A lot of people are calling for a levee system that will protect the city from a Category 5 hurricane. Then they are saying we should not rebuild every part of New Orleans.
If we have an effective levee system, why can’t we rebuild everywhere?
Also, if you say that New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward should become green space or marshes, you are also saying that St. Bernard Parish and Lower Plaquemines should become green space or marshes. I am not prepared to say any of that.
Instead of thinking 4 months ahead, we need to be thinking 40 years ahead. We have to think generations ahead.
Levees aren’t enough. We need our wetlands back, our defensive line. The levees are our linebackers. And, yes, I would prefer to have the Dome Patrol back there mopping up what the wetlands can’t stop. A strong secondary would be nice, too, maybe in the form of a smart rebuilding plan – but one that includes everyone.
And I am adamant about including everyone. If people can’t come back in four months, we give them 12 months. If they can’t come back in 12 months, we give them 24 months. If they can’t come back in the long term, we set up a “right of return” policy for future generations. That way their family retains the right to their land if it is ever developed in the future.
(Warning: The following scenario assumes a very positive population growth for New Orleans over the next 50 or so years. Obviously, I think it is possible because I wrote it, but many readers will no doubt disagree.)
We seem to be preparing for a city of 250,000 people with a lot of green space where people used to live. In the future, when that 250,000 grows to 300,000, then 350,000, and then 400,000 – because you know people want to live here – will we then start building on that green space?
You bet we will. I would hate to have to explain to the world why we kicked a family off of their land right after a catastrophic flood destroyed everything they owned so that in the future a developer could make millions of dollars selling it to someone else.
Here’s the other thing. Black residents of New Orleans were more impacted by the flooding than white residents – over three quarters of the black residents received *more than* minimal flooding as opposed to half of the city’s white residents. I need not remind you that there are many more black residents in New Orleans than white residents. The areas most likely to not be rebuilt, with the exception of Lakeview, are majority black. If land is taken away from a large group (both in real numbers and percentages) of black residents – compared to a much smaller group of white residents – and then sold away in the future… well, that just ain’t right.
Right now, I feel like everyone should be allowed to rebuild and the city should accommodate them. Then, allow time for the city to adapt to the new layout and figure out the best way to serve its residents.
In the meantime, wetlands and levees, wetlands and levees, wetlands and levees…