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Last chance for Southeast Louisiana
March 5, 2007 9:15 PM   Subscribe

Last Chance. "It took the Mississippi River 6,000 years to build the Louisiana coast. It took man (and natural disasters) 75 years to destroy it. Experts agree we have 10 years to act before the problem is too big to solve." [Via First Draft.]
posted by homunculus (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Related post.
posted by homunculus at 9:18 PM on March 5, 2007


"It took the Mississippi River 6,000 years to build the Louisiana coast. It took man (and natural disasters) 75 years to destroy it.

Yeah! Woooo! Go man and natural disasters! You kicked the Mississippi River's ASS! In only 75 years! Now on to the Niger Delta!

[Brought to you by Jokefilter. Does not necessarily represent the opinions of flapjax at midnite or family and friends.]
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:36 PM on March 5, 2007


Great post. Thank you.
posted by anthill at 9:50 PM on March 5, 2007


We can now edit the last line on humanity's hubris from
"you blew it up!" to
"you blew it."
posted by sarcasman at 10:08 PM on March 5, 2007


well im sure we'll pull together and act in time to repair the damage we've done
posted by keswick at 10:08 PM on March 5, 2007


Obligatory plug for John McPhee's great book Control of Nature here. The chapter on what we've turned the lower the Mississippi into is...eye-opening.

(And the chapter on Icelanders fighting lava with firehoses is pretty cool too.)
posted by gottabefunky at 10:11 PM on March 5, 2007


ahem.

i kind of have a problem seeing the difficulty in this. yeah, it's great that we have this wonderful ecological system delicately balanced at the bottom of our continent that has been 6000 years in the making.

but what's happening is a change in conditions. it's only a coincidence that these changes are made by humans. the fact is natural disasters can wreak the same kind of havoc to ecosystems.

granted, this might not be as common as man made ecodisasters. and the incidence of man made events is on the rise.

as a single human, i am capable of controlling my actions to minimize this destruction. however, the problem is that this isn't the act of a single person: the destruction of the ecosystem is a result of collective human behavior. in my book, that's the same as any naturally occurring event, such as an earthquake or volcano.

unfortunately, the political mechanisms to deal with these issues cannot meet the immediate needs of the region. the political jigsaw that covers the watershed is way too diffused for any collective action, and the fact that the terminal point--Louisiana--is pretty corrupt makes it even worse.

my conclusion: it's totally fucked. enjoy it while you can.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 10:20 PM on March 5, 2007


well im sure we'll pull together and act in time to repair the damage we've done

And just what, I wonder, would make you so sure of that, keswick?

Oh, right! The timely response of the government to the hungry, stranded victims of Katrina! How silly of me, I forgot. I'm sure everything'll be just fine, then!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:28 PM on March 5, 2007


Fuck all of us. Nature is going to have the last laugh.

This reminds me so much of the loggers who want to cut down the few remaining old growth trees. Yeah, you get to buy a new Nintendo this year, but next year there's nothing at all, and never will be again. All so you can buy chrome mud flaps and vote good old boy.

We're just reaping what we've sown. I have no sympathy for the humans in this story. Me, me, me, me, me. Bah.
posted by maxwelton at 10:30 PM on March 5, 2007


flapjax at midnite: hth
posted by keswick at 10:34 PM on March 5, 2007


Thanks, keswick, and sorry. I must sheepishly admit, my sarc. filt. must be down. (Gotta have that looked at...)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:43 PM on March 5, 2007


If you all clap real, real hard and show that you really believe, maybe Nature won't die after all.

oh, fuck it, you've killed her.
posted by stavrogin at 12:11 AM on March 6, 2007


Yes, lester's sock puppet, indeed many things that man does is completely natural: war, disease, poverty, psychotic Pop Megastars. That doesn't mean we don't have a responsibility to make decisions to prevent them. If you want to look at it reductively, the death of all mankind would be a totally natural thing to happen, but it wouldn't be very pleasant. The stuff we're doing to the environment doesn't really matter in the long run -- life will always win (until the sun blows up). Still, in the time spans that matter to us, our children, and our grandchildren, destroying the world that we know is a bad thing.

That being said, the idea that the southern coast of Louisiana has ever trended towards stability is totally insane. Okay, it took 6,000 years for the Mississippi to build the current coast; then, the next day, it changed slightly. Then, a hundred years later, the river switched courses completely. Our mistake was (and is) to think that we could actually stop those changes. You want a solution? Stop living there. The birds'll come back.
posted by one_bean at 7:22 AM on March 6, 2007


sarcasm is overrated.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:23 AM on March 6, 2007


sarcasman is overrated
posted by sarcasman at 7:54 AM on March 6, 2007


Thanks to the times picayune for this series. They are doing a good job on this. (although they could do better).

I'm still dealing with the collective shock this is putting on the locals here, but it's necessary to mobilize folks. I'm learning a lot of the science at university, as well as the macro-politics in sociology class, but not the micro-politics as the times pic is explaining it. I've been wishing all semester that my coastal geology class was required high school curriculum.

You want a solution? Stop living there.

That is not a solution (though it's part of one). As an industrial society, we've got to stop running away from problems. The question is not whether to stop people from living in southern louisiana, but how to organize society to deal with catatrophic natural events. As society is currently organized, there is little resilience to hurricanes, sea level rise, etc.

How will you face the myriad problems stemming from climate change? "stop living" on earth? good solution, that.

as a single human, i am capable of controlling my actions to minimize this destruction. however, the problem is that this isn't the act of a single person: the destruction of the ecosystem is a result of collective human behavior. in my book, that's the same as any naturally occurring event, such as an earthquake or volcano.

that's as an abysmal account of the state of the science and practice of economics as i've ever heard.
posted by eustatic at 8:19 AM on March 6, 2007


I think there's a big difference between global warming and setting up a large metropolitan area at the mouth of one of the largest rivers on earth.

Would you pitch a tent in front of a firehose? Or on top of a volcano?

But, yeah, people are living there and they want to live there, and they have roots there, and I know it's not my place to tell them not to. And yes, we could certainly try to elect leaders who actually believe in the government's ability to help people recover from natural disasters. Still, to me, this just seems like a really bad area to live. The place is sinking.
posted by one_bean at 8:23 AM on March 6, 2007


So, now that you've told everyone to move and that it's hopeless and the idea that it was stupid to put a city there (it was brilliant for commercial and strategic purposes, which is why the U.S. wanted it--there was no other site that good, still isn't for trade on the nation's most important waterway; and it's now as important a city the nation has, from the standpoint of cultural influence and historical import, etc.), please check out the laying the groundwork part of the Times-Pic series for talk about viable solutions, as opposed to hang-wringing and talk of certain doom. (And for all the bewildering disappointments here, such as the reelection of William Jefferson--made possible not only to a slim majority of voters in much of New Orleans, but an outright majority of those who voted in a neighboring Jefferson Parish; it's complicated--major positive steps toward a new anti-corruption direction have been made here post-Katrina, such as consolidating levee boards and seven Orleans Parish tax accessors offices into one.)

Eustatic: I'd try taking a public policy class to learn about the micro-politics part, not a sociology course. You'll learn about the NIMBY syndrome, probably, about interest group behavior, the strength of cohesive small groups (biz and industry and other types), the fractious system of govt. in the U.S. at all levels, etc., and the importance of solutions, solutions in search of problems, the like. This series has it all--it could be the text of mini-public policy course.
posted by raysmj at 8:46 AM on March 6, 2007


But, yeah, people are living there and they want to live there, and they have roots there, and I know it's not my place to tell them not to.
posted by one_bean at 12:04 PM on March 6, 2007


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