Thursday, September 08, 2005

Hurricane Katrina, Disaster Relief, Sociology

Well, hurricanes and disaster relief are on peoples' minds these days. Since this is supposed to be a blog about sociology I naturally wanted to combine three subjects. This is not going to be a proper essay since my thoughts are connected solely by there relevance to Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent relief efforts.

Racism in the evacuation and rescue has come up a few times. This is worth mentioning for two reasons. One, some people feel compelled to say that when anything disproportionately hurts blacks it must be racism. Racism is the belief that one group, defined by its physical characteristics, is inferior to another. Discrimination is action based on race, religion, or any other trait. So, what we may have is a case of discrimination, but not necessarily against black people. It seems far more likely that poverty was the important issue here. Poor people were overlooked because they were poor, one could argue. Most of the poor happened to be black.

The relief effort was botched according to many reports on Fow News and CNN. Why were things handled so badly? The simple answer may have been that there were simply too many variables involved. With so many processes, regulations, organizations, groups, and laws involved the seemingly serious mistakes were probable events, not the outcome of mismanagement. Aside from that, so many people were trying to do so many things that some slip-ups were probably inevitable. In this case, those slip-ups were multiplied into another sort of disaster.

Is there an environmental dimension to this disaster? Apparently, some of the marsh land that buffers New Orleans from the Guld was lost to urban development. Who knows if that loss was a factor in the magnitude of the disaster in New Orleans. Environmentalists do complain about how we often act without due consideration for the impacts of development that alters or destroys natural features like wetlands and tree-covered hills. Maybe we can keep that fact in mind as New Orleans is rebuilt?

1 Comments:

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