Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rebuilding from Katrina in New Orleans (Carol Bebelle @ Bioneers 2007)

Carol Bebelle is a writer and poet living in New Orleans and I recently heard her talk (at the Bioneers 2007 conference) about the rebuilding of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. She talked at length eloquently about the rebuilding of the city and its culture. A city is more than buildings, it is people and all the things that go into being human beings. She talked of ceremonies and culture and artwork and more that brings the life of humans into a city.

She described New Orleans as being 2 years into a rebuilding process which will take another 8 years to accomplish. Wow.

She also talked about an opportunity presented by the destruction of New Orleans. That opportunity is to rebuild the city in an idealistic new model rather than simply returning to the old form. While I agree the opportunity is there, and while I agree that we humans desire more 'green' technology and buildings and cityscape, I doubt the rebuilt New Orleans will be a bright perfect city exemplary of green ideals.

The history of humankind has many destroyed cities ravaged by natural disasters from earthquakes to fires to storms to flooding to land subsidance and more. New Orleans is only a recent example.

Consider the plight of San Francisco in 1903. That city was razed to the ground by earthquake damage and the resulting fires, and the people very clearly had the opportunity to rebuild their city in a bright and wonderful new layout and plan. They even considered doing so. But did they? Nope. They reused the same streetplan etc, though they did learn a few things about building safety in earthquake zones.

When disaster happens and destroys a city ... the people who survive are facing a destroyed world. What will they do? They have two choices: a) Recreate the world they know, b) reinvent their world in a better way of some kind

I've never lived through the destruction of a city. The closest I've come is looking at houses destroyed by tornado's. But I can imaging that the survivors of destruction are going to be traumatized. Duh. And traumatized people aren't always going to make the best choices.

Still, I wish New Orleans the best. I wish them to rebuild their city in the bestest way they possibly can.

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