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After Hurricane Katrina: Online Resources to Learn, Discuss and Offer Aid

In the wake of the recent devastation in the South, our friend and colleague Tom Atlee put together a list of resources for everyone to keep talking, thinking and taking action to help those affected. Below, you will find a list of websites and resources summarizing the event, tools for opening up discussion and places to make donations. Please share this list widely.


New York Times
September 4, 2005



(note the dates on the articles below)

Associated Press, May 16, 2004
“Officials have warned that if a major hurricane hits New Orleans,
thousands of people could be killed and the city could be flooded for
weeks as flood waters breach the levees ringing the city.”

– – –


It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big
Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as
if they were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent
homage to the man who invented air-conditioning as they watched TV
“storm teams” warn of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing
surprising there: Hurricanes in August are as much a part of life in
this town as hangovers on Ash Wednesday.

But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the
city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a
million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained,
however-the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those
die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead,
pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept
to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then
spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea
level-more than eight feet below in places-so the water poured in. A
liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over
the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned
porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and
strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse.
As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people
climbed onto roofs to escape it.

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by
sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood
later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be
rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big
Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people
were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural
disaster in the history of the United States.

When did this calamity happen? It hasn’t-yet. But the doomsday
scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency
lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire
threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California
or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer
opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its
workers is too great.

– – –

Drowning New Orleans
A major hurricane could swamp New Orleans under 20 feet of water,
killing thousands. Human activities along the Mississippi River have
dramatically increased the risk, and now only massive reengineering
of southeastern Louisiana can save the city
By Mark Fischetti
October, 2001″Scientific American”


(Based on questions created during the 9-11 crisis, associated with
an article entitled “What should we do in this crisis?”
http://co-intelligence.org/CIPol_911howrespond.html> which is
largely applicable to today’s crisis as well.)

Who do you know that was directly effected by this? What is your
relationship to those people? How has their story affected you?
What was done — and not done — in the past that contributed to
this being the catastrophe it is?
Where else are these things being done — or not done — that may
contribute to catastrophes in the future?
What response to this crisis would move us to a world in which this
kind of thing wouldn’t occur?
To what extent do you trust what the government and/or media has
been saying about this?
What inspires or excites you about the responses you’ve seen to this
How can the media be most helpful in these times?
What constitutes real safety and security?
What is the worst response we could have in this crisis?
How do we deal with personal and communal suffering?
What ways of dealing with our emotions serve us or make things worse?
What can we learn from this? What are the most important lessons?
What is the place of anger and blame in this situation? How do
these serve or limit us?
What are you feeling in your body right now?
What good could come of all this?
What are you most scared of right now?
What is most important to you right now?
What would be the advantages or disadvantages of waiting until all
the evidence is in before deciding how to respond?
How does our society deal with trauma? What would help our society
deal better with trauma?
What do we need our leaders to do? To what extent are they doing that?
How can we effectively communicate with our leaders?
What would we be feeling if a Democratic president and congress were
in office?
To what extent are we responding in automatic ways or in conscious,
creative ways? How do we feel about that?
What outcomes of this could make you feel it has been worth it?
What is the relationship between business as usual and crises like this?
If you were the ruler of the world, how would you handle this problem?
What does this mean for our everyday lives?
What can one person do about this? What can people do together?
What changes in the system would help us?
How should we talk with children about this?
What responses to this have you heard that upset you or inspired
you? –Where do you think those perspectives come from?
What does all this mean about our future?
What does this mean about who we are as human beings?
What does this mean about who we are as a society?
What can I learn from people who don’t see this the way I do?
To what extent does this increase our compassion for (and attention
to) suffering in other countries?
What are the conditions under which we can have a sane and healing
conversations about crises like this that actually produce a
difference in the world?
What other questions need to be asked?
What would have to happen for people’s responses to these questions
to make a real difference in the world?



CNN has a fairly comprehensive unevaluated, unannotated list of
places to give or get help at

Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest charity rating service, has
assembled a list of highly rated mainstream charities working to help
the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
But many people are skeptical of large, mainstream charities due to
scandals and gigantic bureaucracies (e.g., The Red Cross
http://www.prisonplanet.com/index.html> and United Way

Dr. Gilbert Brenson-Lazan GFSC-Chair@amauta.org>, President of
Global Facilitator Service Corps http://globalfacilitators.org>,
says “Give a donation to a reputable aid organization. The Salvation
Army and World Vision have the best record of use of funds.” (Neither
of these are listed by Charity Navigator.)

