Entries in "Katrina"

December 17, 2005

Rebuilding New Orleans with a wifi network

I had missed this post by Youngjin Yoo about the plan to blanket New Orleans in wifi, which I think is a wonderful way to go about rebuilding downtown in a new and better way. As Professor Yoo writes, however, there are questions about how it will be implemented:

"This is an interesting idea, but leaves several questions."

"1. Does New Orleans have full power throughout the city? Do they have other basic infrastructure in place? Or is free WiFi being considered a part of basic infrastructure now?"

[snip]

"3. It is one thing to have free WiFi throughout the city, but it is another to have plans how to use them. Even if you build them, they may not come, or will they?"

Click through the first link above to read the full original post by my colleague.

September 19, 2005

Music, anyone?

Jill Miller Zimon writes that there will be a free concert tomorrow night (Tuesday, September 20) at 7 pm at the Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights. Donations will be collected to benefit individuals and families affected by Hurricane Katrina. The musicians sound like they have stellar reputations (the lead performer is the Director of the Cleveland Institute of Music) so you may want to drive out to listen... if you make the journey, I hope it is enjoyable.

September 11, 2005

testimonies to human resilience

I really only have three flashbulb memories. The first is of the explosion of the Space Shuttle "Challenger", which occurred soon after my seventeenth birthday. The second is of 9/11/01. The third is of listening to this NPR segment on the way to work last Friday. Yes, this was ten days after Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 shaped the memories of Jacob Lawrence and Bessie Smith, enough that they were inspired to paint pictures and compose music about the incredible floods and their aftermath.

My first two flashbulb memories are associated with television images, but this newest one is associated with radio instead. One of the reasons that I continue to listen to NPR is that the radio programming is so powerfully evocative, perhaps even more so than television images. On the same morning that the story about Randy Newman's song was aired, there was also a very memorable commentary by Chris Rose, a columnist for the Times-Picayune. It's worth a listen, because it captures the range of emotions we feel about this disaster and the road ahead, away from it -- from profound despair to deepest humility to poignant hope.

I think what these three memories of mine have in common is that they mark events when my faith in humanity and in progress was tested. My fundamental optimism about life was challenged when the shuttle exploded, and indeed, my whole choice of future career was put back in question (I studied physics in high school, and at the time I had been thinking about a career in space exploration.) My sense of financial and personal security was challenged when the Twin Towers came down, and I knew that the lull in world history since the end of the Cold War was now behind us, replaced by the churning international political scene which has come to be known as the War on Terror. My belief that America was a powerful country which could prevent natural disasters and bring aid rapidly to those displaced by storms and floods was shattered by the uncoordinated early responses to Katrina.

I spoke with my parents in Switzerland earlier today, and they noted that the European coverage of the American rescue efforts has been short on praise. Apparently the French and even the Italians feel that their evacuation routines in anticipation of floods are much more effective than ours, and certainly the prediction and prevention of floods is much more finely tuned in the Netherlands than it was in the American South. Still, it seems that we knew, before the storm even began to form in the Atlantic, that the levees in New Orleans needed reinforcement, and there was a mandatory evacuation plan on the books, even if it had never before been invoked. Perhaps what allowed this disaster to occur is the same thing that will allow us to recover from it, eventually -- that is, the awareness of (and perhaps the hubris about) the tremendously powerful human will to survive and bounce back.

September 01, 2005

The fury of nature

Until yesterday, I had limited my exposure to news and information about Hurricane Katrina for my daughter's sake, since she is still young enough to be very frightened by a garden-variety thunderstorm. Then I received an email from the dean's assistant reminding me that our former dean, Scott Cowen, is now president at Tulane University, which was in Katrina's path. Here's a link to his messages to the Tulane community. Their campus does not seem to have sustained as much damage as other areas of the city, but note that his last message was on August 30; yesterday, on August 31, Tulane University Hospital was evacuated due to flooding from the levee breaches (according to CNN).

Of course, these are not the only effects of Hurricane Katrina; they're just the ones that happened to hit home the hardest for me. I was drawn into reading firsthand reports yesterday when I came across this collection of links in my Bloglines folder.... and I eventually had to wrench myself away, because the tales were too vivid, too raw.

At Worldchanging, there was commentary yesterday on the human drives which lead people to build the port of New Orleans on shifting mud; indeed, it seems to be built into the American DNA to choose short-term financial gains over long-term safety and sustainability. Nevertheless, at least the devastation of Katrina helps to underline this pattern, which has been identified before, but which has negative effects that are now powerfully underscored.

I'm reading a book called The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths Toward a Moral Economy, which gives me some hope that we may be able to reprogram ourselves, no matter how massive an undertaking that seems right now. It will be interesting to see how decisions are made about rebuilding vs. relocating.