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No Such Thing As A Natural Disaster
Those of us involved with the Urban Conservancy may want to check out the new collection of essays Routledge has just published, There Is No Such Thing As a Natural Disaster: Race, Class and Hurricane Katrina. There are a slew of new, good Katrina books, and, immodestly, we think this is one of them. As the subtitle says, our take is the hurricanes’ disparate impact in race and class terms—how existing metropolitan patterns and structural/institutional relations made these disparate results inevitable. And the analysis lessons apply not just to the Gulf, and not just to weather events, or even terrorist attacks—they will be repeated throughout metropolitan America whenever and however such disasters appear.
We commissioned 14 chapters on a wide range of topics (plus a Foreword by Mary Frances Berry, former Chair of the US Civil Rights Commission and Professor of History at the Univ. of Pennsylvania)—several by local activists (a few of whom have subsequently relocated): N. O. public health specialist Dr. Evangeline Franklin; oral historian/N. O. librarian Alan Stein; UNO Urban & Public Affairs Professor Robert K. Whelan; ACORN founder Wade Rathke and Beulah Laboistre. Other contributors are specialists in their fields—for example, writing on the schools’ impact is Michael Casserly of the Council on Great City Schools (who has done considerable consulting work on the N. O. school system); on the housing impact, by Sheila Crowley of the Natl. Low Income Housing Coalition and by Robert Zdenek and his colleagues at the Alliance for Healthy Homes (also deeply involved in salvage operations in N. O. and surroundings); on the disparate impact on women by Avis Jones-DeWeever and Heidi Hartmann of the Inst. for Women’s Policy Research; on the disparate impact on the elderly, by Margaret Gullette of Brandeis Univ. ; on urban planning, by Peter Marcuse of Columbia University; on economic development, by John Taylor/Josh Silver at the Natl. Community Reinvestment Coalition. Perhaps most disturbing is the analysis of structural/institutional racism by john powell and colleagues at Ohio State University’s Kirwan Inst. for the Study of Race & Ethnicity.
Royalties from sale of the book ($22. 95/copy from Routledge, 800/634-7064) are being donated to Emergency Communities, a local volunteer group assisting in all phases of Gulf reconstruction.
Chester Hartman/Gregory D. Squires
Nov 1 2006