Below are some suggestions of more grassroots groups.

= = =

Sarah van Gelder svangelder@yesmagazine.org>, editor of YES!
magazine (a great magazine, by the way), writes:

I did a bit of research (with Fran Korten’s help) and we came up with
some other options for helping, including some locally rooted
organizations with great track records of building community and
helping marginalized people. My blog has the information and links,
along with several other national organizations that are doing relief
in the devastated area:

= = =

From Doug Ireland’s blog, Direland http://direland.typepad.com/direland>

If you know that the Red Cross and United Way and a lot of the big
name charities have been scandal-plagued and are top-heavy with
bureaucracy, but you’d still like to make a donation that will
actually help the poorest citizens of New Orleans, Biloxi, and the
many small Southern towns devastated by Katrina, you should do so
through the American Friends Service Committee http://www.afsc.org/>.

Founded by Quakers in 1917 to provide conscientious objectors with an
opportunity to aid civilian war victims, the AFSC won the Nobel Peace
Prize in 1947 for its work with World War II refugees — especially
prisoners liberated from Nazi concentration camps — and its
opposition to nuclear weapons. It’s still Quaker-run, and its
sterling history of agitation and education for peace is matched by
its long record, for nearly a century, of effective, on-the-ground
service to victims of war and famine, and to the impoverished both
here and abroad. A gift to the AFSC won’t be wasted. They’ve
established a special Hurricane Relief fund to which you can donate
on-line — so visit the AFSC’s home page and follow the links to the
online donation form.

= = =


NAACP Disaster Relief Efforts – The NAACP, America’s oldest civil
rights organization (founded in 1909) is setting up command centers
in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama as part of its disaster relief
efforts. NAACP units across the nation have begun collecting
resources that will be placed on trucks and sent directly into the
disaster areas. Also, the NAACP has established a disaster relief
fund to accept monetary donations to aid in the relief effort.
Donations can be made online at
http://www.naacp.org/disaster/contribute.php> or checks can be sent
to the NAACP payable to: NAACP Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund 4805
Mt. Hope Drive Baltimore, MD 21215

A disaster relief effort set up by native New Orleans rapper Master P
and his wife Sonya Miller

You can mail or ship non perishable items to the following locations,
which we have confirmed are REALLY delivering services to folks in
need. Products typically needed include: Bottled water, Baby food
and formula, baby wipes, diapers Toilet paper, sanitary wipes,
feminine products, Insect repellent, Socks, Flash lights with
batteries, Aspirin, Neosporin, first aid kits, Plastic garbage bags,
Propane tanks, Camping utensils, tarps, tents, Manual can openers,
Pet food, Generators, Small AC Units, Liquid Soap, Canned goods (with
can openers), trail mix, nuts, cereal bars, crackers, peanut butter.

Center for LIFE Outreach Center
121 Saint Landry Street
Lafayette, LA 70506
atten.: Minister Pamela Robinson

Mohammad Mosque 65
2600 Plank Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70805
atten.: Minister Andrew Muhammad

Lewis Temple CME Church
272 Medgar Evers Street
Grambling, LA 71245
atten.: Rev. Dr. Ricky Helton

St. Luke Community United Methodist Church c/o Hurricane Katrina Victims
5710 East R.L. Thornton Freeway
Dallas, TX 75223
atten.: Pastor Tom Waitschies 214-821-2970

S.H.A.P.E. Community Center
3815 Live Oak
Houston, Texas 77004
atten.: Deloyd Parker

= = =

Veterans for Peace Katrina Relief efforts

Volunteer Kitchen, Food Bank and Distribution Center
Pine View Middle School
1115 West 28th Street Covington, LA. 70434
645 Kimbro Drive, Baton Rouge, LA. 70808

= = =

Also MoveOn.org has put together an online tool for folks in the
Southeast to offer emergency housing to hurricane victims who
desperately need a bed and a roof. The aftermath of Katrina has
created tens of thousands of newly homeless families, and there are
not enough official shelters to meet the need.

You can post your offer of housing (a spare room, extra bed, even a
decent couch) and search for available housing online at:

http://action.truemajority.org/ct/B1LNrA91ERcn/> or http://www.hurricanehousing.org>
Housing is most urgently needed within reasonable driving distance
(about 300 miles) of the affected areas in the Southeast, especially
New Orleans.

