Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Providing assistance to the victims of Hurricane Katrina responsibly

Today we are all New Orleaners and Gulf Coasters. Like the national aid effort that was made on behalf of the victims of the 1993 Mississippi Flood, every effort should be made to provide immediate aid and assistance to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

This is our nation's (both public and private institutions) opportunity to show what we're made of. We will provide comfort to our fellow Americans, even those that did not heed the mandatory evacuation. (Update: Take a close look at this evacution order. It was prompted by the President. Many are now complaining about the federal government's response and it will be revealed soon if the fault lays there or at the state and local level. But one thing is for sure already, President Bush's actions have already saved thousands of lives.)

After the 1993 Mississippi Flood, the National Research Council developed a report called Reducing Future Flood Losses. One of the primary recommendations of the report was to:
Avoid developing the floodplain unless absolutely necessary.
It's not too early to start planning responsibly for the future of the costal floodplain areas affected. Responsibility calls for honesty. Our country has huge resources, but they are not unlimited resources. In light of New Orleans' geographic realities (Update: see also The Creeping Storm), the irresponsible thing to do is to have any talk of rebuilding the city.

One of the principles of political leadership is that when faced with a tough decision, the decision that benefits the most individuals is the correct one. (You might remember this as a theme in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan when Spock summarized it as, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.")

Some will call such talk callous, uncaring and selfish. Responsible citizens and leaders should be respectful of those wishing to preserve a way of life they have known for generations, but we can't let nostalgia run our public policies especially when we're looking at a rebuilding effort of untold billions of dollars. The helping hand that we extend to our neighbors in need should balance compassion with logic. Hearts and brains are called on for trying times like this.



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