Article: New Orleans – a perilous future

New OrleansThis article in August’s National Geographic magazine is very pertinent, coming as it does at a time when large areas of Britain have been flooded as a result of storms. Despite watching the images on television, I cannot imagine the full impact it would have – your life, your work ruined over the course of a few hours or days.

The article and the Editor’s comment do an excellent job of highlighting the question of whether New Orleans should be rebuilt, given the history of it being ravaged by the elements:

“In the past three centuries, major hurricanes and river floods have pummeled and drowned New Orleans no fewer than 27 times.”

Everyone saw how the US government failed to cope with the aftermath of hurricane Katrina and the damage it wrought. President Bush spoke of a “a tragedy that seems so blind and random” and promised that “[we] will not just rebuild, we will build higher and better.” I now know that the event was not random but had a long history of precedent and that rebuilding again may prove to be futile. A large part of New Orleans is already below sea level and sinking. Climate change and rising sea levels could well mean the city simply no longer exists in a hundred years’ time – the likelihood is that another big hurricane could see much of the city underwater permanently. To be honest, I’m likely to see it in my lifetime.

“It might be time to… move to Kansas”

A third of the pre-Katrina population haven’t returned. The people that have are resilient for the moment, but another flood might change that, despite the city’s rich heritage and culture.

Why is this relevant? I live in the lovely county of Kent in the south east of England, an hour’s drive from the centre of London. A new study shows that this part of the country is subsiding 2 – 3mm a year. We’re on a tiny island. Where will we go?


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