Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Walkin' From New Orleans?

Some people faithful to New Orleans will return no matter what. Glen Andrews, a jazz trombonist staying in the Astrodome, on Tuesday echoed the words of Fats Domino, a New Orleans native. "I'm going home even if it comes down to walking to New Orleans," Mr. Andrews said."
Susan Saulny writes in today's New York Times that New Orleans community leaders are beginning to worry that as many as a quarter of a million city dwellers, now on evacuation in sudden boomtowns like Houston and Baton Rouge, could decide to stay there.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post is reprising the chorus of warnings from "scientists and environmentalists" who've been warning "for years that the nation's coastline is dangerously overbuilt."

In times past, the rich lived in the central city and the poor were scattered across the countryside. Levittown changed all that. The 'burbs became the place to be if you had money. Inner cities were largely abandoned to the poor and disenfranchised.

At the same time, as the Post points out, for most of the nation's history "the coastal areas were dominated by the poor and working class. Wealthy and middle-class Americans did not start moving there until ... after Hurricane Camille in 1969, when there was a demographic explosion."

Could it be that Katrina -- not to mention rising gas prices and higher property insurance premiums -- is ushering in another dramatic demographic shift? Will the rich wise up and head for the mountains, letting their beach condos become the new American slums?

It's worth remembering that archeologists, like Jerald T. Milanich, tell us that evidence of permanent native American settlements along the Gulf coast going back over two thousand years "tend not to be found farther south than the northern extent of coastal mangrove forests."

Makes you wonder if the Indians knew something trombonists -- and modern beach dwellers -- don't.

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