A Weekly Correction: 14 Years After Katrina

“Mile by mile, town by town, there’s another little cluster of poverty and sickness” — Matt Black

“The greatest existential threat…  to the city of New Orleans is the rapidity with which the coast is disappearing” — Mitch Landrieu 

On August 30th, 2005, New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 hurricane that resulted in over 1,000 deaths and caused catastrophic damage to the city. In light of this, we’re dedicating this week’s A Weekly Correction to exploring the consequences of the storm, as well as the disparities in the extent to which certain communities experienced its effects.

What we’re reading: 

In “The Next Big One,” Chris Mooney investigates the resiliency of New Orleans ten years after Hurricane Katrina. The loss of the city’s wetlands, roughly 1,900 square miles’ worth between 1932 and 2010 and one of the largest contributors to the extent of the damage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, still poses an existential threat to the city. As the article notes, wetlands can both weaken storm surges and keep pace with rising seas as they accumulate sediment and plant matter, however, years of industrial activity have put these ecosystems, and thus New Orleans, at risk. 

This feature piece from the Nation explores the stalled recovery of the Lower Ninth Ward post-Katrina, arguing that is the product of intentional decisions by political leaders who “wrote [the neighborhood] off from the start.” As Revlon writes, both in the immediate aftermath of the storm and in recovery efforts, the Lower Ninth was repeatedly neglected in funding for restoration and recovery. Discrimination in recovery efforts was nothing new, however, and highlight instead the deeply systemic problems that predated the storm.

As part of a four-part series on the geography of poverty, this article explores the historical causes and characteristics of poverty in American South, focusing specifically on the 85-mile stretch between Baton Rouge and New Orleans that has come to be known as “Cancer Alley.” The article exposes the realities of environmental racism, a type of violence in which race determines one’s degree of exposure to air contamination and other toxic pollutants and one that affects so many communities of color in the region.

Finally, a photographic investigation into the devastation of New Orleans, 10 years after Katrina.  

What we’re watching: 

Produced for the University of Wisconsin Madison, “The Road Back Home” tells the story of environmental justice and wetland restoration in the Lower Ninth Ward. The documentary seeks to answer questions such as: What happened with the reported 50 billion dollars in federal assistance directed to the "reconstruction" of New Orleans on areas that were not even impacted by Katrina? Are race and historical marginalisation key factors of this disparity and a case of environmental justice? and What is the status of the federal and state assistance for its reconstruction?

What we’re listening to: 

In an episode from 2015, The Brookings Cafeteria discusses the “urban experiment” that is post-Katrina New Orleans, in which the central question is whether or not the city can grow and adapt in face of environmental or economic disasters. 

This episode of Wrongful Conviction traces  the experiences of inmates in the Orleans Parish Prison throughout Hurricane Katrina through the story of Daniel Tapia, an inmate that barely survived the flooding of correctional facility in 2005.