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Too Many People in Nature's Way 705

Posted by Hemos
from the ruination-upon-us dept.
Ant writes "Wired News report that the dead and the desperate of New Orleans now join the farmers of Aceh and the fishermen of Trincomalee, villagers in Iran and the slum dwellers of Haiti in a world being dealt ever more punishing blows by natural disasters... ... "We rely on technology and we end up thinking as human beings that we're totally safe, and we're not," said Miletti, of the University of Colorado. "The bottom line is we have a very unsafe planet." By one critical measure, the impact on populations, statistics show the planet to be increasingly unsafe. More than 2.5 billion people were affected by floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters between 1994 and 2003, a 60 percent increase over the previous two 10-year periods, U.N. officials reported at a conference on disaster prevention in January. Those numbers don't include millions displaced by last December 2004's tsunami, which killed an estimated 180,000 people as its monstrous waves swept over coastlines from Indonesia's Aceh province to Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, and beyond. By another measure -- property damage -- 2004 was the costliest year on record for global insurers, who paid out more than $40 billion on natural disasters, reports German insurance giant Munich Re. Florida's quartet of 2004 hurricanes was the big factor. But generally it's not that more "events" are happening, rather that more people are in the way, said Thomas Loster, a Munich Re expert. "More and more people are being hit," he said..." I'd also like to point out a project here to find housing for Katrina's victims; it tries to combine lists of sites offering housing, and do a meta-search.
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Too Many People in Nature's Way

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  • But then again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:27AM (#13482919)
    The population is growing. It can't be that unsafe.
    • by tentimestwenty (693290) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:37PM (#13483689)
      The population can grow as long as there is energy available to support it. Energy, and oil specifically allows us to insulate ourselves from nature's forces by building habitat, artificially increasing food production etc. Whether it is safe isn't even part of the equation.

      When we no longer have the means to protect ourselves (i.e. oil runs out), then Nature will be far more punishing than a hurricane, tsunami or earthquake. Just imagine other cities in the state of New Orleans because there is no electricity, water, gas or food production. All of those comforts are entirely dependent on a shrinking supply of oil.
      • When we no longer have the means to protect ourselves (i.e. oil runs out), then Nature will be far more punishing than a hurricane, tsunami or earthquake. Just imagine other cities in the state of New Orleans because there is no electricity, water, gas or food production. All of those comforts are entirely dependent on a shrinking supply of oil.

        No, they are not entirely dependent on oil. In the USA, oil powers only 14% of your power plants, which is a large chunk of your energy usage. Many countries u

    • Re:But then again (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mellon (7048) *
      Actually, the more the population grows, the more people will be in harm's way. That is, unless we (whoever "we" is) start taking into account the relative safety of various possible places to live.
  • by Monte (48723) on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:28AM (#13482928)
    "The bottom line is we have a very unsafe planet."

    Well that tears it. I'm leaving. Anyone coming with me?

  • by slughead (592713) on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:28AM (#13482929) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps we shouldn't rebuild on the lands that keep getting destroyed... I hear that's what they did in the days before governmental disaster relief.
    • Quite right...

      Additionally, maybe it's time we stopped building homes out of sticks.

      • by keraneuology (760918) on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:42AM (#13483011) Journal
        Additionally, maybe it's time we stopped building homes out of sticks.

        Depends on where you live: what holds up wonderfully against a hurricane or tornado can fail miserably the first time San Andres sneezes.

        • by zotz (3951) on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:49AM (#13483055) Homepage Journal
          So...

          Build a reinforced bunker going from a basement to two stories. Built a bamboo and paper house around it.

          Trouble on the way, get in the bunker. Cheap to rebuild what gets blown or washed, etc. away.

          Problems with this thought?

          all the best,

          drew

          http://www.ourmedia.org/node/41879 [ourmedia.org]
          • by keraneuology (760918) on Monday September 05, 2005 @11:48AM (#13483445) Journal
            Not far off from what they do in tornado-prone midwestern states. Photos of entire subdivisions with each house sporting what appears to be a bank vault that serves as a safe room demonstrate what can happen when people actually care about what might happen. The rest of the house may be destroyed, but everybody has safe haven and the foundations remain intact for easy rebuilding.

            So let's see... let's say there is an exceptionally active tornado season that spawned 500 tornados, each twister 100 yards wide (on the larger side) with a ground track of 5 miles each, which result in approximately 150 square miles (heck... let's round up to 200 square miles) of devestation.