Please forward this message to anyone you know in the region who
might be able to help.

But no matter where you live, your housing could still make a world
of difference to a person or family in need, so please offer what you

The process is simple:

You can sign up to become a host by posting a description of whatever
housing you have available, along with contact information. You can
change or remove your offer at any time.

Hurricane victims, local and national relief organizations, friends
and relatives can search the site for housing. We’ll do everything we
can to get your offers where they are needed most. Many shelters
actually already have Internet access, but folks without ‘net access
can still make use of the site through case workers and family

Hurricane victims or relief agencies will contact hosts and together
decide if it’s a good match and make the necessary travel
arrangements. The host’s address is not released until a particular
match is agreed on.

– – –


The situation on the Gulf Coast is, in most part, still in the critical
and survival stage. In the next days and weeks, however, the emergent
psychosocial needs of the survivors will begin to appear and the
challenge to help them is enormous. Although FEMA and many other
organizations will have Grief Management and Critical Incident
Debriefing teams working in the area, they will not come close to
meeting all the needs.

Global Facilitators Service Corps (GFSC) is coordinating several efforts
to use its Field Volunteers to train, prepare and mentor other
professionals and caregivers in Disaster Intervention Facilitation

Larry and Bego Meeker, with a group of other area GFSC volunteers, are
spearheading the efforts in the Texas Gulf area with local groups and
organizations to offer DIF Workshops different localities.

We have many new materials now on the GFSC website
on Grief Management, Critical Incident Management and Caring for the

We have a dozen GFSC Virtual Mentors that are available 24/7 to support
local professionals using our new Hot Conference audio-video-desktop
virtual conferencing platform that is accessible to anyone with an
internet connection, even a slow dialup.

We are in contact with other facilitator organizations such as the IAF
(International Association of Facilitators) and ICA (Institute for
Cultural Affairs) to offer support to their groups as needed.

If you are a professional facilitator, you can enter the GFSC Mentored
Pathways Field Volunteer program to prepare yourself for future
volunteer opportunities. For more information, go to:



The Progress Report
by Judd Legum, Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney, and Christy Harvey

The Forsaken

Great natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina do indeed “wash away
the surface of society, the settled way things have been done.” In
one sense, they remind us of our common vulnerabilities. As Sari
Lankan tsunami victim Nimal Premasiri said of the American hurricane
victims, “God has made us equals in birth, life and death.” Yet such
disasters also “expose the underlying power structures, the
injustices, the patterns of corruption and unacknowledged
inequalities.” In the past week, the media has been slow to
acknowledge the sharp inequalities revealed in Katrina’s wake.
Yesterday, CNN correspondent Jack Cafferty criticized his colleagues
for ignoring the “elephant in the room” — “the race and economic
class of most of the victims the media hasn’t discussed much at all.”
In truth, the images from the Superdome and from across the Gulf
Coast of mostly poor and black Americans did much to reinforce the
“growing sense that race and class are the unspoken markers of who
got out and who got stuck.” There, on camera, “the tired and hungry
seethed, saying they had been forsaken.” But images aren’t enough.
The story of Katrina’s effect on the growing American underclass must
still be told.

POVERTY AND NEW ORLEANS: Nearly a third of New Orleanians live below
the poverty line. “Only a handful of large American cities have lower
household incomes.” Conditions are even worse for children. Fully
half of the kids in Louisiana live in poverty — the only state with
a higher child poverty rate is Mississippi, another victim of
Katrina. One quarter of New Orleans residents — some 134,000 people
— don’t own a car. The city is 67 percent African American, but the
Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood, “which was inundated by the
floodwaters,” is more than 98 percent black. There, “only 6 percent
of residents are college graduates,” compared to the national average
of 22 percent. “Average household income in that neighborhood is
$27,499 a year, not even half the national average of $56,644.
One-quarter of the Lower Ninth Ward’s households earn less than
$10,000 a year.” The city was already vulnerable.

