I have been watching the unfolding of the Katrina disaster. It makes my stomach churn to learn about how badly FEMA and other federal agencies bumbled this whole thing. We clearly have major human well being and community well being issues to deal with here. This interview of the head of Jefferson County is just heart wrenching (the blog title comes from this interview).
Here is a first hand account of a man’s son who was contracted by FEMA as a truck driver to get releif supplies to the affected areas.
Reading this I think that self organizing networks who had done some scenario planning exercises and have network tools for sharing real information from on the ground would have been hand to coordinate real relief. Perhaps a case study in the network failures and successes in the aftermath is a topic for MeshForum in May.
Live Blogging from the area.
Tales from a refugee camp…
I traveled throughout the camp and spoke to Red Cross workers, Salvation
Army workers, National Guard, and state police, and although they were
friendly, no one could give me any details on when buses would arrive, how
many, where they would go to, or any other information. I spoke to the
several teams of journalists nearby, and asked if any of them had been able
to get any information from any federal or state officials on any of these
questions, and all of them, from Australian tv to local Fox affiliates
complained of an unorganized, non-communicative, mess. One cameraman told
me â€œas someone whoâ€™s been here in this camp for two days, the only
information I can give you is this: get out by nightfall. You donâ€™t want to
be here at night.â€
There was also no visible attempt by any of those running the camp to set up
any sort of transparent and consistent system, for instance a line to get on
buses, a way to register contact information or find family members, special
needs services for children and infirm, phone services, treatment for
possible disease exposure, nor even a single trash can.
Reading this article I learned that the functional literacy rate New Orleans is about 40%. That means they can read a little but can’t fill out a job application, read a food label or read a simple story to a child. Makes me wonder how are we going to build an identity system that the functionally illiterate can use??
Van Jones a rising leader in the African American Community writes this great article about the responsibility of the Bush Administration for the disaster.
He also wrote this piece about “looting” and “finding” and race. It seems that how one is identified by race and class makes a difference to the media interpretation of actions in a catastrophic situation. Just to be clear I am not a big fan of identity politics in its raw form. Having said that I am also acutely aware that race and class are cultural forces in our society and that there is a role for considering how people with common a common identity – belonging to an ethnic group or making a certain income or having a particular sexual orientation or even gender affects ones experience in the world in systemic way.