Katrina or When Climate Change
Collided Against the Racial Divide
They called for help but it never came. As the nation witnessed entire counties drown on TV, the president refused to cut down his vacations. The storm turned the Big Easy into one of the hardest places on Earth to survive. And a compromised recovery would be short and flawed and unequal.
They promised to rebuild but more than lives, personal belongings, and memorabilia got lost in the flood. Gone was also both New Orleans’ patina of a supposedly racial democracy, and yet another national lame excuse to deny climate change.
As it goes, both were currency during the Bush administration in the immediate post 9/11 era, when his government acquired immense powers to avenge, in a phony cowboy way, the open wounds of American society. Katrina, thus, was far from a ‘natural’ disaster.
The government that sent to the U.N. an honored but misguided black Secretary of State, to justify the Iraq invasion with manufactured evidence, had also promoted an energy policy based on fossil fuels that’s now directly linked to the climate deterioration of the planet.
A policy that, while lining government officials’ pockets, from the VIP down to close allies in the industry and oil-producing countries, has been instrumental for an explosive growth in the destructive power of storms such as Karina, and the wild fires now raging in the West Coast.
WHY THEY WERE LEFT BEHIND
Despite our first black president‘s usual brand of shinning rhetoric and optimism about the future, the state of race relations in this (more)
* New Orleans Remembers
country couldn’t be bleaker, just as it seemed a decade ago. A brief look into Katrina’s stats can make it for a sobering experience to those who doubt it.
According to a Brown University study, for instance, damage in black communities reached 45.8%, compared to 26.45 in undamaged areas, and with no evacuation plan in place, attempts to move people out of the way of the storm were either running behind or riddled by shortcomings.
Dr. Michael Eric Dyson also points out that a late plan to move people to Houston failed because 22% of those targeted were ‘unable to evacuate, 14% were physically disabled, 23% stayed in New Orleans to care for a physically disabled person, and 25% were suffering from a chronic disease.’
BRIGHT FUTURE TO A PRECIOUS FEW
Ten years after, the pseudo-recovery brings up yet another type of bleak picture of the state of New Orleans. Gentrification, skyrocketing property prices, and specially that of one of the hardest hit areas, predominantly black Lower Ninth Ward, that’s still to see the cranes of rebuilding.
It’s very likely that a decade for now we’ll be talking about another ‘man-made’ disaster, flood, or raging fire, or a mass shooting, and how it disproportionately affected poor black neighborhoods, and how we need to do something radically different this time around.
In the meantime, we’ll probably still be hearing speeches about how we’re finally making strides against the nefarious effects of climate change, and racial and social inequality, and all the things we already knew in 2005. Then again, we may just get it finally right then.