Re: [xmca] natural and cultural history

From: Wolff-Michael Roth (
Date: Sun Sep 18 2005 - 12:22:50 PDT

Hi Peg,
I am on my way to Seville right now, making use of my Gold card to
access services that only people with money and frequent travelers
        When I lived in Mississippi, the coast was not like this, the casinos
didn't exist and there were little restaurants where you could eat
oysters for 20 cents a shot, and drink a light beer. There were lots of
shrimpers that had come from Vietnam in the bay. On the way from
Hattiesburg through the forests, I could see isolated settlements of
really rough outlook, and I was sometimes afraid of breaking down in my
old raggedy jeep on the sandy roads.
        But the houses on the coast were beautiful, rebuilt after Camille. I
was amazed that anyone would rebuild where any storm can strike and
wipe out your home.


On 18-Sep-05, at 7:55 AM, Peg Griffin wrote:

> Hi, Michael,
> An interesting issue about Camille.
> It brings up the twining of natural history and cultural history, I
> think.
> There is a phrase "red-neck Riviera," applied to the gulf coast, which
> pulls
> up issues of class and the concept of leisure in US society.
> Part but not all of the rationale for the phrase are casinos which are
> allowed on water but not land (religious politics) but the tourist and
> worker accommodations are on the coast land.
> I'm running too ragged to do much coherent with this right now but it
> may be
> useful to just mention it.
> Peg
> -----Original Message-----
> From: []
> On
> Behalf Of Wolff-Michael Roth
> Sent: Monday, September 12, 2005 11:07 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] The New Yorker on Katrina and global warming
> I have been glancing at all the emails in respect to Katrina on this
> list, and with one ear followed television coverage in the news. I
> have not yet heard any reference to another hurricane, Camille.
> When I was living in southern Mississippi from 85-88, EVERYONE was
> talking about Camille. I was shown where in Biloxi and/or other
> towns, for example, all the houses where washed away--I was
> astonished to see that the entire coast was built up again without
> barriers, as if there was no possibility for another devastating
> storm to hit the coast.
> History might have taught something
> Michael
> On 12-Sep-05, at 7:46 AM, David Preiss wrote:
>> by Elizabeth Kolbert
>> Issue of 2005-09-19
>> Posted 2005-09-12
>> The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, founded in
>> 1871 and
>> headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, bills itself as the “oldest
>> association of state officials” in the country. Every three months,
>> its
>> members, who include the chief insurance regulators of all fifty
>> states plus
>> the District of Columbia, hold a four-day meeting to discuss issues of
>> common concern. The association’s fall, 2005, meeting was scheduled
>> for this
>> past weekend, and, in addition to seminars on such perennial
>> favorites as
>> “Property Casualty Reinsurance” and “Receivership and Insolvency,” the
>> event’s planners had organized a session on a new topic: global
>> warming.
>> Given recent events in Louisiana and Mississippi, a session on
>> weather-related disasters would surely have been well attended.
>> Unfortunately for the association, the meeting was booked into the
>> Sheraton
>> in downtown New Orleans.
>> Katrina was so destructive—whole towns and cities devastated, and
>> their
>> traditions swept away—that anyone who would presume to comment on
>> it has a
>> heavy burden. A disaster of this magnitude seems to demand not
>> dispassionate
>> analysis but simple human empathy. To use it as an occasion to
>> point out the
>> folly of U.S. energy policy, as, for example, the German environmental
>> minister, Jürgen Trittin, did, is to invite the charge of
>> insensitivity, or
>> even worse. “The American president shuts his eyes to the economic
>> and human
>> damage that the failure to protect the climate inflicts on his
>> country and
>> the world economy through natural catastrophes like Katrina,”
>> Trittin wrote
>> in the Frankfurter Rundschau. An editor for the London Times online
>> accused
>> Trittin of “intellectual looting,” while the Web version of Der
>> Spiegel
>> announced “another low point for transatlantic relations—and set
>> off by a
>> German minister. How pathetic.” But, callous as it may seem to say so,
>> America’s consumption of fossil fuels and catastrophes like Katrina
>> are
>> indeed connected.
>> Though hurricanes are, in their details, extremely complicated,
>> basically
>> they all draw their energy from the same source: the warm surface
>> waters of
>> the ocean. This is why they form only in the tropics, and during
>> the season
