Eugene Robinson [op-ed, Aug. 30] proposes "bigger pumps and bigger levees" as a solution to New Orleans's vulnerability. But a bigger threat is the Mississippi River itself.
In his book "The Control of Nature," John McPhee explained that a river will seek its most direct route to sea level; when that route gets clogged by silt and debris, the river will breach its banks and find a new direct route.
In the case of the Mississippi, the new, more direct route to the Gulf of Mexico is the Atchafalaya River, and the breach is the old river canal on which the Army Corps of Engineers spends billions to plug with some of the most massive flood-control devices ever constructed.
However, without periodic natural flooding to spread silt and recharge the groundwater, New Orleans is sinking farther below sea level. Coupled with the destruction of wetlands, which act as sponges to slow floodwaters, this sinking makes the city much more vulnerable to flooding . Bigger pumps and levees do nothing about the source of the problem.
Without an extraordinarily expensive and ultimately unsustainable struggle to stop it, the Mississippi will inevitably abandon its current course and reach the gulf via the Atchafalaya. New Orleans, the entire lower Mississippi and all the industry that rely on it then would be no more.
Possible solutions include a comprehensive strategy to control runoff in the Mississippi watershed; a plan to open the bayous and distributaries in the lower Mississippi to allow periodic flooding; the protection and regeneration of wetlands along the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi; and a strategy to move shipping, other industry and population to the Atchafalaya and away from the lower Mississippi.
The contrast between The Post's Aug. 31 front-page stories could not be more ironic in their graphic depiction of how totally out of touch the Bush administration's environmental policies are with the realities of our global climate. Hurricane Katrina, fueled by water temperatures two degrees above average in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting from global warming, devastates the Gulf Coast. Meanwhile, the administration has drafted regulations to ease pollution controls on older, dirtier power plants that could allow those that modernize to emit more pollution, rather than less.
Global surface temperatures have risen one degree during the past 100 years, largely because of increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Fossil fuels burned for industry contribute much of the carbon dioxide emissions. Mr. Bush's revised emissions policies will only intensify this pollution and accelerate global warming. Hurricanes such as Katrina will be even more likely.
GORDON I. PETERSON
The real story behind part of Hurricane Katrina's wrath risks being lost amid the certain temptation to rebuild in the same ways as before. In large part, the wrath of Katrina was felt in massive surges of water, the degree of which was a direct result of the erosion of coastlines and the disappearance of wetlands that once surrounded cities such as New Orleans. Each acre of additional wetlands would have reduced the tidal surge of Katrina about a foot. If "smart development," which combats coastal erosion and the disappearance of our wetlands, is not a function of recon- struction in New Orleans and elsewhere, we are certain to see this type of damage again.
JONATHAN C. POLING
Glaringly missing from the Aug. 31 list of organizations collecting funds for rescue and relief efforts in the Gulf Coast states were those helping animals. It would be helpful for us to know what those organizations are. I believe the Humane Society of the United States and the American Humane Association are two of them.
The Post stated in its Aug. 31 editorial that the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina must be matched by the human response to those in need. Corporations that have benefited from tourism and other industries in the New Orleans metropolitan area must also do their part to help their customers and employees.
My sister and brother live in Kenner, La., and were spared the worst of the hurricane's damage. But friends who work in area hotels, and who were required to remain during the evacuation to care for guests unable to leave, have already been told that as soon as those guests depart, the hotels will close for at least two months and only salaried employees will be paid.
Multinational hotel chains that employ thousands of people in New Orleans should not abandon employees who sacrificed their own safety to help stranded guests.
It is heartbreaking to see thousands of New Orleans residents trying to survive rising floodwater and other destruction inflicted by Hurricane Katrina. Most of them were unable to leave because they lacked the means to do so. But it is truly upsetting to hear pundits and politicians berate them for "not heeding the message" of evacuation, which demonstrates their basic ignorance of the reality of low-income families in America.
Even as the richest nation in the world, with many days' notice, we could not mobilize sufficient resources to help move people out of harm's way. As our president enjoyed the final days of his month-long summer vacation, perhaps he could have sent buses or military transport vehicles to assist the frustrated multitude without cars who were turned away by Greyhound and other services. Maybe that is just not feasible because our assets are tied up in distant lands fighting wars based on dubious justifications with equally dubious outcomes.
Ken Ringle's paean to New Orleans [Style, Aug. 31] was just the right antidote to looming despair. In the words of John Donne, "death be not proud" -- the Big Easy will resurrect to swing once more.
BERTRAM H. LOWI