New Orleans As Casualty Of Iraq Bob

New Orleans as a Casualty of Iraq

Bob Harris’s take on the story of how resources for levees and floodworks for New Orleans, along with the Louisiana National Guard, were diverted to Iraq, strikes me as balanced and right. The nation made a decision about priorities. Tax cuts and the Iraq War came first. In a world of finite resources, that decision had real-world consequences.

It is so sad to see a city die. Those poor, poor people. I had earlier hoped New Orleans had been spared, but as Billmon explains in the end Lake Pontchartrain was blown into the city and apparently there is no reason to think it will drain back away any time soon. (Last I knew, Bourbon Street was still largely spared, because being the old part of the city it was built on relatively high ground. The water at Bourbon and Canal street was still only knee deep. But the French Quarter without the rest of the city might soon become more of an antiquarian curiosity than a living set of traditions.)

Now there is looting. Maybe Americans can imagine now what Iraqis felt like when US troops stood aside and allowed massive looting, including of precious national heirlooms and the documentary history of the country in modern times. And imagine how mean it was in the midst of such chaos to just dissolve the military and send it home, as though Bush should now dissolve the national guards and send them home.

Events such as the collapse of some Antarctic ice shelves will contribute to a rising of sea levels over the next century.

Spenser Weart explains:

“At least one thing was certain. If temperatures climbed a few degrees, as most climate scientists now considered likely, the sea level would rise simply because water expands when heated. This is almost the only thing about global change that can be calculated directly from basic physics. The additional effects of glacier melting are highly uncertain (scientists were still arguing over how much of the 20th century‚Äôs sea level rise was due to heat expansion and how much to ice melting). The rough best guess for the total rise in the 21st century was perhaps half a meter

While such a rise will not be a world disaster, by the late 21st century it will bring significant everyday problems, and occasional storm-surge catastrophes, to populous coastal areas from New Orleans to Bangladesh. More likely than not, low-lying areas where tens of millions of people live will be obliterated. Entire island nations are at risk. Then it will get worse. Even if humanity controls greenhouse emissions enough to halt global warming, the heat already in the air will work its way gradually deeper into the oceans, so the tides will continue to creep higher, century after century.”

Global warming is what is causing the seas to rise. Burning carbon-based fuels adds to global warming as surely as smoking leads to lung cancer. Some of your friendly corporations will deny both things to you.

Science fiction is “good to think with” (in the phrase of anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss) on these issues. Look at Kim Stanley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain, which is reviewed here.

Less elegiac than Robinson’s thoughtful novel, and more of an adventure story, John Barnes’ Mother of Storms paints a graphic and unforgettable picture of what is likely to happen to the Carribean islands if warming waters produce more and bigger hurricanes.

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