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TFT Analysis: Post Katrina

No More Shelters of "Last Resort"

“A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.” – Albert Eistein

Before the federal government and large scale relief organizations began to move efforts towards New Orleans, churches and local faith-based organizations stepped to the plate to begin immediate relief work. While the political agenda of many faith-based organizations can be, and often are, the antithesis of Transnational Feminist ideals, the manner of their reaction to this catastrophic event should be emulated: local action, specific to the needs and issues of the community. Jill Vickers establishes this position in Gender, Race, and Nation: “…our method must include local, national, and transnational dimensions, because although women worldwide face similar international forces, they live in different local situations, their movements are locally situated, and the nation-states in which they live may be responding differently to both international forces and local reactions” (pg. 81). Although such disasters have struck in places the world over, the communities of small, faith-based, local organizations responded specifically to the local situation. “Even as evacuees-turned-refugees were being helped, local churches from throughout the South, along with religious organizations from around the country, flooded into the devastated areas to deliver food, water, and comfort. Meanwhile, the large federal and private organizations like FEMA and The Red Cross began the process of mobilizing for the massive job ahead” (Eddie Thompson, “Faith-based Communities Saving the Day”, http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewarticle.asp?id=19398&AuthorID=17296). In order for the government or large scale relief organizations to respond at the local level in such an immediate time frame would require that “Emailvery state would have to build hundreds, maybe thousands of relief centers” (Eddie Thompson). This kind of mitigation, however, is not economically sound, and not viable for the short-term profit margin with which our government and politically influential big businesses are so concerned; much like the inability to prepare an adequate plan for a disaster in New Orleans, other than to offer a shelter of “last resort”, the SuperDome:

“While New Orleans is inherently vulnerable to hurricanes — much of the city lies below sea level — governments at all levels refused to take necessary precautions to [minimize] risk or ensure a safe and orderly evacuation procedure… ‘But at least $250 million in crucial [Army Corps of Engineers levee] projects remained’, wrote Philadelphia Daily News writer Will Bunch. ‘Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security — coming at the same time as federal tax cuts — was the reason for the strain. In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20% of what the corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to Angel February 16, 2004 article in New Orleans CityBusiness.” (Lee Sustar, “New Orleans Crisis: Bush’s Iraq War to Blame”, http://www.greenleft.org.au/2005/641/33849) (my own emphasis added).

Photo: http://www.lacable.com/images/katrina_photos/Katrina_Superdome_Aerial.jpg

So how can we better prepare local networks that can deal with a disaster like Hurricane Katrina, and subsequent levee breaches, without falling into the trapping of faith-based, or otherwise discursively oppressive, political agendas? How might we realistically mitigate for these circumstances, rather than just providing last resorts, while respecting community values, networks, necessities, etc.?

…more to come on this topic.

Published Dec 04 2006, 06:34 AM by archive
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