New Orleans: The New Atlantis

Stop Trying to Rebuild a City That is Being Reclaimed by the Sea

ST. PAUL — While many people have dismissed Al Gore and his ilk as tree-hugging liberals bent on curbing our way of life, there is one thing he is dead right about. Something strange is happening to the earth’s climate. Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav, and the tsunamis in the Asian Pacific may be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of imminent climatic threats to the world, and should give us pause to consider whether or not rebuilding New Orleans is really such a good idea.

While Gustav’s bark proved to be much worse than its bite, the fact that the collective consciousness viewed it as a serious enough threat to halt a political convention over a thousand miles away speaks volumes. People are genuinely concerned about whether New Orleans can survive as a city. With each successive season, and despite Herculean feats of engineering, the sea takes a little more of the city back into its bosom.

Many have mused about the significance of these storms as encroachments on New Orleans. Some moralists have even gone as far as to say that the hurricanes are God’s punishment to the people of New Orleans for their decadent ways. Others have claimed that the spate of bad storms in the Atlantic are a result of global warming caused by the overuse of carbon-based fuels. Nature, they argue, is correcting the imbalance. Still others, the armchair philosophers among us, reason that everything is change, that land turns to sea, water to air, and so on. Climatic changes barely get a rise out of these stoics.

But whatever one’s perspective, whether moral, philosophical or scientific, it is obvious that change is afoot. Anyone who is humble enough to observe the signs and obey the message they portend can see that New Orleans will eventually be snatched back into the sea. This begs the question: Why go back? Why try to rebuild a city that is doomed? As human beings and as a country it seems we all have a hard time letting go. We think that our wealth and blessings are proof of our control over nature, when in actuality we are as subject to the whims of nature as any civilization that came before us.

Every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor
— Franz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth


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