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American Pie

The only time I had heard the word "Levee" was in the lyrics of the song "American Pie" for which the link gives a good explanation.

As the issues unravel in Mississippi it raises a large number of issues for the USA and the world.

Firstly, it is clear that Bush was more interested in 3,000 generally rich people dying in New York than over 10,000 relatively poor people drowning in Mississipi.

Secondly, what the US is sowing in terms of carbon emissions it has now reaped in terms of a climatic weather disaster (much that Bangladesh has already had this).

Thirdly, if the US had spent a proportion of the funds it has spent in Iraq and on the "War on Terror" on building up the Levees then the big disaster would not have happened. It was clearly predicted.

Fourthly, and this story is a good basis for this in the USA and probably other countries there are substantial problems with a low social capital, corrupt environment being generated in some urban areas. This is ignored by those in power because it does not affect them. We have had some of this in the UK and it is syptomatic in the developing gang based revenge attacks. I have some interesting evidence of corruption which will go to court later this year, but many people ignore these issues as "too difficult".

Fifthly, the oil supply consumption balance is so constrained that there is no leeway at all for any disruption - much that this disruption is quite substantial.

Sixthly, the US Government is not really that good at organising anything whether in Iraq or the US.

The evidence internationally is very very clear, countries which are corrupt are poor - to some extent even if they have massive natural resources. It is the issues of following the rule of law and giving security to inviduals that generate secure and just societies that can then develop economic security.

This applies to poorer areas of the western nations just as much as it applies to countries that are run by gangster politicians.

Clearly the challenges we face in the future with resource constraints, greater polarisation and headless chickens as political leaders include also greater pressures from the natural environment.

Comments

Stephen Glenn said…
If the only time you ever heard the word levee was in the song you either weren't listening or missing from your geography classes on rivers John. I admit I did carry the subject on to A'level so kept hearing about levee's for a long time.
Bob Piper said…
It wasn't just your boring geography classes you weren't listening too, John. Memphis Minnie in the 20's or 30's sang "When the levee breaks" about the Mississippi floodwith its prophetic lines:
Crying won't help you, praying won't do you no good
Now, crying won't help you, praying won't do you no good
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move.

Now, I know you were not even a twinke in Mrs Hemming's eye back then, but surely you must remember the Led Zepplin version from 1971?
john said…
Although I can play Stairway (badly) I was 11 in 1971 and don't quite remember the tune.
Apollo Project said…
Bob Dylan´s Down in the Flood also features the "l" word: http://bobdylan.com/songs/flood.html

I agree that corruption produces poverty, even in the presence of valuable natural resources. Indeed there is a considerable literature suggesting that possesion of natural resources is conducive to corruption.

Peter from the Apollo Project
PoliticalHack said…
Much as it pains me to be fair to Dubya, I don't think his reaction to 9/11 was any better than this. He's looked completely ineffective on both times his position has called for him to look like a leader. 9/11 at least happened in a fairly compact area and didn't require the level of urgent intervention by the federal government that Katrina does.

Not only are the troops missing, I bet that the federal budget could have done without the massive tax cut he pushed through early in his first term.

Still, just like Yardley, the eyes are on the next election.
A C Baker said…
I hesitate to analyse the floods around the Port of Louisiana until the situation is far better understood (was Federal funding for levees mis-spent in the late 1990s?). The hurricane was not caused by anthropogenic climate change, although it was made more energetic by our excess heat dumped in the sea. The current disaster was caused less by the hurricane than by human factors.

However, I hope Katrina will focus minds. Particularly, will the UK find the political will to tackle our contribution to global climate change? What is your opinion, John, of this proposal, for example:

http://www.colinchallen.org/record.jsp?type=article&ID=18

"Mr. Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell) (Lab): I beg to move
...
to be read a Second time on Friday 15 October ... [Bill 136].

The Domestic Tradable Quotas (Carbon Emissions) Bill"
john said…
I think this sort of route taking into account the effects in rural areas is one way of looking at things.
A C Baker said…
My feeling is that the DTQs proposal will end up being too little, too late, too bureaucratic. But what is under serious Parliamentary consideration to do a better job? So I support DTQs.
john said…
The DTQ Bill has fallen through lack of time so there is actually nothing at the moment.

My challenge with the government rests with international air travel which is very significant and totally ignored.
shaz said…
Lax financial regulations is a major contributing factor of companies "getting away with revealing their potential greenhouse liabilities".

As George Monbiot points out
"While the UK produces 2.2% of the world’s greenhouse gases, the companies which extract the fossil fuels responsible for over 10% of global emissions are listed on the London Stock Exchange.

One of the reasons they find London attractive is that, thanks to our lax financial regulations, they are not obliged to reveal their potential greenhouse liabilities to investors. Far from doing anything about this, Blair complains that our financial rules are “hugely inhibiting of efficient business”.
A C Baker said…
I have chased up DTQs, and Colin Challen has not given up on them, although obviously his options are limited. What did you make of his 25/5 challenge?

I would be interested in discussing more widely the subject of political strategies to impliment radical reductions in UK carbon emission. Could I raise it on your email list?
john said…
At the moment the oil tanker of state is travelling in the same direction it has been for decades.

DTQs are probably the only sort of approach that will have some real impact on fossil fuel usage. However, if the government don't accept that there is a need to at least change their predictions on air flight then we are miles of achieveing anything. Don't feel constrained from posting anything to the email list.

I am happy to work at his 25/5 challenge. I think, however, that given that I rarely fly, drive a diesel vehicle (35mpg), don't commute that far on a daily basis and also cycle and use public transport that my own emissions are relatively low.

My project for today is to get the treasury economic model to look at these issues (I have a copy of it).
A C Baker said…
Your profile sounds similar to mine, and I rate about 20% above the 'contract and converge' CO2 emissions level (about 30% of the UK average). Of course, I have to take responsibility for my pro rata portion of what you emit as my MP :-)

Do you think that StopClimateChaos.org (the NGO coalition) will make a significant impact?

John Houghton suggested that the Treasury economic model predicts that halting global warming at +2.5 C will cost the equivalent of 6 months growth out of 50 years.

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