four days after the storm, the situation in new orleans is getting increasingly desperate with a suspension of some rescue efforts declared this morning due to rescuers being shot at. what is left of the city seems to have descended into a chaotic free-for-all – it’s hard to imagine how terrifying it is to be trapped in a city with dwindling food and water, potentially thousands of dead bodies, and the rising potential of epidemic disease outbreak (think cholera and dysentry). of course it is the poorest of the poor left behind, and even when aid comes, these people will receive far less than their wealthier urban counterparts – their conditions were never that good to begin with.
i am mesmerized by katrina as a warning, a window into a climate-changed future, a picture of the complete breakdown of social order and governmental authority in a “survival of the fittest” scenario, a logical extension of american individualism taken to its conclusion (i would note in most countries, natural disasters don’t result in people shooting each other and shooting rescue-workers, there is something particularly american about how this has played out). the aftermath of katrina is what social breakdown looks like, and it is not a pretty sight.
systemic collapse may be a long way off, but the edges are likely closer than we think – with inceasingly unpredictable climate shifts – the next “unprecedented” natural event may be right around the corner.
my friend denny at another world is possible has promised a series of analytic posts on hurricane katrina from the economic, ecological, and social perspective. i encourage you to check them out, as i’m sure they will be excellent.