A Tulane University history professor traces the devastation wrought on New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to nearly a century of racist and otherwise problematic public policies that put profits ahead of people as development was allowed in vulnerable swampland and the oil and gas industry ran roughshod over Louisiana's coast.
Horowitz does a masterful job of describing the public and private engineering projects that made possible real estate construction, oil exploration, and other forms of economic expansion in New Orleans during the twentieth century, building fortunes for a few while putting thousands in the path of the next big storm ... Humanists often overlook the importance of infrastructure when they write social history, but Horowitz vividly illustrates how it shapes life and land around it, in both planned and unplanned ways ... We see America as a failed state. But Horowitz’s analysis of the storm’s impact also contains surprises.
... brilliant ... his book is more than just an indictment of the disaster readiness of his precarious hometown, or a meditation on what it’s like to live in constant fear of biblical catastrophe. More than just a recounting of the history and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it is an argument for the relevance of history itself ... If you want to read only one book to better understand why people in positions of power in government and industry do so little to address climate change, even with wildfires burning and ice caps melting and extinctions becoming a daily occurrence, this is the one ... Horowitz shows—patiently and damningly—how the decisions made by Louisiana’s political and business elite systematically rendered the region vulnerable to disaster ... Horowitz...muster[s] considerable evidence to argue that the 'pain' that came from Katrina was not 'fair, or natural, or inevitable,' or the 'consequence of some external disaster. It is the disaster itself.'
... easily the best book on the subject since Douglas Brinkley’s 2006 The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Beyond delving into the tangled history of Louisiana politics, Horowitz’s book thoughtfully attempts to understand the cultural nature of these calamities ... an intriguing look at the social dynamics that so often play out in natural disasters ... the fact that Katrina’s impact fell disproportionately on poor Louisianans raises a host of issues that Horowitz addresses better than any previous narrative history of the catastrophe.