            At 2nd landfall Katrina had hurricane force winds extending 105 miles out from the center. Let's pretend that the storm made it 20 miles inland and collapsed, causing no subsequent damage. 2,100 square miles of devestation. From a single storm. That is, on average, only one of multiple storms in any given season.

            So compare:

            Some communities are faced with the odds of being randomly selected by mother nature to be included within 150 square miles of destruction and make endless plans, preparations, code changes, modifications to standard building concepts and the development of new structures, technologies and strategies.

            Other communities are faced with the prospect of being included in over 2,000 miles of destruction, elect a governor more interested in retaining a football team than the Mississippi, and not only wipe out the only natural protection they have (the wetlands) but actively discourage storm-and-flood resistance by incorporating strict historical accuracy codes and walk along the bottoms of their earthworks and never think once that the silt deposits are now several feet above their heads, let alone the ever-rising water surface.

            Yeah, the city cared about being prepared.

            • by TrevorB (57780) on Monday September 05, 2005 @01:22PM (#13483972) Homepage
              Photos of entire subdivisions with each house sporting what appears to be a bank vault that serves as a safe room demonstrate what can happen when people actually care about what might happen.

              So the people so poor that they're living paycheck to paycheck, unable to build a "bank vault" to protect themselves in, or even have the common decency to own a car and be able to fill it with expensive gas didn't care enough to live?

              Those bank vault storm shelters were completely paid for by the goverment, their either subsidized or paid for in full by the residents of the suburbs, am I right?

              New Orleans itself is in the same situation, living "paycheck to paycheck". They've been begging for federal funds for years before this happened to upgrade the levees. Those funds got redirected to Iraq for the past two years.

              (Rant considerably more nasty before editing, consider yourself lucky... :)
              • They've been begging for federal funds for years before this happened to upgrade the levees.

                An eye-witness to the storm, whose home was near one of the breached levees, reported on CNN Saturday that the break was caused by loose barges smashing into the levee, and not a failure of the levee alone.

                So, it may be that no amount of federal funding might have had any preventative effect.
              • New Orleans itself is in the same situation, living "paycheck to paycheck". They've been begging for federal funds for years before this happened to upgrade the levees. Those funds got redirected to Iraq for the past two years.

                Actually, those funds were to be disbursed for fiscal year 2006. Iraq or no Iraq, the work would not have been done. And supposedly the levees that were breached last week were not on the list for improvement anyway.

                If you can set aside your anti-Bush venom for a few moments, yo

              • by gravos (912628) on Monday September 05, 2005 @05:39PM (#13485431) Homepage
                The key difference between Iraq and New Orleans is that Iraq is a national problem. It is another country, and individal states are not authorized to "deal" or make war with other countries. Thus, it is the responsibility of the federal government to deal with Iraq. Regardless of whether you believe we should be there or not, it's a situation that has to be dealt with and paid for on a federal level.

                New Orleans, however, is but a small city within a state. They had a responsibility, as a city, to do everything in their power to protect themselves from predictable natural disasters. They should have done this with their own money, not with money from the Federal government. The local tax rates should have been much higher in New Orlearns (and should be much higher in all coastal areas) so that the goverment could provide adequate protection for the people.
    • by evol262 (721773) on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:45AM (#13483037) Homepage

      Perhaps we shouldn't rebuild on the lands that keep getting destroyed... I hear that's what they did in the days before governmental disaster relief.

      Actually, that's not true. The Sumerians consistently rebuilt in the same spots after (constant) floods. Same with the Egyptians. The Romans did not abandon any of the cities around Pompeii (i.e. Capua). Many cities in Africa were completely rebuilt after disasters. The Yangtze floods a lot, and they rebuilt. The Japanese learned to build earthquake-proof buildings. Cultures everywhere still rebuild at the foot of volcanoes. The Indians/Sri Lankans rebuilt after typhoons/tsunamis.

      While it's not a great idea, people certainly still do it. While most of them would wait for the city to stabilize naturally, a good location is a good location. New Orleans is a fairly unbeatable location for a port (like Alexandria, which is still there after half the damn went into the Med), and any culture in their right mind would rebuild.

      The possible loss of human life in the future, while an awful possibility, does not preclude them rebuilding.

      • Actually, that's not true. The Sumerians consistently rebuilt in the same spots after (constant) floods. Same with the Egyptians.

        Um, floods of Nile were not disasters to Egyptians. They fertilized and watered their farmlands. Those floods came each year at the same time and rose to the same height; they were the source of Egypts power and riches, not negative in any way.

        Or did you perhaps mean some other kind of flood ?

