Sunday, August 21, 2016

Should Aid For Louisiana Be Unconditional?

Does that sound like a harsh question to you?  Perhaps it is.  Perhaps that depends upon whether, at this point, there is even a Louisiana to aid.  If you take a look at this, which includes a map of what Louisiana would look like minus the floodplain (or, to be more charitable, "wetlands"), it becomes a little bit harder to say that there is very little to aid.  Then again, as this article points out, there are those on the Republican side of the fence who wouldn't consider any aid at all, not even for a state that has gone in recent elections from being arguably "purple" to deep dark red in its voting patterns. They're happy to see it sink into the Gulf of Mexico, never to return.  (Memo for progressives, especially those who think it's safe to sit out elections:  if this is how Republicans treat their friends, wait until you see what they have in store for you.)

In fact, it is precisely because of the shift in the Pelican State's politics that I raise the question of whether aid in the wake of the most recent flooding crisis should be unconditional.  That, and the existence of the obvious culprit behind that crisis, as well as Hurricane Katrina before it.

Historically, much of Louisiana has always been swamp and marsh land, due to its position in relation to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.  As a consequence, it has always been vulnerable to flooding during and after storms.  The state has, over centuries, learned to cope with this fact through a variety of drainage systems and, in circumstances where damage was extraordinary, been able to rely on the federal government to provide needed aid, as it does for other parts of the country in similar circumstances.

At the risk of putting a fine point on this, I'm forced to point out the obvious:  in the present age, when it comes to storms, the extraordinary has become the rule and not the exception.  And the obvious and unavoidable explanation (for those of us who like the truth untarnished by anyone's self-interest)?  Call it climate change.  Call it global warming.  But do the folks in Baton Rouge a favor and don't call it a "hoax" anymore.  It's not a hoax for them.  It's a disaster.  And there are more of them coming their way.  And ours.

And the disaster can take a variety of forms.  Droughts, that threaten to set the entire Western portion of the country on fire.  Mutating viruses, like the Zika virus, that threaten the entire Eastern seaboard. And other forms that we have not yet seen.  Or perhaps, want to imagine.

That is why, as painful as it is to think what I am about to write (much less write it), I am forced to take and advocate the following position, going forward from Louisiana's current misery:

Any state, or smaller jurisdiction, that receives federal aid on the basis of a natural disaster that can be scientifically linked to climate change must, within 90 days of said disaster, submit to federal authorities a comprehensive plan, including legislative and regulatory changes, that will significantly reduce the impact of climate change on their state, including the likelihood and severity of a similar disaster.  Should they fail to do so, or fail to enact a proposed plan, any aid for a future disaster should be considered a loan, which must be repaid, addressed through a forfeiture proceeding, or subject to other statutorily enumerated conditions.

Sound harsh?  Such are the consequences of pretending that partisan politics can make science go away.  It can't.  I don't care if climate change is ultimately solved by Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, Know-Nothings, Whigs or whomever.  I care about it being solved.

Because it's real.  Ask the folks in Baton Rouge.  Ask your grandchildren or great-grandchildren, if you can find a way to time-travel to the version of the future in which you did nothing.  They'll want to know why you did nothing.

And G-d help you if you don't have good answers.  I won't.  And neither will they.

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