In order to see the damage from Hurricane Katrina from a different perspective, I watched the documentary “the Big Uneasy.” The doc delved into why the levees failed, and really evaluated the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE). This movie argues that what Katrina did to New Orleans was not a “natural disaster” or a failure by FEMA, but an inevitable result of years of poor work and planning by ACE. However, instead of being targeted as a failing institution, ACE used their governmental funding and power to cover their mistakes. This is also illustrated when the documentary details how a contractor who was hired to build the levees brought the ACE to court saying their plans were flawed, and he lost the case. Employees of ACE can be quoted to say that they only look to the future, and not into the past since blame is not necessary. This is a fatally wrong belief since history always has a way of repeating itself, as much as we like to forget it.
From the producer’s perspective, most of the damage done to New Orleans in wake of Katrina could have been prevented to the point of minor flooding if proper materials were used and basic level correct engineering was utilized. It was a rather repetitive documentary that presented expert after expert who insisted that this was not a natural disaster or an ungodly force of nature, but instead an unnatural disaster caused by the developing man. On normal coastlines, wetlands are present to absorb flooding and prevent water surge. Unfortunately there are no remaining wetlands near the Lower Ninth Ward, but instead sand-based levees that were not built to code. It is incredibly awful and unfortunate that this disaster happened, and even sadder knowing that the destruction of thousands of homes in an economically docile area was indirectly caused by perceived laziness.
This documentary causes me to ask many questions including:
- How can this governmentally funded institution not be held partially responsible?
- What other role did the government have in this disaster?
- Was it only the ACE that failed in practice?
From existing knowledge and from visiting NOLA post Katrina I can attest that the answer to the second two questions is definitely “a huge mishandled role” and NO, but I need to further research these answers.