Thursday, January 13, 2005

Rebuild it Dammit!

We hear about natural disasters all the time. Obviously, the devasatation along the Indian Ocean is not going to leave our consciousness any time soon. Since then, however, mudslides in Southern California have caught the attention of many Americans. Living here in California, it's been all over the news. I can't imagine the saturation coverage by SoCal news outlets since they go buckwild over the smallest of things.

In any case, a pledge by most survivors of disasters and government officials is that they will go on with their lives, rebuild, and prosper once again. It's human nature to triumph over mother nature. And when devastation is so wide spread and in areas which rarely, if ever, face such worries, it makes sense to rebuild communities in the same spot. I fully hope and expect that survivors in tsunami affected areas can rebuild most of their towns and prosper along the shores of the Indian Ocean. But it seems like Americans tend to go overboard on rebuilding and do so even when it's down right stupid to do it in the same spot that was just demolished.

I'm not talking about hurricane survivors re-building their motor homes or tornado survivors rebuilding the high school gym. Although hurricanes & tornados are regular events, the devastation they cause is quite random and infrequent. I'm talking about people who live in known, and very specific, danger areas who then rebuild in the exact same spots after disasters. For example, people should not be living in flood plains since the plains are specifically designed to take overflow flood waters. Of course their homes will be in the path of trouble. I'm also talking about people living on or near unstable cliffs. These people could live just a little farther away from these cliffs, but for whatever reason - scenery, tradtion, etc - they choose to live in a known danger zone. Not only do these people get devastated every few years, they get help to re-build in those same spots even though there's no good reason.

Gov. Schwarzenegger took the step of unneccesary political pandering just yesterday in response to the serious mudslides which have killed 10 people so far. Here's an excerpt of what the LA Times relates in this article:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger encouraged residents to rebuild as he toured the damage during a midmorning visit.

"In the last few days we have seen the power of nature to cause damage and despair," Schwarzenegger told reporters and residents. "But we will match that power with our own resolve.

"The people that live here in this community are very strong," he said. "It's something I noticed right away. One of the first things they said is, you know, 'We'll be back.'

"I would say that I'm going to help them so they can come back here," the governor added.

I call this pandering unneccesary because even the local officials think it's a bad idea to rebuild in La Conchita. More from the LA Times:

That pledge appeared to leave Ventura County officials nonplused. Kathy Long, head of the county Board of Supervisors, said after a meeting with Schwarzenegger that officials were unsure how they could make La Conchita safe.

The area is known for mudslides. In fact, in 1995 there were serious mudslides, but people still rebuilt. I'll admit, rebuilding after one disaster isn't straight out dumb, but doing so after the same thing happens AGAIN? And kills 10 people? What exactly is it that makes people do this? Let's see what the LA Times has to report again:

As searchers continued to probe the rubble, residents debated whether to return.

Julio Varele, 53, said he and his wife, Annelle Beebe, would. Even though he lost a close friend, Tony Alvis, in the mudslide, Varele said he couldn't fathom living anyplace else.

"We've had the most incredible time with our friends in the house. There's the warmth, the atmosphere, with food and good times," he said. "People love to come to visit. How can you put a price on that?"

After the 1995 slide, Varele said, he thought about the dangers "all the time."

"It was sort of our choice to live there. It's not that we're dumb. It's just that it's a wonderful place," he said.

Bill Matthews, 34, who lives about 200 feet away from the base of the slide, said he planned to stay "as long as the rent is [as high] as it is in Santa Barbara."

People love to visit. High rent. Uh huh. It's not that you're dumb, it's that your fucking stupid and looking for sympathy!

So if this were just the residents' decision to rebuild and the consequences would be up to them, I wouldn't be so mad. But their stupid choice causes the entire community to waste time & money and risk the lives of rescuers when another slide occurs. Not only that, the rebuilding will likely happen on the state's dime...err state's millions of dollars.

Why can't we cut our losses and just declare the area off-limits to residents? Ok, don't leave them completely out in the cold; pay them fair value on their homes and tell them to move out of the area. No view is worth having to deal with this shit every few years. Ya, it's human nature to triumph over the elements. However, it's also human nature to figure out a better way when you've just gotten the smackdown. Again.

End of story.

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