We're about to reach Peak Katrina 10 this week as the mayor welcomes three Presidents and a host of national media to commemorate the flood. Expect the official mood to be positive. There are political careers staked on the national story of "recovery" period being a happy one.
We've tried to tell a different, more realistic story here. But even after we talk about the many injustices; the police abuse, the political corruption, the "entrepreneurial" grifting, the school privatization, the deliberate policy of gentrification by design, even when we account for all of that, the fact remains that over 70 billion dollars in federal aid was spent in Louisiana over the past decade. And that is going yield positive results even by default.
So, while I've made a point of focusing on our failures (please see this Lens series, btw), this doesn't mean that there aren't tangible signs of progress all over town. You'll see much of that highlighted by the mayor next week. If you're like me you'll find yourself muttering, "yeah, but..." an awful lot. Even so, it's worth acknowledging the rebuilt roads (which do exist despite the myopic view of Fix My Streets fetishists), new public amenities like the Lafitte Greenway, restored parks and libraries, even a stronger (if inadequate still) flood control system. Much of this is "progress" we've stumbled into, of course, but it isn't nothing.
And yet even as we focus on appreciating what we do have, it's stretching things a bit to ask us to celebrate. Not only because this would mean we are celebrating the continuing fallout from a massive tragedy, but also because we aren't confident that any of the work we have done will last much longer than the next generation's lifetime.
Worse, the ground beneath us is literally slipping away. Probably every reader knows both that Louisiana's coast has lost nearly 2,000 square miles since 1932 and that that land once served as a buffer against hurricanes.John Barry goes on in that article to plead, once more, for a commitment from political leaders and the oil and gas industry in particular to save what's left of the Louisiana coast in very little time we have left to do so. Otherwise, whatever rebuild New Orleans we're trying to muster a modicum of pride over this week is more than just a figurative Potemkin village for the benefit of the press. It's an actual illusion doomed to destruction.
But not every reader realizes that just in the next 15 years, an additional 300-500 square miles will disappear, a considerable chunk of it from Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes. If nothing is done, land loss will keep going after that until the ocean arrives at — and eventually comes pouring over — our doorsteps.