My freshman Geology professor at the University of Connecticut, Robert Thorson, once wrote a piece in the Hartford Courant proclaiming that rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina was useless and that no matter what improvements they planned to make there was no way to fully protect the city. Obviously he tried to keep all emotional attachment people have to the city out of his analysis and just give an objective, safe diagnosis. Here is an excerpt from the abstract of that piece written back in 2005:
"Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and rock avalanches are relatively easy to comprehend because only one earth process is dominant and because the energy is released dramatically. More chronic and complicated hazards, such as the one facing New Orleans today, are much more difficult to comprehend. Resorting to analogy, the so-called war to save New Orleans is less a series of pitched battles against hurricanes than a protracted siege. Four natural armies are camped outside the dikes that wall in the city: the army of the sinking land, the army of the rising sea, the army of the retreating shoreline and the army of the rising river bed. Their patience is endless. Their victory is certain. It's only a matter of time."
Now fast forward to today. Hurricane Gustav, originally a Category 4 storm, was downgraded to a Category 2 (out of 5) storm prior to it reaching land in New Orleans. Despite the reduction, despite the millions of dollars spent on rebuilding and fortification after Katrina, the levees of New Orleans were still tested. They passed this test, so I guess all is well that ends well, but how long can this last. If I learned one thing from Professor Thorson and his Geology 105 class, it was that you should never go to war with Mother Nature. There isn't a weapon or a shield in existence that can withstand her wrath.
Now I've never been to New Orleans, regrettably. I have a strong appreciation for the culture and tradition and just the overall mystique that surrounds that city. I have a strong appreciation for the support the citizens give to the athletes that represent them, even in the wake of disaster. But is all of that worth the lives of thousands? Is the spirit of New Orleans lost if moved a few miles up the coast? What is the price in human currency of the New Orleans tradition? I can't answer these questions, but someone should. Gustav came and went with a relative whisper, but now Hurricane Hannah, the next wave in Mother Nature's attack on the Big Easy, will try its luck on the levees.
Not to get political, but if we are going attack the government for their handling of Hurricane Katrina, if we are going to demand that the citizens of a city that seems to be first on Aeolus the Greek God of Storm's s*** list be protected, perhaps we should start looking to ourselves for answers. Someday we may find that we are paying too high a price for the Big Easy. Perhaps it isn't so easy after all.