      • "New Orleans is a fairly unbeatable location for a port"

        Don't think you actually need to build a large city around a port these day. In this day and age you need a bunch of cranes to move containers, and a mix of truck friendly freeways and rail lines. You need a town big enough to support the people that work in it but the number of people needed to run a container shipping port is dramatically lower than it was when everything was loaded and unloaded by hand.

        In fact all the big ports I've seen are actua
    • Back atcha, Cap'n. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SoupIsGood Food (1179) * on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:54AM (#13483088)
      You heard wrong, unless by "before government disaster relief" you mean "before there were governments and we all ate sticks and berries and ran from sabretooth tigers."

      Serious. Check out the history of the Yangtzee and Ganges rivers going back almost 5,000 years, and the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia at the very dawn of civilization. Cities are generally built where they are useful, not where they are safe.

      Those with a Libertarian or Conservative leaning sometimes forget that Taxes purchase something useful for you: civilization.

      The government diaster relief you deride so much makes civilization happen in North America. Just the cost of doing business here. Move to Somalia if you want to live someplace where there's no tax burden.

      SoupIsGood Food
  • by Lighterup (754199) on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:29AM (#13482936)
    nature should get out of the way or face lawsuits
  • The big question.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lightyear4 (852813) on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:31AM (#13482953) Homepage
    ..is:

    To what degree have we done this to ourselves?
  • not surprising (Score:4, Interesting)

    by smoondog (85133) on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:32AM (#13482958)
    As populations grow, they are going to move into more and more dangerous areas. Given the relative shortness of the human lifespan, any major environmental disaster that occurs with periodicity of more than 30-40 years is going to have humans living in its path. (because humans tend to forget things through generations) Unfortunately since these events are so rare, it is hard to prepare for them. That said, people seem to focus on these things right after a disaster. Remember the New Orleans disaster is one of the largest distructive forces to hit the continental US, regardless of population.

    -Sean (OutdoorDB [outdoordb.org] - the Outdoor Wiki)
  • Population (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:33AM (#13482964) Homepage Journal
    but generally it's not that more "events" are happening, rather that more people are in the way

    Exactly. I don't think our planet is any more unstable then 100, 1000 or 10000 years ago. Yeah, maybe we have global warming but even so it makes much, much more of a difference that a hurricane making landfall at the Mississipi estuary affects several million people today compared to 10,000 in 1803 or maybe a couple hundred in 500 BC.
    • Re:Population (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192) on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:42AM (#13483010) Journal
      Exactly. I don't think our planet is any more unstable then 100, 1000 or 10000 years ago. Yeah, maybe we have global warming but even so it makes much, much more of a difference that a hurricane making landfall at the Mississipi estuary affects several million people today compared to 10,000 in 1803 or maybe a couple hundred in 500 BC.

      Sure it makes much MUCH more of a difference. Katrina was a Cat 1 when it hit florida, the hot gulf waters drove it to a Cat 5 right quick. Whether that's global warmings fault is debatable, but certainly plausible.

      Also, New Orleans used to have 150 miles of wetlands between itself and the open ocean, that could absorb storm surges. Because of human management of the mississippi river it's rapidly eroding, down to about 30 miles of wetlands. So humans are definately doing some things to make the situation worse.
      • Re:Population (Score:5, Informative)

        by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday September 05, 2005 @11:51AM (#13483461) Journal
        Nobody can say if Katrina was caused by global warming, but global warming will tend to impart more energy to the atmosphere (storms, high winds). I live over in Australia and had seen documentaries about New Orleans venerability over 10yrs ago, yet the nation was unprepared?

        The scientific community is doing a lot of arm waving and unified declarations, basically saying Humans are an endagered species. The biggest threat ever to mankind and yet most US (and Australian) polititians would prefer not to look at it, let alone acknowlage it. How many times does the media report that the Global demand for grain has outstripped supply five years running and that reserve stocks have fallen by 50% since 2000. People are either not interested or don't understand that the biggest dangers from increased CO2 is not rising sea levels and extreme weather. The biggest and arguably most imminent[sic?] dangers are prolonged crop failures and acidic oceans.
        • Re:Population (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jadavis (473492)
          How many times does the media report that the Global demand for grain has outstripped supply five years running

          That sentence makes little or no sense. Unless of course governments are artificially reducing the price, in which case of course that will happen. The good news is that it's easily fixed: the governments involved just need to stop using price controls.

