Author: Andy Howe

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Design and Society

Winter 2008

Was Katrina a modern day collapse?

Author: Andy Howe

Was Katrina a modern day collapse? A collapse, “a drastic decrease in human population size and/ or political/economic/social complexity, over a considerable area, for an extended time” (Diamond) and breakdown of physical or mental stability. There have been many disasters across the world even in third world countries, some as devastating as Katrina and those countries such as the Philippines have recovered. A collapse defines the end of an successful era or a civilization or environment. Looking further into the Katrina hurricane disaster I see that it could have been a collapse, but there are too many efforts that our country and it’s citizens put into the rebuilding that calling hurricane Katrina a collapse is unfitting. It may seem at first glance that Hurricane Katrina was a modern day collapse, but taking into consideration the efforts of the people, government, and knowledge of past disasters, Katrina is just lingering problem in which our country must unite and conquer.

People in our country see a disaster as a chance for unity. People helping other people is an important factor in any country’s success. In the wake of hurricane Katrina, the USA took a blow that would define whether this hurricane would be a collapse. The reaction that the people of our country had to this disaster clearly indicate that hurricane Katrina was not a collapse. With the donations and volunteer efforts from every state to help rebuild and help the people of New Orleans hurricane Katrina does not fall under the collapse mantel.

Before the destruction of hurricane Katrina the United States posed some warnings and helpful ways for keeping people safe from the hurricane. Once the hurricane was classified as a category five, the government issued an immediate evacuation of New Orleans and the surrounding cities. This evacuation was announced many times by the governor, and many people’s lives were saved. In the act of ordering this evacuation thousands of lives were saved but some were lost as well due to ignorance of the destructive power that hurricane Katrina showed. Inevitability not enough for a complete collapse after the hurricane.

Advanced weather technology is also a critical factor in the warning and safety of hurricane Katrina. With out the detection of this massive storm on weather radars the whole city would have been unprepared when the hurricane hit. But thanks to weather predicting technology many lives were saved ahead of time by warning the town. Advances in weather technology helped New Orleans avoid becoming a collapse.

“Hurricane Katrina was the greatest urban and regional disaster in U.S.

history. The rebuilding of New Orleans and surrounding areas of

Louisiana and Mississippi will require the largest and most complex

planning effort in my lifetime. It will require substantial analysis and public debate

of the trade-offs between idealistic goals and expediency, and will confront some

of the most difficult planning issues of our day, forcing choices among environ-

mental justice, racial equity, restoration of natural systems, repairing levees and

other public works, relocations, environmental cleanup, cultural heritage, hazard

mitigation, economic development, and urban redevelopment, all at a scale never

before seen.”

-Robert Olshansky, Planning After Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst disasters that the United States has ever seen. But as Olchansky said the rebuilding after hurricane Katrina will require massive and complex efforts. These efforts are slim and not structured enough but not at all out of sight of being successful.

The rebuilding after hurricane Katrina must comprise of affirmative actions in order to make it a successful city again. One must rebuild the neighborhoods that were lost in the hurricane. And with the volunteer efforts of people from all around the country, the housing future for the hurricane victims will not fall to a collapse.

“Post-Katrina planning requires

funding. Though money for planning need not be more

than a small proportion of federal recovery funds, it would

help to ensure a rebuilding process that is well informed,

locally supported, and efficient in its use of scarce resources.”

  • Robert Olshansky, Planning After Hurricane Katrina

The most important entity that New Orleans, or any city, needs in order for it to avoid a collapse is money. The donation of money to the hurricane Katrina victims has been extensive. Many people are being provided with a shelter and food. This shows that the people helping people concept can avoid a collapse.

Rebuilding requires money and planning that is exactly what FEMA had in mind to help the hurricane Katrina disaster victims. Many funds were used to rebuild housing, provide temporary housing, feed the homeless, and provide medical assistance for those who needed it. For anyone to say that the government did not contribute to the rebuild of New Orleans has not done their homework. Without the assistance of the government-aided money, hurricane Katrina would of resulted in a collapse. But with the reinforcement of government funds the Katrina disaster is not a modern collapse.


Stranded by Katrina: Past and Present. By: Ruscher, Janet B.. Analyses of Social Issues & Public Policy, Dec2006, Vol. 6 Issue 1, p33-38, 6p; DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-2415.2006.00114.x; (AN 23415788)

  • The views of this paper address the issues of disaster zones after hurricane Katrina and what the reaction of the people and government was. Along with social science studies conducted in poverty levels of New Orleans this paper hopes to provide alternate ways of handling future natural disasters and how to help stranded communities.

Planning After Hurricane Katrina. By: Olshansky, Robert B.. Journal of the American Planning Association, Spring2006, Vol. 72 Issue 2, p147-153, 7p; (AN 20920487)

  • This article focuses on how our societies can learn form past disasters and from the present disasters (Katrina). Reconstruction of New Orleans and other Gulf states must involve the local communities and funding from outside forces.

Health and the Environment after Hurricane Katrina. By: Wilson, Jennifer Fisher. Annals of Internal Medicine, 1/17/2006, Vol. 144 Issue 2, p153-156, 4p; (AN 19511407)

  • This article looks into the poor living environments causing sicknesses and homelessness. Health facilities were at a minimum during the Katrina disaster causing lasting health issues even after the disaster.

Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Jared Diamond. Penguin Books, 2006.

  • The book of Collapse focuses on past and preset societies and their failure to support the environment and other resources, which lead to the collapse of each culture. This book also provides example of how collapses in societies are not all history but happening right underneath our eyes. The goal of the book is to show how current societies can learn for past collapses of other cultures.

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