This weeks discussion topic concerns a large-scale natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina. Since then the Gulf Coast has been hit by more storms and what has been called the Slow Motion Katrina, the BP Deep Water Horizon oil drill blowout that poured hundreds of millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf and its fragile wetlands.
The aftermath of Katrina as the long-feared Big One hurricane event quickly became a national tragedy. We watched as troubling images and near hysterical pleas from citizens and reporters poured in. We learned that much of the Gulf Coast had been swept away and we witnessed from a distance as New Orleans sank ever deeper desperation for 5 days.
This weeks discussion assignment: Read Notes on the Eve of Destruction (word doc. Attached) and the article Symbol of the Storm (attached) and then respond with your thoughts on the following question:
What meaning do you make of the reactions of those stranded in New Orleans, an American city? Be sure to focus your response not on personal opinion but on the application of a psychology of disaster theory. The question here isnt about whom to blame for not leaving the city when warned or for the looting (some took necessities and, of course, some just destructively took advantage of a tragedy), for not rendering fast enough aid or for not reporting on the event as you or I believed it should have been covered. It has already been observed that there was an unparalleled catastrophic failure on all levels of government response to this large-scale emergency. Additionally, we cant blame the media for the New Orleans residents reactions immediately following the storm and levy breach because some of the people at the Superdome and Convention Center may have been in contact with reporters on the ground but they werent watching the wall-to-wall coverage that so many of us on the outside saw. Here we want to focus on the reaction of the people stranded in New Orleans. Gradually, steadily, initially very cooperative, civilized behavior eroded into wild-eyed fears and an inability to recognize the humanity in each other. For this discussion we enter the situation on the days after the levees are breached, when it is too late to leave. There are heroes as we expect to see them during such events, but there are also helpless and hopeless persons, seemingly paralyzed by desperation. Drawing on what you have read and learned in the course so far, what disaster models or theories would you use to explain the images we saw daily on television for 5 tragic days in August/September 2005.
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