          It seems kind of strange to me because the US artificially increases the price of grain.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:36AM (#13482977) Homepage Journal
    Of course we should be listening to the insurance company tell us the "truth" about the disaster. They have no reason to lie to protect themselves. Why would an insurance company try to cover its ass in the wake of a disaster? Insurance companies, especially in countries the other side of the world from teh disaster, care only about the welfare of the victims, not their own welfare and liability. Yes, put the insurance companies in charge of how to remake our society in the wake of the worst disaster in American history. We can trust them to take care of us. :P.
  • Maybe About time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:36AM (#13482982)
    Although i agree with the statements made here, that natural disaters and all. The tsunami wasn't caused by climate change, where as the huricane and other floods etc probably have been.
    Maybe it is time to America to Stop rejecting proposals to reduce emissions and to do what the world is asking. Most other countries seem to do alot more, and the states will probably have to have some more Natural Disasters before the Muppets in The white house will understand this.
  • This is what happens (Score:5, Interesting)

    by backslashdot (95548) on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:45AM (#13483029)
    You had people all over the US talking about how third world uncivilized people deserved the tsunami. And people like michael savage etc. saying no federal aid should be sent to help other countries. Being libertarian, I can agree that with the concept of federal assistance being bad, I dont see why he has a vitriolic resentment of it considering how miniscule the foreign aid budget is (especially after you deduct military assistance to high income countries that somehow counts as "aid"). After the tsunami, I even came across a weblog (ernie i think) that said something to the effect of "those civilizations have been around for thousands of years longer than us and didnt advance so they deserved it. Too bad, f*ck 'em".

    Like every single individuals and kids who died or were orphaned had done stuff to deserve what happened to them.

    And then there was the radio show host who said he didnt care about people who couldn't swim.

    About new orleans, you the media (sean hannity /fox) reported a blatant lie that foreign countries didnt step up to offer aid and assistance for new orleans.

    Here's a report that contradicts what sean hannity was saying:
      http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/09/05/katrina.world.aid /index.html [cnn.com]

    The point I am making is that you have a large segment (thankfully not the majority) of the US population who thinks the rest of the world is all evil and can go to hell. These same people are now sayuing "screw new orleans bunch of savages". Sure there are scumbags causing trouble there .. but a vast majority of people are there because they didnt have the means (no cars & buses) to evacuate in time ..let me stress that not every new orleans person is involved in looting.
    • Looting (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MochaMan (30021)
      Let me stress that not every new orleans person is involved in looting.

      I'd also like to ask a simple question that most news reports I've read fail to address. You're stranded in a city that's virtually abandonned; you have no electricity and your supply of food has run out. Is it looting to break into a supermarket to feed yourself? What about to get up batteries for your radio so you can listen for emergency broadcasts?

      Sadly most of those in this situation are already living at or below the poverty lin
  • Runaway (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Quirk (36086) on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:46AM (#13483040) Homepage Journal
    No not you, you can't runaway, but conditions in the biosphere can go into runaway and probably will. We tend to see the world as static and manageable in discrete terms. It's not. The world that supports us is a system, hence ecosystem. In a system when you push hard enough parameters shift, and, sometimes the system goes into runaway.

    By way of example our individual physiologies as systems experience runaway in terms of sexual orgasam ( ya sex, more people ) and in terms of death.

    We're not only pushing the envelope in terms of population, we're also pushing the food chain that sustains us. The oceans are being fished clean to feed the growing population. It's not unlikely that the ocean food chain will collapse in our lifetime. Add in global warming and the projected more frequent, more violent storms; mix in our proclivity to live in large numbers on the coast lines, and, the recipe for disaster is all but made, no need to add in a killer like a super volcano.

    The lesson of New Orleans is that we can't handle relatively mid range disasters. We speak of the first world in terms of Super Powers in quasi mythological terms that suggest we control nature. We're just outlaw apes broken free of our natural constraints and deluded in belief systems that talk to our immortality as mirror images of the creator of the universe.

    The joke about to go very bad. May you live in interesting times.

    cheers

  • by Rahga (13479) on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:49AM (#13483052) Homepage Journal
    Looking at recent events, such as the Tsunami and New Orleans flooding, it's an eye-catching number... but do the math. The Tsunami triggered by an 9.6-ish-on-the-richter-scale earthquake only managed to snuff out 0.0025% of the earth's population. Looking at New Orleans alone, since estimates are in the thousands, if 10,000 people died, that's about 2% of the population. If nature really doesn't want us around, either it's not trying very hard, or it's just a work in progress while Yellowstone prepares to blow its top again....

