How Capitalism 'Solves' a Climate Disaster: Katrina, Three Years Later

Three years ago today, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The pain hasn’t stopped …

From Climate and Capitalism, one year ago:

There have been many debates, on this blog and elsewhere, about whether global warming can be “solved” in a capitalist framework. Many people have proposed plans to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions without radical social change.

The advocates of such plans are sincere and well-meaning, but they miss the point. The issue is not whether capitalism can deal with global warming – after all, it is a wealthy and very flexible system. The issue is whether capitalist governments are willing to act – and, if they are, how they will deal with global warming – not in utopian essays, but in the real world.

The answer to the question “Can capitalism solve global warming?” is “Yes, but you really won’t like the solution!”

For a clear example of how capitalism actually deals with a climate-crisis, we have only to look at New Orleans, two years after Katrina. For the rich and white, the problems are being solved. They are doing just fine, thank you. The tourist areas of the Big Easy are back in business. The bureaucrats and construction companies in charge of reconstruction are getting wealthier by the minute.

And the poor and black are paying the price.

A year ago, we published statistics showing how the world’s most powerful capitalist country left the poor and black in Louisiana to suffer the after-effects of Katrina. This week, Counterpunch published a new “Pain Index,” prepared by New Orleans human rights lawyer and law professor Bill Quigley.

0.  Number of renters in Louisiana who have received financial assistance from the $10 billion federal post-Katrina rebuilding program Road Home Community Development Block Grant – compared to 116,708 homeowners.

0.  Number of apartments currently being built to replace the 963 public housing apartments formerly occupied and now demolished at the St. Bernard Housing Development.

0.  Amount of data available to evaluate performance of publicly financed privately run charter schools in New Orleans in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years.

.008.  Percentage of the rental homes that were supposed to be repaired and occupied by August 2008 which were actually completed and occupied – a total of 82 finished out of 10,000 projected.

1.  Rank of New Orleans among U.S. cities in percentage of housing vacant or ruined.

1.  Rank of New Orleans among U.S. cities in murders per capita for 2006 and 2007.

4.  Number of the 13 City of New Orleans Planning Districts that are at the same risk of flooding as they were before Katrina.

10.  Number of apartments being rehabbed so far to replace the 896 apartments formerly occupied and now demolished at the Lafitte Housing Development.

11.  Percent of families who have returned to live in Lower Ninth Ward.

17.  Percentage increase in wages in the hotel and food industry since before Katrina.

20-25. Years that experts estimate it will take to rebuild the City of New Orleans at current pace.

25.  Percent fewer hospitals in metro New Orleans than before Katrina.

32.  Percent of the city’s neighborhoods that have fewer than half as many households as they did before Katrina.

36.  Percent fewer tons of cargo that move through Port of New Orleans since Katrina.

38.  Percent fewer hospital beds in New Orleans since Katrina.

40.  Percentage fewer special education students attending publicly funded privately run charter schools than traditional public schools.

41.  Number of publicly funded privately run public charter schools in New Orleans out of total of 79 public schools in the city.

43.  Percentage of child care available in New Orleans compared to before Katrina.

46.  Percentage increase in rents in New Orleans since Katrina.

56.  Percentage fewer inpatient psychiatric beds than before Katrina.

80.  Percentage fewer public transportation buses now than pre-Katrina.

81.  Percentage of homeowners in New Orleans who received insufficient funds to cover the complete costs to repair their homes.

300.  Number of National Guard troops still in City of New Orleans.

1080.  Days National Guard troops have remained in City of New Orleans.

1250.  Number of publicly financed vouchers for children to attend private schools in New Orleans in program’s first year.

6,982. Number of families still living in FEMA trailers in metro New Orleans area.

8,000. Fewer publicly assisted rental apartments planned for New Orleans by federal government.

10,000. Houses demolished in New Orleans since Katrina.

12,000. Number of homeless in New Orleans even after camps of people living under the bridge has been resettled – double the pre-Katrina number.

14,000. Number of displaced families in New Orleans area whose hurricane rental assistance expires March 2009.

32,000. Number of children who have not returned to public school in New Orleans, leaving the public school population less than half what is was pre-Katrina.

39,000. Number of Louisiana homeowners who have applied for federal assistance in repair and rebuilding who have still not received any money.

45,000. Fewer children enrolled in Medicaid public healthcare in New Orleans than pre-Katrina.

46,000. Fewer African American voters in New Orleans in 2007 gubernatorial election than 2003 gubernatorial election.

55,000. Fewer houses receiving mail than before Katrina.

62,000. Fewer people in New Orleans enrolled in Medicaid public healthcare than pre-Katrina.

71,657. Vacant, ruined, unoccupied houses in New Orleans today.

124,000. Fewer people working in metropolitan New Orleans than pre-Katrina.

132,000. Fewer people in New Orleans than before Katrina, according to the City of New Orleans current population estimate of 321,000 in New Orleans.

214,000. Fewer people in New Orleans than before Katrina, according to the U.S. Census Bureau current population estimate of 239,000 in New Orleans.

453,726. Population of New Orleans before Katrina.

320 million. The number trees destroyed in Louisiana and Mississippi by Katrina.

368 million.  Dollar losses of five major metro New Orleans hospitals from Katrina through 2007.  In 2008, these hospitals expect another $103 million in losses.

1.9 billion.  FEMA dollars scheduled to be available to metro New Orleans for Katrina damages that have not yet been delivered.

2.6 billion.  FEMA dollars scheduled to be available to State of Louisiana for Katrina damages that have not yet been delivered.

Posted in Climate Change
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Roland Sheppard
8 years 26 days ago

I added Bill’s essay, with his permission, as an ‘appendix’ to my essay, The Ethnic Cleansing of New Orleans 2008
A Requiem at:

http://web.mac.com/rolandgarret/iWeb/site/The%20Ethnic%20Cleansing%20of%20New%20Orleans%202008%20A%20Requiem.html

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