August 31st, 2005

Katrina Stuff has quite a good discussion--there are a fair number of entries from people who've lived in the area and/or are familiar with how disaster relief is done. It's a relief to see a fact or three--I think everything that can be said about looting vs. salvaging has probably been said unless there are further developments. There are a number of political comments, but the signal to noise is still much better than average.

Some other good sources are Making Light, twistedchick, and bradhicks. I especially like bradhicks's suggestion that refugees should be set up in cities (with appropriate aid) rather than in refugee camps.

I'm impressed with a society which is prosperous enough that 80% of a city in one of the poorer parts of the country could evacuate with their own resources. This is not as good as it should be, but I'm still giving credit where it's due.

The car thing: I've been hearing for years about America's love affair with cars and addiction to cheap gas--but what looks like waste in one context is excess capacity for emergencies in another. If all that had been available to move people was mass transit, there would (by definition, because mass transit involves moving more people with fewer vehicles) have been less ability to move them.

This may be a libertarian knee-jerk, but if the Feds were running low on money from the war in Iraq and homeland security, couldn't they have cut back on the war on drugs instead of cutting back on maintaining the levees?

More Katrina Thoughts

I'm sympathetic to people taking what they need (with a fairly expansive definition of need) from abandoned property--the problem is that people need civil order as well as food and water. Maybe this is fantasy, but I suspect that the devastated areas needed people (whether official or not) who could organize the salvaging--for all I know, some of that's happening.

Any suggestions on what sort of culture makes it more likely?

I obviously should have posted this earlier, but Katrina is a disaster that dwarfs 9/11. After 9/11, it occurred to me that any disaster where you can get a pretty accurate count of the dead is only a medium-sized disaster. This isn't intended to insult or attack those who lost loved ones (or even liked ones) in 9/11, nor those who felt that their city had taken serious damage and mourned the specific losses, nor even my past self who spent about three months paralyzedly listening to NPR and reading rec.arts.sf.fandom. Part of what snagged me then was thinking that 9/11 wasn't that bad as historical events go, but no one else seemed to know it. At the time, I realized that having a basically intact infrastructure made things a lot better, but I didn't think about the implications of it being office buildings and not including where people lived.

The only good thing about Katrina is that no one is likely to start a war over it.

I wish I'd appreciated the 90s more when I was living through them. I was very pleased that the cold war was over, and I was more hopeful about the fall of the USSR than I should have been (it's still impressive that there's hsbeen so little war in the region), but that combination of peace and economic boom was even better than I noticed.

Speaking of economics, anyone have information on the effects of big disasters? The dotcom bust was a combination of losing imaginary money + wasted investment. Big losses of what was already there seems like a whole 'nother thing.