Rising Waters, Disastrous Low 

By Max Fraad Wolff

09/01/05 "ICH"
-- --- As this goes to press no one knows how bad Katrina and her aftermath will be for the nation. We hear many up beat remarks from elected officials about disasters averted. The air waves are clogged with stories about energy market and supply ramifications, water levels, power outages, insured losses and evacuation. Little is being said about a looming disaster for the poor and forgotten crowded into parts of New Orleans and less affluent areas. These people were given only advice- no services or assistance- in evacuation. They were told to leave and provided no way to do so. Many stayed. Of these untold dozens have died, perhaps hundreds or even thousands. Those who survive will face illness, homelessness, joblessness, destitution and disease. These are not natural phenomena. These are social disasters as predictable and avoidable as Katrina?s wrath should have been. 

Many, too many, will be victims of poverty and a serious lack of governmental assistance. That is why this unfolding dark drama sounds like the "natural disaster" stories we are all too often told of from far off developing countries. A perfect storm of climate change, poverty, lack of infrastructure, inadequate planning and service provision combine to create waves of destruction. It increasingly appears that this will soon be the under told story of Katrina- the ?natural disaster.? There is no blaming nature for climate change, poverty, lack of service provision and inadequate response. These are social ills made clear and deadly in the wake of receding toxic tides along the Gulf Coast.

Too few avenues of departure were made available despite unanimity among experts that New Orleans and environs would be hit with a major storm. Too little, too late planning and provision was made as waters warmed and storms grew in frequency and severity. In the hour of need, poor people with little notice, few options and virtually no resources were told to pay money they didn?t have and go places they could not reach. They were then deserted to the elements or packed into defective structures without adequate sanitation, structural strength, food, water, health care and rescue resource. These are your mounting casualties of nature? Looting of ruined goods will draw the official response that saving lives did not. What a sad unnatural comment on where we are these days as a nation. 

Is not this is the ultimate blow to our national security and energy supply? Was it predictable? Where are the resources attention and planning? They are else where like the National Guardsmen, federal response, disaster planning and evacuation assistance. Katrina and her aftermath are 100% disaster and only very slightly natural. Rising water and suffering along the Gulf Coast mark a painful low. 

Max Fraad Wolff is a doctoral candidate in economics at The University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a widely published free lance writer. 

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