Meet the New Loss
Hurricane Katrina brings a foretaste of environmental disasters to come
By Bill McKibben
If the images of skyscrapers collapsed in heaps of ash were the end of one story -- the U.S. safe on its isolated continent from the turmoil of the world -- then the picture of the sodden Superdome with its peeling roof marks the beginning of the next story, the one that will dominate our politics in the coming decades: America befuddled about how to cope with a planet suddenly turned unstable and unpredictable.
Over and over last week, people said that the scenes from the convention center, the highway overpasses, and the other suddenly infamous Crescent City venues didn't "look like America," that they seemed instead to be straight from the Third World. That was almost literally accurate, for poor, black New Orleans (which had never previously been of any interest to the larger public) is not so different from other poor, black parts of the world: its infant mortality rates, life expectancy rates, and educational achievement statistics mirroring those of many African and Latin American enclaves.