We are entering an age when severe weather events, terrorist attacks, and other abrupt dislocations and catastrophes will be more common. It is thus to our great benefit to learn how best to marshal an effective response. Over on Reason, Jesse Walker's got a fascinating piece (via Jim Henley) on when social bonds do and do not break down after disasters, and the kinds of spontaneously arising community responses that authorities should learn to work with rather than against. Oddly comforting.
I recently stumbled on a couple of nice new blogs. Life Begins at 30 revolves around the challenges and joys of eating local -- start with this nice, tidy list of reasons to eat local food. Then there's Bitter Greens Journal, a blog about the evils of industrial agriculture that recently attracted the attention of the mighty Monsanto. Enjoy.
Good God. Read this first-hand account of the Gulf Coast rescue and cleanup operations from a contractor who works with the EPA. Here's a tidbit:This contractor has been organizing reverse osmosis (RO) water purification units from all over the country since last Tuesday. He has over 100 units of various sizes available to move into the region, but no one will give the go ahead. No one will sign their name to a piece of paper for fear of recriminations later. He says that over 80 million pint bottles of water have been purchased at $0.75 each. The RO units can produce a gallon of water from contaminated water for $0.01 and they can produce thousands of gallons a day. Two are staged near the zone and these alone can produce 250,000 gallons per day. The Army has RO units, but every functional one, and every operator trained to use them, is in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Via TriplePundit, a short interview with Graham Hill, founder and proprietor of Treehugger.
This (via Tapped) nails, like nothing else I've read, why I take Bush's reaction to Katrina personally. And it's not just Bush, it's Brown, Chertoff, any number of politicians, a substantial portion of the commentariat. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) said that those who stayed (got stuck) behind in New Orleans should be punished:There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving.I don't really consider myself a bleeding heart, but for god's sake, thousands of our fellow citizens are sitting in their own filth, old people and babies, dying of sickness, dehydration, illness, suicide ... Why isn't everyone, at every level of government, in a fucking panic about this? Where's the humanity? How can I be a part of the same species as these people? I just don't get it. Time for me to take a valium and stop reading the news.
Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency: "Unfortunately, [the death toll]'s going to be attributable a lot to people who did not heed the advance warnings," Brown told CNN. "I don't make judgments about why people chose not to leave but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans," he said. Michael Chertoff, secretary of Homeland Security: Some people chose not to obey [the evacuation order]. That was a mistake on their part. Bill O'Reilly, conservative talkshow host on FOX News: Moral of the story: People were warned to get out. Those who stayed paid a price for that decision. If you rely on the government, you're likely to be disappointed. No government can protect you or provide for you. You have to do it yourself. Barack Obama, Senator from Illinois: And so I hope that out of this crisis we all begin to reflect - Democrat and Republican - on not only our individual responsibilities to ourselves and our families, but to our mutual responsibilities to our fellow Americans. I hope we realize that the people of New Orleans weren't just abandoned during the Hurricane. They were abandoned long ago - to murder and mayhem in their streets; to substandard schools; to dilapidated housing; to inadequate health care; to a pervasive sense of hopelessness. That is the deeper shame of this past week - that it has taken a crisis like this one to awaken us to the great divide that continues to fester in our midst. That's what all Americans are truly ashamed about, and the fact that we're ashamed about it is a good sign. The fact that all of us - black, white, rich, poor, Republican, Democrat - don't like to see such a reflection of this country we love, tells me that the American people have better instincts and a broader heart than our current politics would indicate. (first three via American Progress)
The Environmental and Urban Economics blog (found via MoJo) has a series of extremely thought-provoking posts on Katrina, local investment, and risk assessment.
I can't put it any better than Think Progress.
Sierra Club exec. director Carl Pope writes an alternate history of the last two weeks -- what could have been. But it wasn't:Incompetence? Oh yes. But this was not garden-variety incompetence -- good intentions gone awry. This was the toxic harvest of a strategically and intentionally planted seed -- a set of reactionary beliefs to which our nation's leaders have become addicted. Namely: Prudence is for wimps, protecting our communities is morally corrosive, after-the-fact spin can substitute for planning, and the poor and powerless deserve whatever the fates -- or our bureaucracies -- hand to them. It has turned out that when you try, as conservative-activist Grover Norquist said, "to reduce government to the size that you can drown it in a bathtub," it is not just government that drowns. It is the people.