03 September 2005

After the flood came fire

Pleas for aid, disaster coverage, and criticism of response efforts have been dominating news and blogs alike for days now. I am not indifferent to it. My outrage and anger is giving way to despair today, particularly as I read the international coverage. We should've done better.

Something my mom said yesterday keeps resurfacing though. The logistics would be difficult and would require the dedication of resources, personnel, money, as well as that of the survivors left with nothing; in short, it has all the characteristics of a Big Idea. It could be an opportunity to eliminate (greatly reduce) poverty in that area. Provide job training for the residents who've lost everything and don't have the skills or education to make a decent living. Actually, do that whether they lost their homes or not. This disaster could be the clean slate that emboldens poverty stricken people to take challenging strides forward if they're given the opportunity and help to do so.

For it to work, there have to be jobs available after the training. There's also the question of what to train them for. I would not want to see the government use this opportunity to promise job training and college tuition only by way of joining the military, so businesses would have to step up. Construction, engineering, medical training all seem relevant choices.

I don't know who owns most of the land in New Orleans, but it seems unlikely they will rebuild the housing of the poorest sections so the poor can just move back in.

Maybe this is terribly naive considering evacuation and supplying shelter, food and water is still proving difficult (and obviously most important right now), but I felt compelled to put it out there. Maybe you're smarter than I am, or have connections, or resources, or know someone who does... if you're not actively working on the immediate problems of that region, give what comes next some thought. I think we would all benefit from more Big Ideas.

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