Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Stop Talking about Using What We Learned from Katrina So We Can Start Learning from Our Gustav Failures

One of the unfortunate consequences of being more prepared for Gustav and of having less urban destruction than Katrina's is complacency. It is the complacency of assuming we're fine and we don't have to learn from mistakes that were made in areas less populous than New Orleans.

Sue Sturgis won't let any false sense of relief cause us to ignore those areas:

The increasing danger [in the Cajun coastal community of Terrebonne] ... is due in part to the erosion of coastal wetlands that help soften the blow from tropical storms. And that erosion is due in part to the state's oil and natural gas industries, which are concentrated in Terrebonne and other nearby coast parishes. They have contributed to wetlands erosion by cutting channels in and otherwise developing coastal wetlands for exploration and extraction.

While there are a number of public efforts underway to restore degraded coastal lands and thus better protect Louisiana's residents from storms, none of them comes close to the minimum estimate of $14 billion needed for truly sustainable restoration. If the federal government does not take action soon, the problem will only grow much worse -- and Louisiana's wetlands are already disappearing at the fastest clip in the nation, with up to 40 square miles lost each year.
The people of south Louisiana are only going to suffer more in future landfalls and the costs of repairing the damage and healing the suffering will only grow unless the federal government does more immediately to protect our coastal wetlands.

Katrina's teachable moment is behind us. What will we learn from Gustav?

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