>> when sea surface temperatures are highest. It follows that if sea
>> surface
>> temperatures increase—as they have been doing—then the amount of
>> energy
>> available to hurricanes will grow. In general, climate scientists
>> predict
>> that climbing CO2 levels will lead to an increase in the intensity of
>> hurricanes, though not in hurricane frequency. (This increase will be
>> superimposed on any natural cycles of hurricane activity.)
>> Meanwhile, as sea
>> levels rise—water expands as it warms—storm surges, like the one that
>> breached the levees in New Orleans, will inevitably become more
>> dangerous.
>> In a paper published in Nature just a few weeks before Katrina
>> struck, a
>> researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported that
>> wind-speed measurements made by planes flying through tropical
>> storms showed
>> that the “potential destructiveness” of such storms had “increased
>> markedly”
>> since the nineteen-seventies, right in line with rising sea surface
>> temperatures.
>> The fact that climbing CO2 levels are expected to produce more
>> storms like
>> Katrina doesn’t mean that Katrina itself was caused by global
>> warming. No
>> single storm, no matter how extreme, can be accounted for in this way;
>> weather events are a function both of factors that can be
>> identified, like
>> the amount of solar radiation reaching the earth and the greenhouse-
>> gas
>> concentrations in the atmosphere, and of factors that are
>> stochastic, or
>> purely random. In response to the many confused claims that were
>> being made
>> about the hurricane, a group of prominent climatologists posted an
>> essay on
>> the Web site RealClimate that asked, “Could New Orleans be the
>> first major
>> U.S. city ravaged by human-caused climate change?” The correct
>> answer, they
>> pointed out, is that this is the wrong question. The science of global
>> warming has nothing to say about any particular hurricane (or
>> drought or
>> heat wave or flood), only about the larger statistical pattern.
>> For obvious reasons, this larger pattern is also of deep interest
>> to the
>> insurance industry. In June, the Association of British Insurers
>> issued a
>> report forecasting that, owing to climate change, losses from
>> hurricanes in
>> the U.S., typhoons in Japan, and windstorms in Europe were likely to
>> increase by more than sixty per cent in the coming decades. (The
>> report
>> calculated that insured losses from extreme storms—those expected
>> to occur
>> only once every hundred to two hundred and fifty years—could rise
>> to as much
>> as a hundred and fifty billion dollars.) The figures did not take into
>> account the expected increase in the number and wealth of people
>> living in
>> storm-prone areas; correcting for such increases, the losses are
>> likely to
>> be several hundred per cent higher. A report issued last week,
>> which was
>> supposed to have been presented at the National Association of
>> Insurance
>> Commissioners’ meeting in New Orleans, noted that, even before
>> Katrina,
>> catastrophic weather-related losses in the U.S. had been rising
>> “significantly faster than premiums, population, or economic growth.”
>> Since President Bush announced that the country was withdrawing
>> from the
>> Kyoto Protocol, in March, 2001, the Administration has offered a
>> variety of
>> excuses for why the U.S., which produces nearly a quarter of the
>> world’s
>> greenhouse-gas emissions, can’t be expected to cut back. On the one
>> hand,
>> Administration officials have insisted that the science of global
>> warming is
>> inconclusive; on the other, they’ve cited this same science to
>> argue that
>> the steps demanded by Kyoto are not rigorously enough thought out.
>> As the
>> rest of the world has adopted Kyoto—earlier this year, the treaty
>> became
>> binding on the hundred and forty nations that had ratified it—these
>> arguments have become increasingly indefensible, and the President has
>> fallen back on what one suspects was his real objection all along:
>> complying
>> with the agreement would be expensive. “The Kyoto treaty didn’t
>> suit our
>> needs,” Bush blurted out during a British-television interview a
>> couple of
>> months ago. As Katrina indicates, this argument, too, is empty.
>> It’s not
>> acting to curb greenhouse-gas emissions that’s likely to prove too
>> costly;
>> it’s doing nothing.
>> David Preiss
>> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>> ---
>> Profesor Auxiliar / Assistant Professor
>> Pontificia Universidad Católica de <> Chile
>> Escuela de Psicología
>> Av. Vicuña Mackenna 4860
>> Macul, Santiago,
>> Chile
>> Fono: 56-2-3544605
>> Fax: 56-2-354-4844
>> E-mail:
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sat Oct 01 2005 - 01:00:12 PDT