solnit: there's no such thing as a disaster

rebecca solnit’s on being interview is so densely packed full of good quotes i had to listen to it while i was sitting at my computer. otherwise, my cold fingers couldn’t keep up with writing down the ideas as quickly as they came. this here is the first of many posts about gems she dropped.

there’s no such thing as a disaster

I should say that all my work on disaster draws from these wonderful disaster sociologists who had this — do this incredible work documenting what happens in disasters, and have since World War II. You — I’m kind of their popularize and people like Kathleen Tierney and — but, and they say there’s no such thing as a natural disaster, meaning that in an earthquake, it’s buildings that fall on you. So what are the building codes? Who lives in substandard housing? Who lives on the floodplain? Who gets evacuated? Who gets left behind? What happened to New Orleans is that the levees failed, about 7/8 of the city flooded, meaning that a lot of it was from a few feet to 15 feet or more deep in water. And just all systems failed. And some hospitals were able to run on generators. There was a supposedly — there what was called a mandatory evacuation, but people who didn’t have the resources to evacuate were left behind to face what happened. So that’s the set-up for that creates a disaster. — rebecca solnit

when she said that i had to stop and replay it like 3 or 4 times.

i mean, i knew that, for sure. i did a week or so of recovery work in biloxi after katrina and it was pretty clear that poverty was the real crime. wealthy people could get out, had homes that (mostly) survived, and even if their stuff was damaged or destoryed, they had capacity (finances, mobility, insurance, network strength) to rebuild. the poor folks? gone forever because all they had was the house.

so what’s the lesson here? i’m thinking about emergent strategy and how to be resilient, how to develop interdependence, how to be adaptive, how to create more possibilities.

one thing that comes to mind is the amount of culture that will be lost forever as neighborhoods are destroyed. when their inhabitants don’t return, the web of knowledge and experience spreads thin. sometimes it even breaks. but those webs are the source and holder of so much culture. so how, even amidst dispersal, can those webs be maintained? i wonder if i should try to hold an online book club as a way to do some learning in this arena… hm!

words / writing / post-processing
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