Friday, September 02, 2005


[Updated 03.09.05] The scenes and reports from Louisiana and Mississippi on the TV a few hours ago were appalling. In New Orleans, thousands of poor (mainly black) people were unable to evacuate the city as instructed because they did not have the requisite money or transport. They also have little or no medical or property insurance. So prospects beyond the immediate mess are bleak, too. Though Hurricane Katrina is classed as a natural disaster (by all but some malign fundamentalists), its differential impact poignantly illustrates the ongoing pain of 'the other America' - the one that has neither the resources nor the inclination to go to war, but which faces a daily struggle for survival. Federal support of US$10.5 billion has now been pledged. But how, when, in what form (and for whom) it will turn up is a different question. It has taken five days even for basic food and provisions to arrive.

The fact that New Orleans is the conduit for half the country's oil and gas supplies will certainly make a difference to a goverment otherwise reluctant to spend public money. Oil price hikes and a possible US$100 billion economic hole will see to that. But Katrina also raises deep questions about the environmental implications of coastal reclamation developments of this kind. And, of course, it highlights the urgency of tackling climate change, which the Bush administration still refuses to face up to.

By a positive piece of synchronicity (since it was planned weeks ago), representatives of Christian Aid, CAFOD (the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) and Tearfund took part in the dramatic launch of a new climate change campaign – Stop Climate Chaos – in central London yesterday.

Around 500 campaigners lay down in front of the oil company Shell’s UK headquarters, near the south bank of the Thames, to form the swirling shape of the ‘Stop Climate Chaos’ logo (see graphic).

"It's curious to be asked to lie in the park during a morning at work, but there’s little campaigners won’t do to draw attention to their cause," declared Paul Valentin, Christian Aid’s international director, whose body formed part of the logo. [Full story on Ekklesia]

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