Wednesday, August 31, 2005

An email was being passed around on lists today supposedly by a musican and historian from the New Orleans area (might be this guy mentioned here but that isn't confirmed) that struck me today as I was thinking about the storms down south. He writes about how the evacuation plans are based on car ownership for the most part, so that poor people, those without cars, squatters, homeless, etc. in these situations are left without ways to get out and therefore mostly trapped when the flood waters rush in.

I thought about this last year when hurricanes threatened to hit Miami and my own sister was living down there, on South Beach ... potentially the most vulnerable section if there was a direct hit. Although not poor, she also did not have a car and no rentals were available, and therefore she made the decision to stay put. She found friends who lived in a section of town that was slightly higher inland, and waited it out from there. Luckily it didn't hit. But I'm sure that many of the folks down in the Gulf right now have similar stories. And that's not even thinking about the pets people had to leave behind, the folks who are ill and in bed and need medicine and supplies at home, the folks without friends who live on higher grounds, those in shelters, etc.

I also am inherently suspicious that these are not purely "acts of God" but that humans have a hand in the outcome of these kinds of storms. Another article that was sent to me today looks into this question -- Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen? 'Times-Picayune' Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues by Will Bunch.

Working for a national network, we have many teachers/colleagues who live down in these areas. We have heard from some people and I'm sure more news will continue to trickle in. Mostly I've heard stories of how people got out, but don't know where others are right now. My colleague Karen today sent out a link to a Katrina-tagged-Flickr site that included many pictures of the devastation and another colleague, Troy, responded about the power of this technology to allow us a view in, from afar, and allow others to share their experiences one-to-many ("to share in the common human experience"). The bloggers are testament to this too.

And I believe this. And I also believe that the stories of those without computers, without digital cameras and digital tendecies, those without cars and friends in the right places and money in their pockets, or at least in the bank, are likely to not be heard from for the most part. But I'll keep looking for those stories.

And as I'm looking, my best goes out to all ya'll dealing with this right now.

Christina

1 Comments:

Blogger Christina said...

Because I didn't have comments turned on yet (oops), my friend John sent me these comments directly and then gave me permission to share them because I do think they are really important:

You wrote, "And I believe this. And I also believe that the stories of those without computers, without digital cameras and digital tendecies, those without cars and friends in the right places and money in their pockets, or at least in the bank, are likely to not be heard from for the most part. But I'll keep looking for those stories."

The average person and even more the poor are often under represented in situations like this, but I wonder if the world of digital cameras, video, picture and video cellphones, personal websites and blogs makes it more extreme.

Twenty or thirty years ago, the only "average" voice that got big play were ham operators. You would hear about them broadcasting during a disaster or just after when other communications were down. But they were rare so the media had to go in on foot, so to speak, and get the story and then the poor and left behind were at least as apt to be a source of information and human interest as anyone else. They probably hadn't left, so they were there and their story may be more dramatic.

Now, in the area of Katrina there are probably tens of thousands of personal video and digital imaging devices all providing on the scene looks at the disaster, but they aren't owned by the poor (or at least not in the same numbers).

Distributed emails, personal and semi-professional websites and blogs provide mountains of data. A reporter could spend months just sorting through that. There is no need, just to get on the spot information, to walk (or paddle) the neighborhoods. This makes the marginalization of the non-technological (for economic or other reasons) as a face of a disaster greater than it used to be.

A question: Were buses available as a means of evacuation? I honestly don't know.

10:13 PM  

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