The professor states: My plan has only one point. That we not spend another dime on U.S. properties below sea level - and use that money instead to help sea-level refugees find safer homes elsewhere.
My reply follows, which I also sent as a letter to the editor of the Hartford Courant, where said professor's letter was published.
Edit: after some poking around said professor's homepage, I found that this was not a letter to the editor; rather, this mook has a regular opinion column in the Hartford Courant. On September 22, 2005, he penned a column entitled "No Sense in Rebuilding (New Orleans)". He has possibly written more columns on New Orleans, but hasn't updated this particular page on his site for over a year.
Rarely do people exhibit true proficiency in more than one field. Professors are an excellent example of this. They are typically highly trained in one area, and they often assume that this knowledge will extend to other fields. Because of the ego they have developed (rightfully so) from their expertise in their chosen field, they will spout off about things of which they have no knowledge whatsoever.
In general, this isn’t a problem. We are all used to managing extremes in signal-to-noise ratios, and filtering is a task to which we have become accustomed.
The problem arises because the general public rightfully assumes that the professor knows of what he speaks, when he speaks of his research field. Unfortunately, the public may assume such a professor also knows what he is talking about when he talks about a field outside his research area.
Leonardo da Vinci was one who excelled in many research areas. In modern times, Noam Chomsky, despite what one’s opinion may be of his politics, has had a monumental impact on the fields of linguistics, psychology, and computer science.
Robert M. Thorson is not one of these people.
While his impact on geology may have been adequate enough for him to have been tenured as a full professor by the University of Connecticut, his knowledge of the geography and geology of New Orleans is woefully lacking.
In his misinformed attack on the city and people of New Orleans, which appeared in the Hartford Courant, he claims that “the Katrina tragedy” was a natural disaster.
Anyone who has studied the events of August 29, 2005 and the subsequent days can unequivocally state that the tragedy that befell New Orleans was not in any way, shape, or form, a natural disaster.
New Orleans received minimal damage from hurricane Katrina. The winds from the storm did a substantial amount of damage, but nothing that was unexpected by the people of New Orleans.
The problem came from the poorly designed, constructed, and maintained floodwalls and levees. The designers, constructors, and maintainers of this flood control system, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, have admitted fault. The Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force (IPET) report of June 1, 2006 stated that the devastation to the city of New Orleans “was aided by incomplete protection, lower than authorized structures, and levee sections with erodible materials."
Simply said, the USACE did a completely incompetent job, and the blood of thousands is on their hands.
New Orleans simply must be rebuilt, as it is the cornerstone of American commerce. The New Orleans port system is the largest in the world by gross tonnage. The world. The petroleum and seafood industries also contribute vastly to the American economy. If New Orleans is abandoned by the United States, the economic impact alone will be devastating.
This is not a political matter, or, using the phrase Mr Thorson likes to use, “playing the race card”. This is a simple matter of commerce.
The problem with New Orleans being rebuilt is not that it is a “war against nature”. If it were simply that, I would encourage the citizens of Hartford to immediately seek refuge, as it is on average a mere 15 feet above sea level, with some places dangerously lower. Rather, the reason that investors and others are hesitating on rebuilding New Orleans is that the levees are criminally not being rebuilt. Not to Category 5 levels, not even to the levels that they were originally designed to be.
Another point that is painfully obvious is that Mr Thorson is evidently not aware that most of the city of New Orleans is above sea level. Far above. Farther than many points in Hartford, Connecticut.
Mr Thorson is suggesting that New Orleans be abandoned for all the wrong reasons. The reasons he should be most ashamed of are bad research and bad science on his part.