Your e-mails: Nature vs. commerce
CNN.com readers divided on rebuilding wetlands
(CNN) -- Development and storms have eroded much of the coastal wetlands that provide "speed bumps" for approaching storms. CNN.com asked readers whether steps should be taken to rebuild them. Here is a sampling of those responses, some of which have been edited:
If coastal wetlands are rebuilt using taxpayer money, then people will want to go back in and develop this area for housing again. The wetlands are important, but money talks and those that have it will influence the area with promises of economic boom due to new development. Besides, every time one of their houses is destroyed or damaged by a storm, my insurance premiums go up. Stop the building in high risk areas and we can discontinue putting our rescue workers in harm's way as well. If the area is strategic to our national security and can't be replaced that's one thing, but most of the cases do not fall into that category.
Perhaps the most effective intervention would be NO intervention. Recent history is littered with examples of human meddling in nature going wrong, whether by intent/design or by accident. Probably best to let Mother Nature do her thing and take care of herself.
We can fix everything that needs to be fixed. "Man is his worst enemy." We first must fix this problem before we fix anything else.
I think people should be allowed to rebuild anything they want as long as it doesn't take our tax dollars. I think people should have a say in how tax money is spent. If people want to live on the coastal wetlands, let them foot the bill every time.
It's frustrating to read the comments of those who say that the wetlands should not be built back because nature destroyed them. If it weren't for the development, the wetlands would be able to rebuild themselves. Because of our expansion into that habitat it no longer has room to bend and change with the times as it has been doing long before we came along.
For those who say, let's allow the wetlands to return to nature, and let's not use taxpayer money to rebuild New Orleans, I say let's not lose sight of the economical facts. New Orleans is a major shipping port, strategically located at the mouth of one of the world's largest rivers. The impact of the loss of the port would be absolutely catastrophic to our agriculture, textile, and oil industries. The loss of revenue, and the resulting loss of jobs, would eventually affect everyone in this country. Instead of jerking your knee and saying, "Gee, let's allow Mother Nature to take back the Gulf Coast," stop and think, for once.
I am not native to Louisiana, but I have lived in Prairieville (southeast of Baton Rouge) for 4+ years. If you were to drive west out of Baton Rouge to Lafayette and Lake Charles, you will see that most of the land south of I-10 is some form of undeveloped wetland or swamp. Overdevelopment of wetlands is not the issue here. The problem is the elevation of the land. I am about 50 miles in a straight line to the ocean, and our elevation above sea level is only 15 feet. Some parts of New Orleans, obviously, are below sea level. I do not see how increasing the size of wetlands will help diminish a storm surge and keep low-lying areas from flooding from a direct hit from a tropical storm. I believe it would be a waste of resources to build them up or out. It is part of living near the coast. That is, a few times a year you may need to evacuate, every 5-10 years you may need to fix some damage to your house, and every 25-30 years your house may be destroyed. That is the risk, and I believe a lot of people are re-evaluating whether the risk is worth taking.
Yes, we must rebuild them. Anyone who says "No" doesn't understand the whole issue. It was human activity that weakened the wetlands and other coastal areas (not only wetland areas) through development and deforestation and made them more vulnerable to erosion and destabilization not only from hurricanes but also small, everyday storms. The federal government should make it easier for states to use eminent domain in the most vulnerable areas and should also not support redevelopment of these areas that were wiped out in the past. Stricter zoning ordinances should also be implemented by the affected states. Maybe include Hurricane Strike Zones based on history and not allow development of those areas at all. After all, it is my tax dollars that will have to bail these people out when they get hit again.
No, I don't think that they should be rebuilt at all. Nature knows exactly what she's doing, and she'll get by just fine. Besides, the amount of time and money spent at the taxpayer's expense would not equal out in the end, considering that next year another hurricane will just come by and tear the "speed bumps" apart again. The coastal south is hurricane territory -- it is an undeniable fact. Don't keep rebuilding the windmill.
If eroded wetlands are not restored, cities farther north of the Gulf Coast will suffer. The wetlands serve as a buffer that weakens storms before they get to the more populated areas. Population centers farther north will be subject to stronger storms and possibly storm surge, which will also be able to travel farther north. Either restore the wetlands or move the population centers farther north before they, too, suffer a "Katrina" type event similar to what New Orleans has suffered. By the way, wetlands erosion is considered a factor in the levees that failed, as storm surge and high winds that would have been buffered by these wetlands ultimately caused their failure.
The arguments being made by viewers about costs are rather spurious, and sadly endemic of a culture where the idea that you're supposed to "gain wealth, forgetting all but self" has been all too readily accepted. One wonders what the viewers who take this position think about the taxpayers' money that is being poured into an unnecessary occupation of Iraq. Further to that, one wonders where the priorities of these people are. We need to think outside of irrational, yet plainly accepted truths, like ones that tell us landowners and investors deserve more protection than the environment. Someone can rage about "lefties" all they want, but if they can't see how a fraction of what's being spent on something like Iraq and the entire military-industrial system could be used for so much good in this world, then they're not really serious about finding solutions to the genuine problems we face and should just keep their opinions to themselves.
Leave it as it is. Isn't a true environmentalist the one who doesn't interfere with mother nature? Then again we as humans are part of nature and like any other animal can change the landscape drastically if we so choose.
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