    There's a lot of people who would even say that Nature's fury can't compare that to the fury of our fellow man. I'd have to wonder about that: Lung Cancer deaths related to smoking kill off about 440 people per day in the United States alone. Compare that to the rougly 2 and a half US soldiers per day killed in Iraq.... I'd say we are far better at intentionally killing our own selves than we are at killing others, and natural disaster takes a distant 3rd... or at least, disasters can't compare to other natural causes such as disease.
  • by ThaFooz (900535) on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:53AM (#13483080)
    a lack of preparation? New Orleans has known for a long time how vulnerable it was, but the levee system wasn't built to sustain anything above a category 3 storm.

    The first rule of risk management is that the amount of time, effort, and money that you spend on security should be proprortional to the probability of a breach times the amount of damage it would cause. I guess Louisana didn't get the memo.
    • I don't think the problem was a breach of the levee. What the levees can't do is protect you from water from above. In fact, they serve to keep the water in. At least that's what I remember from a documentary I saw over a year ago, which predicted exactly this situation. Which I could remember the title.
    • The first rule of risk management is that the amount of time, effort, and money that you spend on security should be proprortional to the probability of a breach times the amount of damage it would cause. I guess Louisana didn't get the memo.

      Actually, they did get the memo years ago. But they thought that the first rule of risk management is don't talk about risk management.

      --Rob

  • by MadFarmAnimalz (460972) on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:55AM (#13483095) Homepage
    It occurs to me that one application of technology to ameliorate the less desirable effects of nature is in Early Warning Systems as built on top of a GIS. (Good example here [pdc.org])

    Not to contradict Miletti, but there are very clear cases where technology in the configuration I described above has done real work averting disasters.

    There's such a system deployed by the Civil Defense in Peru, that's one I know about. We're demoing another one at a GIS [ngisc.gov.eg] conference in Cairo next week, that's another. If I understand things correctly, even Homeland Security has done work in this area.
  • by N8F8 (4562) on Monday September 05, 2005 @10:59AM (#13483111)
    One thing I find amazing is that many of these catasptophes are worstened because technology WAS NOT APPLIED. At least not modern technology. Many water and sanitation systems date back over 100 years. Road systems are managed under crisis managment with little thought to the future. In Florida it is especially bad. Neighborhoods are being built at a brakneck pace with little thought to infrstructure. Schools, sanitation systems, power grid, flood control all are all lacking. Schools fighting to keep too many kids from showing up for school.

    Planning so so poorly thought out, a kid playing SIM City [ea.com] would come up with better plans. And that is exacly my point. We have simulation software that is inextensive. Tons of historical data to pull from. We know how to design better levee systems, bridges and canals. But the political system fails us again and again.

    Citizens are taught to hate paying taxes. Politicans abuse their authority for personal gain. The spiral leads to the present situation where systems are allowed to decay to the crisis point.
    • I think you are close but your logic is flawed.

      Citizens are not "taught" to hate taxes. Taxed are a form of theft by the government through coercion. 60% of what I make is going to support other people, other agendas, or straight into corrupt pockets. I didn't need to be "taught" that, it is basic self-defense!

      Politics is at it's core, corrupt. Any large project is almost doomed to fail because of that corruption and lack of controls that being funded by the government enables.

      You think the hand-wringing
    • Citizens are taught to hate paying taxes. - ok, I live in Canada and I tell you - all of the taxes we pay and I still don't believe we could have dealt with New Orleans situation any better (except that we probably would have less guns on the streets after the flood.) About 3 weeks ago in Toronto we had a storm, about 10cm of rain fell in about 2 hours and flooded some of the city. Some roads fell apart, there were rivers of water not going anywhere because the storm sewers were over-flooded. And that wa
  • by panurge (573432) on Monday September 05, 2005 @11:03AM (#13483141)
    Why do we keep building on flood plains and omitting the obvious - that they will flood?
    From an agrarian point of view the answer is obvious - river floodplain silt is usually excellent for growing (ask the Egyptians and the Dutch.) But how many of the people trapped in New Orleans were agriculturalists? I suspect none.

    Living as I do at an elevation of 80M above mean sea level, on a slope with excellent drainage, I take a very philosophical view of this. But I can't help thinking that we are still organising our world according to the preoccupations of much less advanced societies- and that the time to start doing something was over a hundred years ago, but the longer we leave it the worse it will get. London and New York could suffer various degrees of damage when the Azores slippage occurs. The effect of losing two of the world's major financial markets would not be good, considerably worse than losing some refinery capability (if Bush wasn't making so much money out of the windfall profits to the oil companies, he _could_ ration US fuel supplies and reduce prices, but you cannot dole out access to cash and credit and keep a modern society running.) How much would it actually cost in real money - not virtual profits - to plan to relocate the world's major financial and trade centers to safer locations?

