How many more lives will be lost and how much damage will it take for us to realize that Sandy was part of a continuing menacing pattern of extreme weather events that are here to stay? In 2005 it was Katrina, last year Irene and now Sandy. But around the world, extreme weather has crippled nations and destroyed property since 2000. You may think this has been going on forever, since the time of Noah, but this destruction has been escalating, with more damage every year than any similar span in recorded history.
Insurance losses in the U.S. averaged $9 billion in the 1980s. Katrina alone cost nearly $100 billion, with an average of nearly $40 billion a year in the 2000s. If we include Japan, the destruction to the globe in the last couple of years is unparalleled. Is this global warming or something else? No matter what the cause, there is a clear pattern of severe weather causing catastrophic human losses. This pattern, according to the National Research Council, is going to continue. We have to do more than hope it won’t happen here (wherever here is). The data indicates that a disaster is coming to you, or near you, in the near future, if you live in an urbanized coastal area. More than 60 percent of all Americans do.
So, what to do?
Sandy was not Katrina.
The storm that rocked the Eastern seaboard this week was a monumental event by any measurement. The death toll in New York City alone was 26 at last count, and dozens more died along the coast, as wind, water, fire and, often, falling trees claimed lives.
Indeed, for all of us who watched the storm ravage the Jersey Shore, or for that matter, saw the explosion at the Con Edison plant on 14th Street in Manhattan, or surveyed the damage in sections of Brooklyn and Queens, it’s hard to imagine a more destructive disaster.
But as the inevitable comparisons between the two storms gather force, it bears remembering that 1,833 people died in the U.S. during Hurricane Katrina, according to the National Hurricane Center, and that the economic costs related to the storm topped $74 billion.
Drifting in from various film festivals on smoke signals of lavish praise, the unique, fascinating and ultimately depressing film called Beasts of the Southern Wild— a low-budget independent film by Benh Zeitlin about survivors of apocalyptic Hurricane Katrina, shot in the back swamps of Terrebonne Parish, La., using local nonactors instead of Hollywood extras—is now ready to engage the movie-going public in the darkness of a dream. There is no guarantee that the movie-going public is ready. I don’t notice any critics offering to pick up its deficit tabs in case it floats away from good reviews. But get ready anyway. Brilliant, compelling and powerful, this offbeat look at a part of a world we live in but know nothing about is not going to disappear without at first making a noise.
In a desolate, burned-out butt end of nowhere (the shrimp-trawling, blackened catfish, Cajun part of Southeastern Louisiana), a little girl they call Hushpuppy is left alone for days and nights on end when her desperately ill father disappears, forcing her to invent her own survival techniques. The setting is the emotionally parched and geographically designed cartographer’s view of hell called The Bathtub—what’s left of an area of makeshift cardboard and toothpick shanties that Katrina devastated, scattering the region’s population to the wind like dandelion fuzz. It lies low between the Gulf and the Mississippi River—a man-made wall has gone up on the dry side of the levee to protect against annihilating floods. This is where nothing grows, catfish and crawdads from polluted water are the only food, and stubborn Cajuns who refused to evacuate to higher ground when Brad Pitt and Sean Penn came down to rescue them on CNN News still live in the ultimate depths of poverty and ignorance. It’s the most sobering view of the uneducated and disenfranchised outcasts the world has forgotten since Precious.
In anticipation of the Nov. 9 release of his memoir Decision Points, George W. Bush will sit down with Matt Lauer for a prime-time news special this Monday to talk over the experiences relayed in the book. In the excerpts released yesterday in a press release, the NBC anchor grilled the ex-head of Read More
LISA + DONNIE R OK. The words are both hopeful and bone-chilling. They were scrawled, in 2005, on a once-pretty white house with pale-blue shutters in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward.
Five years ago this month, one of the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history swept through Louisiana and Mississippi. An exhibition opening Aug. 28 (a day Read More
If the right-wing chorus insists that the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico is “Obama’s Katrina,” then let us hope the president will make the most of that slogan. The comparison between the utter failure of the Bush administration and the missteps and errors of the Obama White House is fundamentally Read More