Seven years ago, then President Bush had to face the challenge of his presidency and the people of New Orleans had to fight for their lives. On Monday, President Obama took his turn responding to the Gulf Coast disaster of his term Â— Hurricane Isaac. According to CNN, he arrived in Louisiana to offer his positive support, praising volunteers and rescue workers and promising to solve infrastructure problems that led to much of the flooding and damage. While Isaac was not as devastating as Katrina it still served to reveal the weak spots that are burying the poor of Louisiana under a sea of despair.
$14 billion was spent to reinforce the levee system and to prevent another hurricane from destroying New Orleans. According to CBS News, areas that are even poorer than New Orleans were hit hard. Small towns were flooded, with entire neighborhoods being covered by water. Before Louisiana becomes the next Atlantis, something has to be done, something different. A resident who was affected by the flooding commented on the problem, saying, "I mean, people just can't keep doing this... People just aren't rich here, we're poor."
While not yet confirmed, there is some belief that the reinforced levee system actually contributed to the severe flooding in the areas surrounding New Orleans. A band-aid does cover up wounds, but it never actually heals. Maybe the problem, and the solution, was never the levees and walls after all?
Will the federal government, no matter who is president, throw several billion dollars into Louisiana every seven years, twenty years, or two years, however long it takes for the next big one to come, while some of the poorest people in the nation are forced to scrape together their lives again and again? Will President Obama, assuming he is reelected, break this cycle or let it continue? Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a solution that was more practical, efficient, and effective than making thicker walls?
Wait, there is! There are solutions, but they require more expansive thinking and less dumping of federal money, and something that no president is willing to make Â— a sacrifice of business interests. Part of the reason that areas like New Orleans are so vulnerable is because nature's protective barrier, the coastal wetlands, are being destroyed at the rate of one football field of free storm protection land every hour, according to Restore the Mississippi River Delta. Just like planting and protecting trees can lessen problems with global warming, and not eating endangered seafood would help improve the ocean ecosystem, protecting the coastal wetlands can help save Louisiana. Nature has the power to destroy, and the power to nurture, heal, and protect. Supporting nature is good for people! When this simple lesson is learned, this cycle may not look so hopeless and the government will not look so helpless.