Katrina: Big Picture in Brief
The politics of hate in this country has me incensed, especially in such a time of coming together, but I wanted to address some of the other aspects of the bigger picture with brief commentary, ratns and ideas.
Leadership: We have not seen much of it yet. NOLA has no Rudy Giuliani, but then again the conditions on the ground are absolutely atrocious and the media is focusing on the worst aspects instead of the rays of light (as always it would seem, won't this ever change) What we really need is local leadership within the neighborhoods (though perhaps all those natural leaders were able to get out, so only a certain segment of the population is left behind).
Volunteers: I am sure lots of people from all over the world will go to the area to volunteer in some fashion. I even discussed doing this myself but realized there was not much I could do. When I see the terrible conditions in the Superdome, it makes me wonder why those in the situation dont contribute to the solution. Yes I understand most are in shock and/or infirmed, but I have seen plenty of relatively young men and women hauling off very heavy bags of loot and plenty more just standing or sitting around the stadium. It would be really great to see the people affected pitching in to help alleviate the problem - but perhaps it is too early for people to begin to self organize. Or perhaps many of these people are too reliant on governmental hand outs to think about what they could do to contribute.
Donations: I hope that former President Bush and former President Clinton are able to do even better for the US then they did for the Tsunami relief effort. Given the number of scams that are sure to arise, it would be ideal if they, along with the planned network fundraiser, all focused on donating money to one charity - the red cross most likely or perhaps a unique fund just for this disaster. We are giving to the Red Cross. A more detailed list of what we can presume to be more reputable organizations can be found on Newsweek.
Insurance: Many of the people dont have insurance and even those that do might not have the coverage that helps for this type of situation. Regardless, many insurers will go out of business as a result of Katrina and we will all probably end up covering the bill with higher taxes. This is an area for major concern. Additionally there is the matter of insurance fraud - mostly coming from the middle class according to statistics and personal anecdotal evidence from dealing with Hurricane Andrew in Miami. Seems even the nice, church going folks in devastated communities want what they think is due to them - so the instinct to loot is perhaps more deeply seated than I would care to believe. Maybe a tip line (or web site) where people could anonymously post who might be comitting fraud so those cases could get a higher level of scrutiny?
Oil: Simply put the economy is fucked. The rising price of gasoline is sure to bring inflation to all sectors of the economy and I dont think the fed can pull it back with interest rate cuts (though they should do it anyway). The only real solution is to end our dependence on fossil fuels and create real economic incentives for the companies that pave the way into this ecologically friendly future. Perhaps an "X Prize" for practical cold fusion and another one for "Fuel Cells"
World View: I am sure many of the jihadists are celebrating now believing that America is being punished by God for what we have done. I am equally sure that we will hear some ultra-conservative catholic saying that the sinners in New Orleans are being punished by god, but that is a separate point. Honestly I am conflicted about the matter of how this event plays out on the world stage. On one hand, I say why don't more people come with aid given how much we give the world, and on the other I believe we should be able to take care of ourselves. But if we are all on this small blue marble together, the global community should respond with aid - perhaps it will come simply in the form of contributions by worldly awake people from around the world rather than governments. But however it comes, I know that we have little idea as to how to use it best at the moment other than getting those people out of the disaster area and securing them with food, shelter and medical aid. Regarrdless, what the world does or doesnt do, what it says or doesnt say means little to the people on the ground and should mean little to us in the short term, though it will be instructive in regards to how we will interact with them in the future.
Looting: Well I guess I am in the camp of the shoot them on sight folks, but that is my gut reaction to the images I see on TV. When I hear people say that this is their right to get such things because of how they have been oppressed all these years, I just cringe. Having grown up in a lower income area very near a South Miami ghetto, I do understand where this thinking is coming from, but it does not make it right. As the ethics guy reported on Newsweek It is one thing to raid a super market for water and food and batteries - another to cart off an entire rack of shirts from Wal-Mart or a stack of Nike's from Foot Locker. Perhaps if the looters were offered $100 per day or something reasonable to tackle some of the problems they have on the grounf we might be able to provide a better alternative for those seeking to profiteer. Regardless, I certainly hope that the video that is being shot is being stored and will be reviewed later to prosecute the looters. In this way, they can repay for their crimes and avarice by performing community service. (no room to send them all to jail)
Global Warming: As you might know, I am for Kyoto and firmly behind alternative energy strategies. But is Katrina our first real indication of the potential impact of global warming? In that I have been paying attention to the research, the weather reports and the melting of the polar ice caps for many years, I am pretty much convinced that Katrina, the Tsunami, the rise in earthquakes around the globe, the flooding in Europe etc.. all point to the fact that we are destroying Mother Earth (Gaia) and that Mother Earth is fighting back. To a certain degree, I think of the earth as a biological ecosystem that is fightting off a virus (humanity) that is harming it like a disease. Why dont the people in charge understand this and do something about it? The calls for discussion and action in this regards should be heeded and should begin in earnest as soon as we can.
New Orleans: I love the big easy. I finally got there for the first time this past spring to attend Jazz Fest. The vibe there was awesome, the French Quarter was beautiful and most of the people I met (in bars and at the Jazz Fest) were kind with tons of southern hospitality. But on the way from the hotel to the Jazz Fest fairgrounds, what I saw was disturbing - it felt like a land that time forgot. Old wooden shack like buildings that people called home. People just sitting around everywhere on sidewalks, front porches and in front of businesses. Outside the quarter, downtown and the garden district, it seemd like the Great Depression of 1929 never went away. It is going to be a tough long haul to revitalize this city and early indications concerning the attitude are so far not very good. But there are leaders there who will make a difference, and the city will rebuild - and I will definitely be going back...
Remote parts of the South: While most of the focus has been on NOLA, I am more concerned about the rest of the south. Whole towns have been destroyed. People have lost everything. The horror is beyond comprehension. With many such towns on the borderline of economic meltdown prior to Katrina, their receovery is in doubt. It will be near impossible to rebuild much of it - many who lived through it wont want to either due to the bad memories the towns hold for them now. It will be equally as hard for people to relocate, but that will happen and is probably already happening to a certain degree.
What we can do: Donate money to the Red Cross. Keep thinking and writing about all the solutions you have for different problems you identify, no matter how silly an idea seems, share it with the broader community - even if it only goes out to the 10 or so people who read your blog (as with mine). If the idea seeminlgy has merit, send it to the red cross, send it to FEMA, send it to the major news outlets.
What I see most clearly though is that we need to provide better continuing education, re-education and new skills training - not just to those displaced and affected by Katrina, but across the board. More cities should have programs putting homeless people to work as street cleaners during the day and educating them at night. More immediately we need to help those who want to relocate find a new place to live and a means to live a fulfilling life. The consequences of not doing so will be disastorous.
Perhaps in this terrible disaster, we cand find a silver lining - if indeed we rise to the occasion, we can turn this tragedy into a turning point for our society