Friday, September 02, 2005

A General Evacuation Order

Wretchard points to an article in the Scientific American that should have been heeded. In October 2001 it explained all the reasons why New Orleans was in trouble. I guess we had other things on our minds at the time. Can we now take the time to look around and decide what else we might have overlooked?

I believe that we are vulnerable in many ways because of population concentration, particularly on the coasts. Few dispute that the sea levels are rising. Development in flood plains and coastal areas continues unabated. Moreover, many expect nuclear terrorism to succeed at some point, and the possibility of more severe storms in the future cannot be discounted. The U.S. already seems to follow some policies that encourage population dispersion, such as farm price supports and interstate highways. Perhaps now we should consider making such decentralizing policies consciously.

DeWitt Clinton, Governor of New York, once ran for president. Most people remember him, however, for the inspired concept of building a canal from the Hudson to Lake Erie. This concept was the parent, on one hand, of some of New Orleans current problems, and on the other hand represents the first effort to encourage population dispersion in the US. The railroads coming a few years later were the next such effort.

To this end, I would like to see a network of high-speed maglev rail lines constructed among the second tier inland cities of the US. It would give these cities an economic allure that could overcome the fatal attractions of the coast, reverse the decline of those cities, and reduce our destructive dependence on the automobile monoculture. Pay for it with a gas tax. Economic and technological diversity are more important than the puny economies of scale and standardization. Is anybody thinking about this stuff now?

9/2/2005 12:35 AM

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