Thursday, May 11, 2006

Are we missing the forest for the trees?

Bush is a total failure, Congress is corrupt, the war in Iraq is a quagmire, federal agencies are incompetent if not completely negligent, etc., etc. ...

But are we missing the forest for the trees? Are these issues symptomatic of the failings of the Bush administration specifically, or of the American system generally? Are there more serious emerging problems which will undermine a prosperous and happy future for Americans?

Are we becoming a nation of waiters and bartenders indebted to the China? Twice as many jobs were created by restaurants in April than in any other sector of the economy. If the former Reagan administration economist, Paul Craig Roberts, is correct, Americans in the future will be lucky to have jobs at all. That's because, under the Bush administration, the trend of job creation isn't keeping up with the pace of population growth.

The struggle to rebuild New Orleans is really a fight for the future of the United States.

New Orleans already has an economy overly dependent upon restaurant and hotel services.

polimom recently wrote:

The political system in NOLA (particularly the leadership), right up to Nagin I think (though I could be missing someone) were carved from the same block, and depended on a zero-sum, stagnant economy that required an uneducated and unambitious working-pool to function. ...

Poor New Orleanians did not create the traps, and there were few avenues out. One cannot aspire to much beyond restaurant or hotel work with the equivalent of an 8th grade education in a tourism-based economy, yet that very economic base required a large population who would work at that level.

In addition to having an economy of the future, New Orleans is now confronting the same environmental challenges which other parts of the country may have to contend.

A recent NOVA documentary explores research indicating that particulate pollution in the atmosphere may have been stifling the effects of global warming by effectively dimming the sun. As a result, the modeling of how high temperatures may rise due to atmospheric carbon dioxide increases may be far off the mark, and it may be far too late already to reverse the trend. As particulate matter diminishes due to pollution controls, the full effects of carbon dioxide on global warming are unleashed. New York City might be under water in less than a hundred years.

Natural disasters are only disasters in that they expose the failings of human civilization. All Americans need to pay attention to New Orleans' problems, and to take seriously the need to find solutions that meet the economic and environmental challenges exposed by Hurricane Katrina.

Some day, the rest of the country may be forced to confront the same challenges. As a nation, we need to be smarter about what we're doing to ourselves. There's no proof that our history and our economic model will necessarily lead us toward a better future. We would be foolish to believe our destiny will be guided to prosperity solely by faith in a superior form of government, and a superior economic system. As never before, the earth's capacity to absorb our destructive ways is reaching its limits, and we are up against billions of competitors for our jobs.

It's time to see the forest. It's time to save ourselves from ourselves.


At 5/11/2006 08:00:00 AM, Blogger jeffrey said...

You know, I've always thought Louisiana was ahead of the curve... in bad ways.. but definitely ahead of the curve.

At 5/11/2006 03:08:00 PM, Blogger oyster said...

"The struggle to rebuild New Orleans is really a fight for the future of the United States."

I like Schroeder's framing, actually, given that we're fighting for survival here. In terms of wetlands loss, disaster recovery and economic restructuring New Orleans is very much on the "front lines".

This is certainly not a comfortable situation to be in; the challenges are ginormous. But there are opportunities: in an oil crisis a city with fully functioning walkable neighborhoods might not be so bad, for example. Experimental schools, wetlands restoration, port security, cultural preservation, growing an info-economy from scratch... these are profound challenges that deserve our very best efforts.

Another thought which occurred to me is, If a bird flu pandemic occurred, perhaps all the disruptions surrounding the Katastrophe might be viewed as ...almost preparatory.

I dunno. Stop me if I sound like a loon.


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