Day 19 – November 21
We left New Orleans on a gray, miserable, and rainy morning. Thankfully, we were only travelling so the weather didn’t bother us much. Throughout the day we travelled from New Orleans, through Alabama through a tiny corner of Georgia, to Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Leaving New Orleans wraps up most of our trip; from here on out we’re just travelling back north. Watching the sprawling outskirts of New Orleans go by, I began to think about the rebuilding of the city. I still haven’t decided whether I think that the people here are incredibly brave or just the slightest bit crazy. I cannot imagine living here with such a constant threat of disaster but on the other hand, the citizens we have talked to seem to love New Orleans and are very attached to it. If you look at the threat of a flood by on an individual perspective, the probability that something like Katrina will happen is probably only once in a lifetime. So it would make sense for an individual to remain. I guess the greater question is whether New Orleans will endure as a united whole.
I was greatly surprised and encouraged by the progress that I saw in the Lower Ninth Ward, despite the fact that redevelopment is slow. The houses we saw looked closer to what we saw in Cocodrie than the traditional New Orleans houses: most were raised up on stilts. They looked as though they might be able to withstand a massive hurricane and flood (although, I suppose that only time will tell). They were also very sustainable houses. I would want to live in a house like Global Green’s projects. Despite the horrors of Katrina, on the bright side, it has given the people a chance to redevelop in a much more sustainable way. Green building tends to be a problem in cities where infrastructure is old and refurnishing is expensive. However, starting from scratch gives people a chance to develop in a way which will conserve energy and build structures which will last into the future. It seems as though some parts of New Orleans are taking the opportunity.
I think that we all have mixed feelings that our trip is beginning to wind down. On one hand, I think we will all be glad to not be living out of the vans anymore. However, this trip has been an extraordinary experience that has affected all of us in some way or another. We are all now tied to the issues we have seen. Whether we are fired up about mountain top removal or worried about coastal wetland loss, or about the redevelopment of New Orleans, we will all take something away from this trip. There has been talk throughout the group of trying to find some way to give back. We will continue to try to develop a small project which we can support even after our trip is over.
We have definitely come together as a group now. Driving through Alabama, the Heiman van decided to create nicknames for everyone and to give each student their future by naming each someone we have met during our travels. Having met an array of interesting people, I don’t think anyone complained about their “future.” Hopefully, we can live up to it.