For mitigation over adaptation: the argument from cynicism
The second anniversary of Katrina has passed, marked by me only with craven silence.
There are three Katrina tidbits I wanted to pass along, though, as they are germane to the argument over whether humanity can or should adapt to ongoing climate change.
The first is from a year ago. Jim Rusch, who was then acting governor of Idaho and who is likely to take over Larry Craig’s recently vacated Senate seat, said this:
Here in Idaho, we couldn’t understand how people could sit around on the kerbs waiting for the federal government to come and do something. We had a dam break in 1976, but we didn’t whine about it. We got out our backhoes and we rebuilt the roads and replanted the fields and got on with our lives. That’s the culture here. Not waiting for the federal government to bring you drinking water. In Idaho there would have been entrepreneurs selling the drinking water.
(Via Mark Schmitt, who notes that, aside from the callousness, there’s deep hypocrisy here, as no state has been more showered in federal largess than Idaho — the feds built the dam he’s talking about fer chrissake.)
Second, there’s GOP presidential candidate Tom Tancredo (Colo.):
GOP presidential hopeful Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) said Friday it is “time the taxpayer gravy train left the New Orleans station” and urged an end to the federal aid to the region that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina two years ago.
“The amount of money that has been wasted on these so-called ‘recovery’ efforts has been mind-boggling,” said Tancredo, who is running a long-shot presidential campaign. “Enough is enough.”
And finally, John Hawkins, on the popular conservative opinion site Town Hall:
Two years after Katrina, everywhere you turn, there are people carping, whining, and kvetching. Just why hasn’t the pity party for the citizens of New Orleans run out of booze and chips yet?
But, we’re all supposed to eternally sit around and weep tiny little tears of sadness for the people who really took it on the chin in a hurricane because they chose to live in a city shaped like a soup bowl on the coast. Let me tell all the citizens of New Orleans something that should have been told to them 18 months ago: it’s time to stop playing the sympathy card and get over it.
Nobody is owed a living for the rest of his life because he had a bad break two years ago. Yet, we still have people affected by Katrina who have FEMA paying their rent. How sad and pathetic is it that these shiftless people are still leaching off their fellow citizens? Since when is being in the path of a hurricane supposed to give you a permanent “Get Out of Work Free” card?
(Last two via Steve Benen.)
Everybody reading this site knows how screwed over the people of NOLA were. Everybody knows how much race and class had to do with it. (For the best take on race and Katrina, read Digby.)
When it comes to global warming, the poorest and most vulnerable are going to get hit first, and hardest. But look: poor people in the richest country on earth, even in the days immediately following the disaster that destroyed their city, received only thinly veiled racist and classist contempt from a large portion of the U.S. electorate.
What are the chances that the world is systematically going to channel resources to the most vulnerable places and people before disasters strike? What are the chances that American taxpayers, so grudging toward NOLA victims, will pay for a new, resilient infrastructure for, say, Bangladesh?
Mitigation and adaptation are both ultimately about wealth transfer — the world’s haves footing most of the bill for sustainable development for the have nots.
When it comes to mitigation, the bill will be much smaller and the benefits for the wealthy much larger. Adaptation’s bill is huge and growing every day.
We desperately need to be pushing, now, with all our might, for mitigation, because if you think the rich people of the world are going to start sending resources to the poor after the shit really hits the fan … well, you have more faith in humanity than I do.