Just cut your losses.

Why on earth would you want to move back after a natural disaster displaces you and destroys everything you own – repeatedly? Now living in Alaska, we do have avalanches and every now and then an occasional tsunami warning. We have had an avalanche take out our hydro power lines twice in one calendar year (two separate winters). Though it is true that we had to pay a lot for diesel power, it didn’t really affect my home situation. There was an incident quite in 1958 in Lituya Bay that had a record megatsunami wave that snapped 6 foot thick spruce trees 1,719 feet up in elevation. Now, we do get tsunami warnings occasionally, but because of the inter-island water ways, the islands block us from any wave that would come our way. Lituya Bay was different because a massive land slide at the opening of the bay caused the megatsunami and most tsunami warnings that we get come across the ocean.

Lituya Bay - Oblique aerial photograph of Lituya Bay in the Summer of 1958.  Damage from the 1958 megatsunami appears as the lighter-colored areas on the shores where trees have been stripped away.

Now, having said all of this, if my home was in constant danger from avalanches in the winter, such as tornado season or flooding season, I would take my place of residency with a grain of salt. I would know that my home would be in danger during a certain time of year and either have to live with that fact and constantly be worried about being homeless should mother nature chose it so. If my home almost got destroyed a lot, or did actually get destroyed, I think that I would cut my losses and buy a home in a different place. Now I love living in Alaska, so maybe I would just move towns, Petersburg and Sitka are nice places. But I don’t think that I would continue to live with the stress of having my home destroyed.

For the people of Greensburg Kansas, I have to wonder why they re-built. Their town was completely destroyed by a tornado. Because they have a tornado warning system, I can assume that this is not the first time that it has happened. When it did actually get destroyed, I have to wonder if their efforts will not be in vain a few years down the road if another tornado hits them again.


I am thinking that maybe there are just some places that people shouldn’t live. With New Orleans, it is on the coast, but BELOW SEA LEVEL…. and why is this a good idea?

I do not understand why people do not evacuate in natural disaster emergencies. Living on the ocean, I can only liken it to a sinking boat – get off, or die. I would chose to get off the boat. There were also reports of people in New Orleans shooting at rescuers, and even killing police officers because the people did not want to leave. Fine. Leave them. Save the people that actually want to be saved.

But why do people still want to live there even after all of this?


4 Responses to “Just cut your losses.”

  1. ajtriplett Says:

    People continue to re-build because it’s their home. That is their land, their people, their culture. Yes– it would make logical sense to pick up and move on, but that is easier said than done.

    During class someone said that people can still have their culture in a new location. True, but it’s not the same. Think of Native Americans, Native Alaskans…. they were moved off their land (not because of natural disaster) onto reservations. I don’t think their culture is anywhere close to being the same.

    Even if people move out of a disaster zone and start to re-build, it’s not the same. Things are different– the climate, the people, the overall environment. It’s not as comfortable and people want to stay comfortable.

    For New Orleans…. I don’t know why they decided to build and live below sea level. That does seem pretty silly. But generations upon generations upon generations of people have lived there. Even with the threat of the city going under, they take the risk because it’s what they know and what they love.

    Everyday people make really stupid decisions about really easy things everyday… “Should I eat the big mac or the banana?” Duh, right? With the really hard decisions like where to live, it isn’t that easy to make the “right” decisions. It’s what they know and what they are comfortable with…. you’ll have a hard time convincing them otherwise.

  2. First, one has to know that the nation and the world want and need people to live in New Orleans so that they who live elsewhere can have the wealth of resources of the area; people and infrastructure are needed to cull and maintain those resources.

    Secondly, people who live there choose to take the risks because of the place — the greater New Orleans area’s offerings, their own place that they have there, the diversity of people in New Orleans and their many gifts as well as their own family. friends, and community of which they are part, and the culture and lifestyle that result from all of these that cannot be found elsewhere or taken with them.

    For more specifics and illustrations to all of these, check out my website and my book, WHY PEOPLE LIVE IN NEW ORLEANS, which has detailed, documented facts and interviews from 50 people.

  3. jessicabarranco Says:

    I just want to clarify your main points. If you live in a location that is prone to natural disaster, you should not live there, and if anything happened to your personal home, you would move.

    OK, but with major “natural” disasters, the only natural thing at stake, is the life of an individual human being. Would it be fair to critique the individual in his fate, when the society itself was built to withstand any evil that nature could possess? Given New Orleans, sure the city is under sea level! Lot’s of places are… San Diego, San Francisco Bay, Death Valley (which is far away from the grips of an ocean), etc. But is this the real threat?

    Just because people were affected once by a natural disaster, I doubt that they would lose faith in their government system. I mean honestly, it’s the government that deems an area safe for habitation; not necessarily the public. I think that the real problem is going to be for the greater numbers of people living AT sea level. There are far more states with large populations at sea level, than those below sea level. Most of the eastern states are at sea level, and the populations in places like Maine, Maryland, New York… heck, these people are going to be devastated if sea levels rise at all with warming temperatures!

    But the hope is; that people will prevail, through dignity, hope and perseverance. As Rebecca Solnit writes, “Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life. It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living. Only when we are in the midst of conflict does the shallowness and vapidity of our lives become apparent” (A Paradise Built in Hell, p. 65). So, when people are at the midst of losing everything to disaster, they are able to find meaning and structure. They come together to overcome the social issues at stake in disaster.

    I think that this is why people do not move. They move to a location, because they are told that it is safe. They stay in a location for a long time. There are many warnings about natural disaster, but nothing too bad actually happens. And, when it does happen, people become these great, harmonious, super-nice heroes that can fix any destroyed morale, and the cycle starts over again.

  4. ajtriplett Says:

    For some during a disaster, people find meaning and sturcture in money– not humans.

    Some do it not because it’s safe… they do it becaue it’s pretty and a nice place to live. It will be a good investment to have a house on the cliffs of California or in the coast of Yakutat…

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