Over the past few months I have been getting to know the State of Louisiana. Not only have I had an ongoing Master’s project related to the drinking water in St. Bernard Parish, but multiple events have recently come up that have piqued my interest as to the goings on in that state. The reason I titled this “Part I” is because I am most likely going to post a few times on what I have found out about Louisiana so I hope I can maintain your interest.
This semester I am enrolled in a Sustainable Infrastructure class, which is a great class that provides an in-depth look at sustainability while being taught in a modern classroom setting. The first project for the class was to write an Op-Ed on the topic of resiliency. Truly, the first thing that came to my mind was New Orleans. I had just traveled there for a well water sampling trip and learned a bit about the aftermath of Katrina and how they recovered.
Merriam-Webster defines “Resilience” in two ways:
the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens
the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc
We, as engineers, are also taught to practice resiliency so let us ask ourselves: is New Orleans resilient? Well, over ten years after the flooding, the population is still over 100,000 fewer than in 2000, with the majority of those former citizens being African American (U.S. Census Bureau). Additionally, with 80% of the city being flooded due to the breakdown of the levees, destroying 70% of households in the city, this was quickly the costliest disaster in our nation’s history. Estimates of federal aid going just to emergency relief operations range $75-120.5 billion, and this does not include the costs of rebuilding levees and adding new infrastructure to protect the city from future damage (CNN Library, 2016). Unfortunately, it is a foolish hope that another storm like Hurricane Katrina will not hit New Orleans again in the near future and, with much of the city resting below sea level, and still sinking, it also seems foolish to hope that flooding will not again occur. Hopefully in future the levees will not break, but added infrastructure is necessary to keep New Orleans afloat.
So, let me ask, is this resiliency (refer to definitions above)? Is investing billions of dollars into a sinking city worth it? Is it ethical to spend that must time, money, and infrastructure? What do you think is the fate of New Orleans?
Nearly 380,000 people still live in New Orleans, many having moved back in the years following Katrina to help rebuild. I am interested to hear their perspectives on the fate of their city.
(Part II: Louisiana coastline and the oil industry)
CNN Library. 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/23/us/hurricane-katrina-statistics-fast-facts/. Accessed November 2, 2016.
2 Responses to Louisiana: Part 1