we stand taller and defiant against the forces of nature and the indifference or incompetence of politicians is a good year.

Here is one irrefutable fact about New Orleans: WE ARE STILL HERE.