    The present situation is predicated on the idea that the rich will always suffer minimally in disasters. If my house is swept away or flattened I will have several options as to where to live while it is rebuilt, while the poor won't. But there are disaster scenarios that impact the rich as well as the poor, by making their savings and investment worthless and creating a breakdown in society which will enable criminals to steal possessions - think of the Jews in 30s Germany. If we don't guard against these, we are truly asking for it.

  • by machinegunhand (867735) on Monday September 05, 2005 @11:11AM (#13483187) Homepage
    .."statistics show the planet to be increasingly unsafe".. Um, I grew up watching Land of the Lost. Based on my observations, it's safer now. Much safer.
  • About time! (Score:3, Funny)

    by msormune (808119) on Monday September 05, 2005 @11:39AM (#13483390)
    In recent news, George Bush declared War on Natural Terrorism - a form of terrorism that takes affects through natural disasters. The enemy is yet to be located, but when that is done, it's marine deployment time.
  • by Jekler (626699) on Monday September 05, 2005 @11:43AM (#13483412)
    Although this sounds impressive and devastating: "... 2.5 billion people were affected by floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters between 1994 and 2003..."

    The problem is the word "affected". I had a cold last year, was I one of the people "affected" by natural disasters? How are they defining whether or not someone was affected? You could say anyone who donated money to a relief fund was affected, or are they only referring to the number of people injured or that had property damage. What about someone who hid out in his bomb shelter for a week. Was that person affected? Does emotional disurbance count as being "affected"?

    I'd prefer a concrete statistic, like number of people killed, number of homes destroyed. Saying that x people were "affected" doesn't tell us anything useful.

    Reports like these remind me that we're not in the information age, we're in the data age. The information age will be next when we start compiling all this data into useful information.
  • PAH! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spoing (152917) on Monday September 05, 2005 @11:53AM (#13483473) Homepage
    "The bottom line is we have a very unsafe planet."

    Compaired to Venus? Mercury? Omicron Persei 8? I think not!

  • It's called the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It's been prophesied in the Bible, the Book of Mormon and by prophets and apostles old and new.

    The entire city of New Orleans has been destroyed. Wiped out. This is an act of God, just as the Tsunami was in Asia.
  • Duh... (Score:4, Funny)

    by creimer (824291) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:51PM (#13483765) Homepage
    The bottom line is we have a very unsafe planet.

    All we need now is a comet to come crashing into the Earth before someone come to the conclusion that we live in a very unsafe solar system.
  • by Rick and Roll (672077) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:57PM (#13483794)
    I just saved 15% on my auto insurance.
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday September 05, 2005 @01:08PM (#13483871) Homepage
    Long term, the outlook for New Orleans is bleak. The barrier islands have washed away. [usgs.gov] Erosion would have done that by 2050, but 2050 is here now.

    Without the barrier islands, New Orleans needs even bigger and stronger levees to stay above water. The existing system was intended to resist only a Cat 3 hurricane, and that was with the barrier islands in place to slow down the storm surge. With them gone, a relatively minor hurricane could swamp the city again. And minor hurricanes come through all the time. There might even be another one this year. So the city really can't be reoccupied until new, stronger, levees are in place.

    There will be some rebuilding. The central business district and the tourist areas will probably be fully protected and rebuilt. There will be housing for oil industry and port workers, but probably not in the low-lying areas. But when rebuilding is over, the population of New Orleans will be much smaller than it is now.

    A similar hurricane, in 1900, flattened Galveston, TX. [galvestonhistory.org] A hurricane with 120 MPH winds killed 6000 people and levelled much of the town. The entire town, 500 city blocks, had to be jacked up several feet, and a huge seawall built. The jacking and filling job took eight years. Building the seawall took from 1900 to 1962. Sixty two years. And Galveston wasn't below sea level.

    Ever after, Galveston was a smaller and less important city than it was before the 1900 hurricane.

  • by Edmund Blackadder (559735) on Monday September 05, 2005 @01:22PM (#13483970)
    There is a lot of talk and headscratching about the ferocity of nature, etc., but I would like to point out that much a lot of the deaths of New Orleans (and the tsunami as well) are caused by failure of society as well.

    In both cases you have a lot of poor people living close by the coast and the governments that do not really care what happens to them.

    If Katrina hit Amsterdam, for example, it would still be a disaster but not nearly as bad as NEw Orleans was. Thats because Amsterdam is the biggest city in Holland, and they spent the necessary money to protect themselves and take care of their environment, they make sure they are surrounded by farmland that can soak up flood waters very quickly.

