Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Equity and the Environment: Rebuilding Green - Rebuilding Black

The horrific, unforgettable events that unfolded along the U.S. Gulf coast in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina raised many serious issues including the possible role that climate change may be having on fueling more intense storms, the insurance industry's shameful use of semantic gymnastics to avoid paying policyhoders for damages to their homes and businesses, and the vulnerability of the country's oil and gas infrastrucuture.

However, for many those issues pale in comparison to the series of injustices that were inflicted on the region's poor and elderly residents as a result of government's utter failure at all levels to take responsible and timely actions. It began with the lack of plans for evacuating those without the means of leaving to avoid harms way once the severity and trajectory of the storm became apparent. That was followed by an inexplicable display of paralysis on the part of those charged with public safety immediately following when people were left stranded in attics, atop roofs and in sweltering, overcrowded, unsanitary stadiums. Government's woefully inadequate response continues right up to the present time as still, very little in the way of rebuilding or even cleanup has taken place.

The one possible positive outcome some envisioned might result from this tragedy was that government officials would seize this unprecedented opportunity to work with residents, planners, ecological designers, environmentalist and others to completely rebuild their communities based on proven and effective state-of-the-art sustainable design concepts.

Recently Urban Habitat convened a roundtable to discuss the options for rebuilding a "green/sustainable" New Orleans. Participating were: Dr. Manuel Pastor, Director of the Center for Justice, Tolerance, and Community at the University of California, Santa Cruz; Robert D. Bullard, Director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University; Paul R. Epstein, MD, MPH Associate Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School; Dr. Michel Gelobte, Executive Director of Redefining Progress; Dr. John Talberth, Director, Sustainability Indicators Program; Don Chen, Director of Smart Growth America.

To read what they have to say click here. (GW)


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