Almost two years after Hurricane Katrina exposed the brittleness of New Orleans, New York Times reports that even after spending more than a billion dollars the city is still at risk. I had written earlier on how New Orleans might be the city that never should have been and if taken at face value, I can be acussed of undermining human tenacity and resilience. But at the core of the matter is our struggle with nature. To put it bluntly, we can never win. No matter how hard we try or how long we hold her off, nature will always win. Rivers that change their flow or sea levels that rise will not consider the fate of those millions living on its banks or the coastline.
Christopher Hallowell’s Holding Back the Sea documents man’s futile attempts in controlling nature. Hurricane Katrina not only exposed our societal inadequacies but also laid bare some of our massive engineering feats. No offense to the Army Corps of Engineers, but they will always be fighting a losing battle and can only hold the fort so long. Even if it was technically possible to hold off the inevitable for a longer time, I doubt we have the financial prowess to do it anymore. Other more urgent and important priorities have crept up the national agenda. At some point in time, we have to reevaluate our presence in the volatile Mississippi basin. Perhaps nature doesn’t want us there at all. We can claim that we have been there for over a hundred year but nature has been there much longer, right?