    However, it is obvious that New Orleans' levys were a low priority and all kinds of construction projects were being approved which destroyed the wetlands around the city. But what is most amazing is that there was no evacuation plan, there was no emergency response from the state or the federal government for several days after the disaster hit. The only way people could leave was if they had their own cars and money for gas, and the poor did not so they were stuck.

    And bush sent the Guard in only four days after the disaster hit and then he sent them "to prevent looting" and not to help the thousands of people that were stuck in the flooded city. The governer could not send the LA Guard in because they are in Iraq.

    Now there is a huge debate about whether these huricanes are caused by global warming. But even if we stop activities that contribute to global warming, there would still be natural disasters. That cannot be helped.

    But what we can do is organise our society so we are able to prevent damage as much as possible and quickly help the victims if disaster strikes. That was obviously not done in this case.
  • by Catbeller (118204) on Monday September 05, 2005 @02:19PM (#13484302) Homepage
    I was watching a rerun on Friday(?) night on the Discover Channel. The documentary, updated that day for Katrina, was not new, and was a complete rundown of what would happen if a Cat 5 hit NOLA.

    But they mentioned the other city in the crosshairs. New York City. It's in the elbow of two long pieces of land, both aimed at the Atlantic ocean.

    If a hurricane comes up the water, which it will, NYC is going under as surely as New Orleans did. It's only a matter of time.

    Will we move NYC?

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Monday September 05, 2005 @02:22PM (#13484323) Homepage
    We live in a steel house. Steel I beam construction, steel plate roof, solid. Because of the extra insulation, our utility bills are about half of the neighbor's similar size house. Our AC unit for the whole house is the same size as the unit for his downstairs. Besides staying nice and cool, it's also bright and airy with a 2,400 sq foot, two story garage where I'm going to build an indoor driving range.

    Here's a video of a concrete house that's been through two hurricanes without a scratch. You can see blown out screens on the porch but the houses came out fine. This is actually the company headquarters of the company that makes the concrete dome kits in Florida (www.aidomes.com).

    Concrete Dome [dangercollie.com]

    Both types of homes are cheap to build, will withstand far more wind than traditional bricks and sticks construction and are more energy efficient.

    What else do both of those type homes have in common? It's very difficult to get them financed. You can't go through a traditional mortgage because Fannie Mae won't touch the loans, which means you have to get a portfolio loan like we did which is prime plus. Then you get to fight with the insurance company for coverage. Our house won't burn or get blown down, but the original quote was higher than for a conventional house!

    As long as we have a such a backward attitude toward home construction and financing more survivable housing structures, then you can expect a lot of flying lumber every time a hurricane lands somewhere. We build the same type homes in danger areas, then act surprised when they don't survive.

    True a concrete home will flood just like conventional construction but at least the shell will be in good condition. Rip out the insides, sand blast it clean, rebuild the interior. If you build it right you can even replace the HVAC ducts and wiring conduit to prevent mold growth. It'll be just like new.

    These days you can actually watch the lumber in conventional homes get thinner by the day but we're just so stuck in that brick box with a tar paper roof mentality.

    • Yep. As I posted about earlier [slashdot.org], I'm in the process of building an addition to my house, and I used insulated concrete forms [quadlock.com] (ICFs) for the foundation. If I were building a house from scratch, I'd build the whole thing that way. Reinforced concrete is a great way to go, and easy to build with using ICFs.

      They're resistant to hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, termites, even bullets (well, not the windows or roof, but the rest sure is). And they create a very well insulated structure. If you're in a

  • Kyoto (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Monday September 05, 2005 @02:28PM (#13484351) Homepage
    Although not the absolute cause of this, global warming is making things worse, and it will get even more of a problem. The warming of the sea imparts more energy to these tornadoes. Global warming is a global problem - the USA refuses to accept that it plays a large part in this -- it's 5% of the world's population uses 25% of the world's energy.

    We need to act NOW, we should have started to act a loooong time ago. In the UK one of the reasons that petrol prices are so high is to discourage use, there are all sorts of other action being taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- it is not enough, but at least we are trying. The USA is doing nothing just in case it hurt's it's economy ... using the excuse that this or that effect is not 100% proven -- sorry: the big picture is well understood, the risks are so huge that to argue over uncertainties is irresponsible.

    Sorry guys: time to wisen up; take a hit on your economy today or face many, many more things like this ... which will end up costing much, much more.

