Calamaties transform more than landscape
August 30, 2005 6:14 PM   Subscribe

More than 30 feet of water stood over land inhabited by nearly one million people. Almost 300,000 African Americans were forced to live in refugee camps for months. Many people, both black and white, left the land and never returned. "When Mother Nature rages, the physical results are never subtle. Because we cannot contain the weather, we can only react by tabulating the damage in dollar amounts, estimating the number of people left homeless, and laying the plans for rebuilding. But . . . some calamities transform much more than the landscape." No, not Katrina. The Great Mississippi flood of 1927. Author John M. Barry in his definitive work on the subject, "shows how a heretofore anti-socialist America was forced by unprecedented circumstance to embrace an enormous, Washington-based big-government solution to the greatest natural catastrophe in our history, preparing the way (psychologically and otherwise) for the New Deal." The author is a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Center for Bioenvironmental Research of Tulane and Xavier universities (whose web site is *understandably* not answering right now). <Heading for the library to find this book>
posted by spock (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yeah, since this wouldn't have been posted unless the levee's broke today, I'll go ahead and post an idea I have and want to spread:

I have an idea. This weekend, when you go to your parties (as most of us do) bring a bottle of liquor and some extra beer with you. That’s your donation to this cause. At the party, sell them off to your friends at bar prices. $3-5 per drink. You can raise $18 off a $5 6-pack. A $12 liter of whiskey could net back $68. Second Harvest can bring 15 meals for $1.

Sorry to go off topic... it was for a good cause.
posted by trinarian at 6:44 PM on August 30, 2005

Mmmm. Good post :)
posted by By The Grace of God at 7:03 PM on August 30, 2005

totally interesting--i'd never heard. What is Bush going to do? He's going to have to have us support all those people until it's all habitable again. God only knows where the money is going to come from.
posted by amberglow at 7:41 PM on August 30, 2005

nice post, spock. Nice idea, trinarian.
posted by shoepal at 7:55 PM on August 30, 2005

im just glad the national guard is there to help!!
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 9:19 PM on August 30, 2005

Another timely book that I read recently was Isaac's Storm, about the 1900 Galveston hurricane. (Framed as "Man laughing in the face of Nature gets the smackdown.") It was a similar situation... people floating on rooftops, the city completely destroyed, the deadliest natural disaster in US history. In fact, according to the book, the hurricane was the reason that Houston is the major port on the Texas coast--before the hurricane, Galveston was more important.
posted by strikhedonia at 10:20 PM on August 30, 2005

Doesn't this give us a hint that there are some places in the world where it might be better not to have a large metropolis unless we can help it?
posted by lerrup at 11:20 PM on August 30, 2005

You could name about a dozen of those places nationwide, maybe more, much less places in the world.
posted by raysmj at 4:53 AM on August 31, 2005

Wonderful post. I had no idea.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:35 AM on August 31, 2005

Another timely book: Walter Jon Williams' The Rift, which details the effects of an 8.9 earthquake on the New Madrid fault along the Mississippi. The picture painted is much, much worse than Katrina. In particular, rather than two levees breached, they all are.

There was an 8.9 there in 1811, so it's not at all farfetched.
posted by Aknaton at 8:53 AM on August 31, 2005

As I recall, Barry's book describes the deliberate racism afoot that left thousands of black sharecroppers stranded on the levees after the flood. It's hard not to think back on that when you see photos of the almost entirely black population of refugees left stranded in the city this week...
posted by footnote at 9:26 AM on August 31, 2005

I don't have the book in front of me, but I'm remembering more now -- the black sharecroppers and farmworkers were deliberately left behind because the landowners were afraid that they would never come back to work the land if they were evacuated.
posted by footnote at 9:28 AM on August 31, 2005

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