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Environmental Public Health Impacts of Disasters: Hurricane Katrina - Workshop Summary
need for rebuilding the leadership in the scientific community to conduct public health tracking or exposure investigation. Because of their connections with the community, it is essential to use the local scientists to ensure credibility.
Global Warming and Environmental Management
During the workshop, global warming was only briefly discussed. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released data that showed a decrease in the minimum coverage of sea ice in the Arctic from 1979 to 2005 (NASA, 2005). The receding ice shelf has led to a rise in the sea level and, consequently, a change in the temperature of such water bodies as the Gulf of Mexico. Although scientists cannot say that this trend results in hurricanes, it does not help the situation in New Orleans, where parts of the city are below sea level.
At the same time that there are changes on a global scale, there have been regional problems in environmental management. The Louisiana coast has lost wetlands from lack of sediment flow, human activities, and rises in sea level. This loss of wetlands is important because the wetlands are part of the protective barriers against hurricanes. Although the levees need to be rebuilt, they need to be rebuilt to address the rising sea level, and they need to be rebuilt sustainably by working with the natural barriers. Any plans moving forward should merge regional planning with an outlook to building a system integrated with nature. It is the only way to return the city to habitability in the near future, and it needs to be done in a way that makes the city more resilient to future events.
STRATEGIES FOR THE FUTURE
From a public health viewpoint, we need to look at shelters and evacuation routes. The roads designated for evacuation were flooded, freeways fell apart, and shelters such as the Superdome could not sustain the winds. One way to prepare for disaster is to use Bill Hadden’s 10 basic strategies for injury prevention. Six of them were considered:
Do not create the amount of the hazard. This is not possible for hurricanes.
Reduce the amount of the hazard. Although society may be able to mitigate the frequency of hurricanes, affecting climate change is a very long-range process, and any changes made today would be very beneficial to our children and their children.
Prevent the release of the agent. Although this is not an option for hurricanes, we can think about modifying the release of the agent. For example, scientists and engineers need to think about ways to control storm surges and flooding by effectively using wetlands and floodgates in their management strategy.