STRANDED — AND STARING DOWN KATRINA: By Monday, harsh rain and 145
mph winds were bearing down on New Orleans. Tens of thousands “found
themselves left behind by a failure to plan for their rescue,”
despite the fact that they were “living in tumbledown neighborhoods
that were long known to be vulnerable to disaster if the levees
failed.” One CNN reporter noted, “A lot of the people we spoke to
[who were stranded], these are people who work for a living. They’re
making minimum wage, they’re supporting families. They don’t have a
car. They wanted to evacuate before the storm came, but they couldn’t
evacuate because they tell us they didn’t have transportation.” Time
and again, residents despaired that Katrina had struck when it did,
just a few days shy of payday. David Schuster observed, “Those are
the people who died because they couldn’t afford a tank of gas.”
Katrina had already demonstrated “what experts have known all along
— disasters do not treat everyone alike,” said NBC’s Bob Faw.
“Surviving is easier for whites who have than for blacks who don’t.”

HORROR AT THE SUPERDOME: Those escaping the city by foot headed to
the Superdome. “They were told, ‘Go over there. Don’t worry. You’re
going to get food and water and you’re going to get transportation
out of town,'” MSNBC reported. Instead, the refugees found a
disorganized scene that quickly devolved into chaos: “A 2-year-old
girl slept in a pool of urine. Crack vials littered a restroom. Blood
stained the walls next to vending machines smashed by teenagers. ‘We
pee on the floor. We are like animals,’ said Taffany Smith, 25, as
she cradled her 3-week-old son, Terry. In her right hand she carried
a half-full bottle of formula provided by rescuers. Baby supplies are
running low; one mother said she was given two diapers and told to
scrape them off when they got dirty and use them again. At least two
people, including a child, have been raped. At least three people
have died, including one man who jumped 50 feet to his death, saying
he had nothing left to live for. There is no sanitation. The stench
is overwhelming.” At one point, a despondent crowd gathered outside
the stadium and simply began to chant “We want help! We want help!”
Later, a woman stood on the front steps of the New Orleans convention
center and “led the crowd in reciting the 23rd Psalm, ‘The Lord is my

DESPERATION TURNS TO LOOTING: Meanwhile, residents stuck in the city
— many of whom had been without food or water for days — began
looting local stores. “Much of what’s being taken are essentials:
anything edible, disposable diapers, water and clothes,” reports
noted. Yet looped images of people ransacking stores for electronics
and luxury items were a staple of network coverage. Ironically, these
events revealed the character of several prominent conservatives as
much as anyone. Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan: “I hope
the looters are shot.” Glenn Reynolds, the most popular conservative
blogger: “People [looting valuables] should be shot.” Atlanta talk
show host Neil Boortz: “Now I’m serious here … not just saying this
for effect. Shoot to kill.”

RECOVERY WILL BE HAMPERED BY POVERTY: Already we know that recovery
efforts following Katrina will be massive. President Bush has
acknowledged that “New Orleans is more devastated than New York was”
after the September 11 terrorist attacks. “We need an effort of 9-11
proportions,” former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial said yesterday. “A
great American city is fighting for its life.” Yet the widespread
poverty in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast means
reconstruction will face an additional setback. “If this [level of
disaster] were to happen in California, okay, fine. There’s a number
of incentives to sort of rebuild that area.” NBC’s Kevin Corke
pointed out yesterday. “Imagine trying to do that in rural
Mississippi. It’s going to be difficult, and I think that there’s a
sense … that this is going to take us into several administrations,
I imagine, as they continue to try to bring back this area.”

Incompetent Response

Disaster experts and Louisiana government officials charged the
administration “failed to plan for a serious levee breech and the
federal response to Hurricane Katrina was slow.” The San Francisco
Chronicle writes, “Disturbing images of thousands of Americans
dehydrated, hungry and unable to escape an uninhabitable city are
prompting angry questions about whether the richest nation in the
world is doing everything it can to respond to New Orleans’
disaster.” CNN commentator Jack Cafferty emotionally disparaged the
federal response: “No one — no one — says the federal government is
doing a good job in handling one of the most atrocious and
embarrassing and far-reaching and calamitous things that has come
along in this country in my lifetime.” The lack of straight answers
regarding the administration’s preparedness in the past, present, and
future has only given rise to increasing public concern that that the
federal government is not and has not been doing enough to help
Katrina victims.

in the disaster region are telling the story of an inadequate federal
response to the hurricane recovery effort. New Orleans Mayor Ray
Nagin said federal officials “don’t have a clue what’s going on down
here.” Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said federal assistance has
been problematic. “We would have wanted massive numbers of
helicopters on Day One,” Blanco said, while also calling for more
troops. “This is a national disgrace. FEMA has been here three days,
yet there is no command and control,” said Terry Ebbert, head of New
Orleans’s emergency operations. “We’re just a bunch of rats. That’s
how they’ve been treating us.” Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) noted he
was calling the White House, pleading for more resources. “The state
resources were being overwhelmed, and we needed direct federal
assistance, command and control, and security — all three of which
are lacking.” Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) said there was a failure
to think about a “holistic approach to the evacuation effort.” “Help,
help, help,” came the plea from New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. “This is
a desperate S.O.S.”

