Friday, September 02, 2005

To rebuild or not to rebuild, it's not much of a question

Should New Orleans be rebuilt? Probably not. The city can not be made safe, period. Unlike an L.A. or a San Francisco, New Orleans just existing puts itself in danger as city and nearby marshlands are sinking every year. Additionally, every terrorist in the world now knows how to kill hundreds of thousands of people very quickly-by destroying New Orleans' levees. And eventually another hurricane will come along and do this all over again. Should and will are two very different propositions, though.

New Orleans will be rebuilt, and rebuilt right where she stands. It is almost a practical impossibility that it won't be. First, the money involved in clean up is not an issue. That money will need to be spent whether New Orleans is rebuilt or not. And if it isn't rebuilt, the area it now occupies will have to be flooded. Leaving that city there, as is, unhibatited and under water, would be a huge environemental disaster. So either way, you have to drain the city and clean it up. Now, if you rebuild it, your can recoup the investment to some extent. If you do not rebuild, you must then go in and remove most of the buildings and much of the infrastructure so it is not further environmentally harmful. As is, some buildings will be salvageable, and the infrastructure repairable. So removing the city will probably be more expensive than rebuilding it, with no hope of recouping that money through future economic activity in the area. In addition to all of the work involved in removing the city, you have to buy out private property owners. As is American nature, some will fight the buy out, and the court costs will have to be tacked onto the bill. And politically, abandoning New Orleans will be a non-starter.

New Orleans is a cursed city. It will be rebuilt, but it will be destroyed again someday by man or by nature. The only way it won't be rebuilt is if, God forbid, another category 4 or 5 storm tracks into the city this fall and causes more horrific damage to the levees. But wisdom says we should probably rethink the idea of New Orleans for the sake of future city inhabitants.

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