Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Jazzing New Orleans

The usual diatribes are being penned by pundits across the world on the sad fate of New Orleans. Should it be rebuilt? Even if tens of billions were poured back into infrastructure, levies and pumps, what guarantee would the Crescent City have that another hurricane wouldn't come along and create more havoc?

Well, there are no guarantees in this life other than the fact that you're going to leave it someday and it's going to cost you dearly.

What heartens me is that inspite of the bureaucratic incompetence and political indifference, New Orleans can thrive on many levels. It has always been a city in a bad spot dominated by an often-unruly river, saltwater licking her boundaries and vast wetlands. Since New Orleans has always lived on the edge, let's jazz it up even more. Let's improvise.

What if New Orleans became a working laboratory for green housing, alternative energy and sustainable community planning? She already has the elements in place: Plenty of solar energy, tide power and water. What if every new home employed solar energy that could power its own heating/cooling plant and pump? To make this affordable, the government could bring in Department of Energy scientists to test the latest in building and energy-saving/producing technologies. They're already doing this at national labs such as Oak Ridge in Tennessee and Sandia in New Mexico. Let's let the engineers have free rein in the Crescent City.

Since the American taxpayer is subsidizing both energy research and the rebuilding of New Orleans, the greening of this city is as appealing as the city's legendary cuisine.

Making New Orleans a green port of call for energy innovation and research would benefit not only the ravaged city, it would provide dividends for the entire world as we struggle with sustaining economic growth here and abroad.

All it takes is a new vision. As in jazz, particularly Dixieland, someone always plays a solo, but it's always working within the harmony and rhythm of a larger group. I hear the music of possibility coming from New Orleans, but no one in Washington seems to discern this promising melody.

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