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Oct 02nd
Home Sections Ecology and the Environment Reinventing New Orleans, Manila and Other Low-Lying Cities (Part 13 of the Global-Warming Series)
Reinventing New Orleans, Manila and Other Low-Lying Cities (Part 13 of the Global-Warming Series) PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Ecology and the Environment
Sunday, 03 June 2007 03:49

(Part 13 of the "Filipino Version of 'The Manhattan Project'" Series)


T he Katrina-caused tragedy that was New Orleans and its neighboring cities and towns could be a blessing in disguise to other metropolitan areas in the world that are similarly situated to it. New Orleans, Manila (Philippines) and some cities in the Old World of Europe, the New World of the Americas and the Third World have sections or districts – if not the entire metropolis itself – that are below sea level. For decades now, scientists and environmentalists have been warning that Mother Earth has become a “greenhouse” primarily because of the burning of fossil fuels. The betting is that in the foreseeable future, because of the greenhouse-effect, the sea level will rise dramatically and inundate coastal areas.

N ewsweek columnist Jonathan Alter wrote a very-interesting article, “How to Save the Big Easy.” It appeared online and was one of the featured articles in the Newsweek’s Sept. 12, 2005, special issue about the Hurricane Katrina-caused tragedy, drama and a real-life comedy of errors.


Mr. Alter wrote: QUOTE. If House Speaker Dennis Hastert is saying now—with sympathy at its peak—that pumping billions of federal dollars into restoring a city below sea level "doesn't make sense," then aid from Washington will plummet in a few months when attention turns elsewhere. Some wealthier refugees are saying privately that they've all but given up on the place. The pictures of looting seemed to burst a psychic dam inside them. Invest in this? Pay more taxes for them? That's a recipe for white flight—overnight. On the other side are blacks—well over half the city's population—who are fed up with a power structure that could not keep them alive, much less house and educate them. Whites and blacks in New Orleans were swimming in a fetid swamp of racial tensions long before Katrina showed up. UNQUOTE. 


To read in its entirety Mr. Alter's column, please make a click at this hyperlink How to Save the Big Easy - Newsweek Hurricane Katrina Coverage - or copy and paste to your browser 


P erhaps the national leadership of the United States and the leaders of the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans may like to reinvent the “Big Easy” as the modern-day version of Venice, Italy. And perhaps the national leaders of the Philippines may like also to reinvent Metropolitan Manila by first starting to dig up the "esteros" (canals) that city authorities filled up. During the Spanish regime, the "esteros" catered to hundreds of bancas, sail boats and Chinese junks that used to ply them and the Pasig River to and from Manila Bay. Perhaps the Philippine government may design the largely-abandoned Sangley Point, the former American naval base off Cavite, as the Filipino version of Venice and make it part of the Manila Bay.


Perhaps President George W. Bush, instead of aiming to send astronauts to the Planet Mars, may persuade instead the United States Congress and the American people to devote the same resources to reinventing the City of New Orleans. Perhaps American technology may be able to design and build the 21st-century versions of “houses on the stilt” (as part of "vertical housing") that may have built-in facilities to produce potable water for its residents, recycle garbage and sewage, generate electricity from solar panels and grow vegetables by hydroponics, and "vertical farming" infrastructures, etcetera, etc., ad infinitum.


Perhaps, as I have written in my essay of reinventing the Filipino and American healthcare and hospital industries, the "reinvented" New Orleans would have hospital ships – instead of land-based medical centers -- like the USS Mercy. Some advantages of fielding hospital ships are that they are self-contained and powered and that they can sail out of harm’s way whenever hurricanes would threaten the metropolitan areas where they are operating.


Actually it will take only a strong national political will, aside from imagination, technology and a lot of money, to build an ultramodern version of Venice not only in New Orleans but also in Manila and other low-lying cities of the world. Look at the example of The Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, where replicas of Venice’s landmarks, including a canal and gondolas, have been recreated. If Las Vegas could do it, why not do it in a bigger scale in the Big Easy and elsewhere where sooner or later people have to abandon sea-side infrastructures because of tidal flooding?


And lots of money – American tax dollars and British pound – are being spent by the billions (spelled with a B) every month to fight an unpopular war that does no good to humanity, the environment and the future generations.


There is of course another benefit. By converting New Orleans into another Venice, the levees and dams would be dismantled. And silt will start to flow where Mother Nature intended it to be – the wetlands.


The bayous of Louisiana will be greatly benefited by letting nature take its course, especially if experts in aquaculture can redevelop the North-American versions of the mangrove swamps of Southeast Asia in some of the Louisiana wetlands.


As the National Geographic magazine put it in its October 2004 issue: “Louisiana’s wetlands are twice the size of the Everglades National Park, funnel more oil into the United States than the Alaskan pipeline, sustain one of the nation’s largest fisheries, and provide vital hurricane protection for New Orleans. And they’re disappearing under the Gulf of Mexico at the rate of 33 football fields a day.”


And finally, reinventing, oops, rebuilding New Orleans into an American Venice may give rise to a new industry for the people of Louisiana.


Mr. Alter wrote in his column the factors that might deter the rebuilding of New Orleans. Mr. Alter said:  “Its business establishment lacks the entrepreneurial dynamism of other Southern cities. Its work force is largely poor and uneducated.”


But by building the new Venetian-like modern infrastructures may enable the public and private sectors to train the people of New Orleans and the other affected cities of Louisiana to handle their manufacture, fabrication and/or processing. It may become a New Socioeconomic Frontier for the affected constituents and their success may enable the United States to export the technology and services to cities in the world that are also below sea level. Perhaps by then, instead of sending American military aid, the United States shall assist Third-World countries by replicating modest versions of the Venice-like New Orleans.


(Editor's Note: A shorter version of this essay was printed by the Filipino Image magazine of Washington, DC, in September 2005.) # # # 


T here is a Flood Simulation Map. Select the Flood level (in meters) to see how an area is affected. The darker colored areas would be the areas under water. You can also DRAG and PAN the image map to select a larger overview or a more detailed look of a specific area. Click on the plus and minus icons to zoom in or out (or double-click). This map was suggested by Nat Duenas - Data from NASA - app from # # #

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 06:56

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