ADMINISTRATION IN DISARRAY: The response from the Bush administration
has been an array of dizzying signals about its priorities and
concern. FEMA Director Michael Brown, responding to the “horrible,
horrible conditions” in the New Orleans Convention Center, said, “the
federal government did not even know about the convention center
people until today.” Secretary Chertoff, when asked about the victims
in the convention center, said, “I have not heard a report of people
in the convention center who don’t have food and water.” In an
interview with CNN, Chertoff offered little compassion for people who
died or were trapped in cities due to the flooding. “Some people
chose not to obey that [mandatory evacuation] order. That was a
mistake on their part.” In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush and other state
officials criticized FEMA’s decision to deny federal assistance to
hurricane victims in that state.

CONCERNS OVER LEVEE FUNDING: The Washington Post reported that
federal budget cuts last year “stopped major work on New Orleans east
bank hurricane levees for the first time in 37 years.” The problem
resulted because the Bush administration “requested less money for
programs to guard against catastrophic storms in New Orleans.”
President Bush has declared that no one “anticipated the breech of
the levees,” but a former FEMA official said earlier this year, “New
Orleans was the No.1 disaster we were talking about.” Disaster
experts and frustrated officials “said a crucial shortcoming may have
been the failure to predict that the levees keeping Lake
Pontchartrain out of the city would be breached, not just overflow.”
Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers,
defended the administration by suggesting full funding would not have
prevented the levee breech, but he admitted that had the flood
control project been finished, “we could more efficiently move the
water out of the system because it’s a big drainage project.” Sen.
Kent Conrad (D-ND), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee,
said, “There was a failure by [Bush] to meet the responsibility
here…. Somebody needs to say it.”


the House Dennis Hastert said yesterday that it made no sense to
spend billions of dollars to rebuild New Orleans. “It looks like a
lot of that place could be bulldozed,” said Hastert. Louisiana Gov.
Kathleen Blanco responded, “To kick us when we’re down and destroy
hope, when hope is the only thing we have left, is absolutely
unthinkable for a leader in his position.” Hastert later attempted to
clarify his remarks, saying he was not advocating the city “be
abandoned or relocated” and that his “sincere concern” was with how
the city would be rebuilt. Hastert’s clarification did not include an

acknowledged the agency’s inadequate response to the hurricane
recovery efforts. Floridians want to help by volunteering 500 airboat
pilots to help rescue hurricane victims and transport relief workers.
But FEMA won’t let them in. Robert Dummett, state coordinator of the
Florida Airboat Association, said, “We cannot get deployed to save
our behinds” because FEMA will not authorize them to enter New
Orleans. Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) thinks providing airboats to the
region is “a perfect solution to the chaos and difficulty getting
people out of their flooded homes.” James Brown, a manager of 14
airboats, said, “We’re willing to go, we’re able to go, but it’s all
up to FEMA.”


More on the amazing story with FEMA
Chronology Of FEMA & The New Orleans Disaster

The environmental background
New Orleans: Loss of wetlands opens floodgates to disaster
Study: Global Warming Strengthens Hurricanes
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: “For They That Sow the Wind Shall Reap the Whirlwind”

Katrina’s economic impact

An Example of Real Preparedness – Cuba

Using computer networks in the crisis
A Disaster Map ‘Wiki’ Is Born
Craigslist Versus Katrina
Katrina triggers use of blogs

Tom Atlee * The Co-Intelligence Institute * PO Box 493 * Eugene, OR 97440 http://www.co-intelligence.org * http://www.democracyinnovations.org Read THE TAO OF DEMOCRACY * http://www.taoofdemocracy.com Tom Atlee’s blog http://www.evolvingcollectiveintelligence.org

Amy Lang
Amy Lang is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at the University of British Columbia. She wrote her dissertation on British Columbia’s groundbreaking Citizens’ Assembly process, and is currently doing follow-up research on the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly.

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