    No: this is not a troll. My view is shared by many people in Europe. I know that citizens of the USA don't want to think about it, but the problem won't go away just because you shut your eyes to it.

    Lobby your senator to ratify the kyoto agreement.

  • by J05H (5625) on Monday September 05, 2005 @03:08PM (#13484577) Homepage
    Imagine the insurance claims when a 2km asteroid plows into the Pacific. That 2004 was so costly in insurance claims is all the more reason to promote space industrial development. Hurricane Katrina is equivalent to ~100m asteroid, this is a localized disaster. Imagine this kind of damage on a national or planetary scale provided by a several km impactor.

    As more people live in more coastal cities, resources from space (beamed power, comm, transport, eventually food and plastics) will provide fast response and rebuilding after disasters. Imagine the new power grid consisting of wire grids spread over an area taking microwaves from orbit. Or getting space-dropped shipments of grain anywhere on Earth.

    Vernor Vinge's books feature a deep future where Earth has been repopulated several times after biosphere-destroying disasters. Carl Sagan said that the dinosaurs went extinct because they didn't have a space program. We need to work toward becoming a multiplanet species and to create industry in freefall.

    Josh
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Monday September 05, 2005 @03:36PM (#13484736)

    Before Katrina hit the coast Bush had declared Louisiana and Mississippi disaster areas, allowing FEMA to swing into action.

    If FEMA was already preparing before Katrina struck at Bush's instruction, then why did it still take them four days to really begin rescue operations? And why isn't anyone talking about Bush's early disaster declarations now?

    Obviously, officials would have been aware of the possibility of massive flooding, so they would have obtained the necessary vehicles. The trucks that did eventually roll into New Orleans even drove through flooded streets without a problem...

    This story disappeared off of MSNBC's web site, but it can still be found in Google's cache [66.102.7.104].

    And Mitchel Cohen [counterpunch.org] writes. . .

    [. . .]
    the so-called looters are simply grabbing water, food, diapers and medicines, because the federal and state officials have refused to provide these basic necessities.

    Les says that "it's only because of the looters that non-looters -- old people, sick people, small children -- are able to survive."

    Those people who stole televisions and large non-emergency items have been selling them, Les reports (having witnessed several of these "exchanges") so that they could get enough money together to leave the area.

    Think about it:

    - People were told to leave, but all the bus stations had closed down the night before and the personnel sent packing.

    - Many people couldn't afford tickets anyway.

    - Many people are stranded, and others are refusing to leave their homes, pets, etc. They don't have cars.

    You want people to stop looting? Provide the means for them to eat, and to leave the area.

    Some tourists in the Monteleone Hotel paid $25,000 for 10 buses. The buses were sent (I guess there were many buses available, if you paid the price!) but the military confiscated them to use not for transporting people in the Dome but for the military. The tourists were not allowed to leave. Instead, the military ordered the tourists to the now-infamous Convention Center.

    How simple it would have been for the State and/or US government to have provided buses for people before the hurricane hit, and throughout this week. Even evacuating 100,000 people trapped there -- that's 3,000 buses, less than come into Washington D.C. for some of the giant antiwar demonstrations there. Even at $2,500 a pop -- highway robbery -- that would only be a total of $7.5 million for transporting all of those who did not have the means to leave.

    Instead, look at the human and economic cost of not doing that!

    So why didn't they do that?

    On Wednesday a number of Greens tried to bring a large amount of water to the SuperDome. They were prevented from doing so, as have many others. Why have food and water been blocked from reaching tens of thousands of poor people?

    On Thursday, the government used the excuse that there were some very scattered gunshots (two or three instances only) -- around 1/50th of the number of gunshots that occur in New York City on an average day -- to shut down voluntary rescue operations and to scrounge for 5,000 National Guard troops fully armed, with "shoot to kill" orders -- at a huge economic cost.

    They even refused to allow voluntary workers who had rescued over 1,000 people in boats over the previous days to continue on Thursday, using the several gunshots (and who knows who shot off those rounds?) to say "It's too dangerous". The volunteers didn't think the gunshots were dangerous to them and wanted to continue their rescue operations and had to be "convinced" at gunpoint to "cease and

  • by chris_sawtell (10326) on Monday September 05, 2005 @09:28PM (#13486537) Journal
    From New Orleans to New Venice.

    I'm sure Venice will be only too happy to help with gondolier training.

    Actually I'm being more than half serious. New Orleans will never be the same again. Too many people will decide that the new lives which they will carve out for themselves elsewhere are not too bad. They'll prefer to stay where they find themselves rather than return to a radically changed situation which only has geographic location in common with what was their previous lives.

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