Playing the Odds

Nightline had a story on last night about New Orleans (yes, I actually watched a television) and the damage done by Katrina. Late in the segment was a proposal by some geologist (I think) that New Orlean’s build a 25 foot “sea wall” around the entire city. Strangely, it never seems to occur to anyone that the city shouldn’t be rebuilt in a major flood zone. New Orleans sits below sea level and “sea surge” from high winds can swamp the levies presently used to hold back the ocean.

So they hope to compound the root problem of locating the city in a non-habitable zone by building a higher wall. Maybe. That is, if they listen this time. This proposal was over five years old and was reportedly tabled. Now a significant portion of New Orleans is ruined.

What I find strange about this 20-20 hindsight is how we do not apply logic and reason to our decisions. There was no economic reason to build the sea wall – and my guess, there won’t be after the city is rebuilt either. After all, the big one finally hit (although it wasn’t really the BIG ONE) and the odds are, it won’t hit again for a long time. Maybe. But that is what humans do – play the odds. We have been playing the odds with our environment is a similar manner for decades. We build where we shouldn’t and complain when our houses slide off into the ravines or the brush fires destroy them to cinders or earthquakes reduce them to rubble. It simply never occurs to builders, architects and city planners – and home owners, that they’ve no business building or living there in the first place.

Billions of dollars in insurance claims later, the question comes up – but nothing ever changes. Humans keep doing stupid things, like they always do, until they mess it up so badly that it’s totally unfixable – like Pompeii, enshrining stupidity for eternity. We think we control nature – but how silly this is, when evidence abounds throughout the history of the world that just the opposite is true. So we keep playing the odds, hoping against hope that it won’t happen again.

But of course it will.

The real reason this stuff keeps happening throughout the world is because of greed. Sensible construction (and location) doesn’t make cents [sic], so we don’t do it. It’s far easier to gamble the human lives involved then to build wisely. Humans always take the money road. Which makes you and I worth, oh – say about $1,000? Less? More? While I’m not sure of the actual figure, the fact is, there IS a figure that can be placed upon every human life by the architects of this life. Now, I’m digressing a little bit here, but every human decision as it relates to civilization is about money, even if it eventually costs human lives. No regard is given to non-human lives, species extinctions continue unabated.

So I think we can safely bet the odds are – no sea wall will be built as proposed. It will simply cost too much. And there is utterly no hope that the city would be relocated or built on higher ground, this is an unthinkable act.

Future civilizations, if there are any, will undoubtedly perform the same senseless decisions, unless and finally, until mankind wakes up and acknowledges that he is most definitely NOT master of his environment and thankfully, never will be.

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