The Drowning of New Orleans


Since writing this article, I’ve discovered that I’ve come up near the top in the Google search for “drowning of New Orleans”. I fear that those coming here from that search aren’t looking for a personal website offering commentary on the disaster.

If I’d venture a guess, you may be looking for a Scientific American article entitled “Drowning New Orleans”, which talks in 2001 about the very threat that the city is facing today.

You may also be looking for an episode of Bill Moyer’s NOW on PBS entitled The City in a Bowl, which discussed the vulnerability of New Orleans long before this disaster happened. The transcript of that episode appears to be here (thanks to Boing Boing for the link).

If you’re interested in what I think about this disaster, read on. Though it’s probably no different from what any other decent individual must be thinking right now.

It looks as though the aftermath of Katrina is going to be as bad as the storm itself. Worse, even. At least with a storm, it’s gone in a matter of hours. The disaster on the Gulf Coast is going to take months to fix. This is going to affect far more people than just those in the area. The economic consequences will ripple throughout the world.

I have heard a few individuals on a couple of blogs say that there is too much focus on this storm, especially in the face of worse endemic suffering around the world. Some, I know, are ticked at the hyperbole expressed in the American media. It is true that it is hard to tell whether CNN is pro or anti-storm when it comes to their coverage, but that’s what you get when you have a media owned by corporations who are more interested in the bottom line. In any event, I’m willing to cut our southern friends a lot more slack. The only reason the death toll isn’t higher is because we saw this storm coming, and even with this warning, there were thousands of people who simply couldn’t get out of the way.

And the economic damage to individual livelihoods makes it easy to forget that so many have escaped with their lives. Sure, the statement “this is our tsunami” is hyperbole. But the Canadian ice storm didn’t kill as many people who died in and around the Indian Ocean either, and there is no question that it was a spectacular disaster. And though we were more than capable of cleaning up the Ice Storm damage on our own, we still received American assistance.

Try living through what the individuals have lived through, try seeing what they’re seeing up close and personal, and see if you don’t engage in a little hyperbole yourself.

Donations can be made through the Red Cross.

An Unfortunate Choice of Words

CNN reports on a political shift in Germany. The Social Democratic/Green coalition appears to be on its way out as the Christian Democrats make gains as a result of a lethargic economy and just a general sense that it’s time for a change. Angela Merkel could well be Germany’s first female chancellor come September 18.

BERLIN, Germany (CNN) — Germany’s conservatives have launched the main phase of their election campaign, confirming Angela Merkel as their candidate to unseat leftist Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in the September 18 poll.

But the gathering of nearly 10,000 delegates in the western state of North Rhine Westphalia on Sunday sought to steer clear of controversy.

In general, a fine and bog standard article reporting the trends of the day. What caught my attention, however, was the headline:

German conservatives hail Merkel

“Hails”, huh? A one letter typo is all that was required to make this a very disturbing headline indeed. As it stands, I think somebody in CNN’s headline department needs a bit of a slap.

Things You Learn Through Research

Did you know that Waterloo Region has a lower unemployment rate than Silicon Valley? That’s what Communitech argues when it works to entice Canadian ex-pats to consider returning to Canada to take up jobs in this area’s burgeoning tech sector. Consider this snippet from a recent press release:

Waterloo region
Unemployment rate: 5.3 per cent
Median home price: $244,825
Average temperature: 11.86 degrees
Average yearly snowfall: 158 cm
Golf courses: 16
Universities: University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Guelph
Major events: Oktoberfest, Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, Waterloo County and Area Quilt Festival

Silicon Valley
Unemployment rate: 5.4 per cent
Median home price: $681,500 (U.S.)
Average temperature: 21.65 degrees
Average yearly snowfall: 0 cm
Golf courses: 25
Universities: Carnegie Mellon University, San Jose State University, Stanford University
Major events: San Jose International Auto Show, San Jose Arts Festival, Cinco de Mayo Parade and Festival, Comcast Jazz Festival, Silicon Valley Marathon”

Several comments here. First, you can tell the type of employee they’re expecting to recruit, here, by listing the number of golf courses that Waterloo Region boasts. Also, my but do we have a lot of golf courses. I also like the fact that the comparison is pretty straightforward and honest. Indeed, in comparing major events and the weather, I think we don’t come off so well, though our low real estate prices are a clear advantage. Without forcing the comparison, Communitech shows itself to be quite honest in his approach, which should win it points among potential recruits.

Communitech also links to an interesting Globe and Mail article citing Kitchener and Saskatoon as the hottest economic centres in the country.

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