It is rightly said that journalism is the field which is mostly endowed with firsthand knowledge, given that journalists are the people who meet information head on and also collect the same information in the very heat of the moment, in the field. This situation has always led to journalists being reputed for having the most accurate and primordial knowledge on an event, situation or any other development. As a journalist and an environmental activist, David Helvarg (b. 1951) can thus give a blow by blow account on the developments which took place as Hurricane Katrina bombarded the US. This is because, in the wake of the hurricane, Helvarg was in its midst. This is because; he chose to report the goings on, on Hurricane Katrina while snubbing the rough and tumble which was real in the Iraq War. Helvarg had arrived at this choice by surmising that wars will always be there, as opposed to the Hurricane Katrina which had struck, whimsically and fortuitously. From the reporting that was made by Helvarg, Helvarg is of the idea that although human beings have shaped the environment in ways that are diverse, yet, human beings still remain subservient to the whims of nature.
That human beings remain ancillary to the forces of nature is a matter which is exemplified by the situation which Helvarg encounters in New Orleans. The devastating effects of the hurricane on man’s life are seen to be pervasive, in the first place. The hurricane is also seen to have caused havoc on property and infrastructure. Thirdly, the imminence of the Hurricane Katrina is also seen to put to halt, human actions which have diverse economic importance, despite the modalities that had been put in place. In preparation of the mayor wanting to open the city back up to the residents, the government is cut short by Hurricane Rita. This happens in the face of 20- 309 roadblocks and 11,000 guardsmen having been placed on station within the city, as part of the necessary preparation (Viscusi, 22).
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Conversely, that humanity is subject to the forces of weather is a matter which is seen to be elucidated upon by the devastating effects that the hurricane left in its path. The devastations start from New Orleans’ airport in Jefferson Parish right to the residential areas of the same. Right from the airport in Jefferson Parish, Helvarg was able to see warehouses, box stores and motels which had had their roofs either ripped off or open, or caved in by the force of the hurricane. Secondly, the serenity and order of the environment which man hugely relies on both for recreation and economic production had also been turned topsy-turvy. The presence of broken trees, broken street signs, and the broken window glasses serve as multiple attestations to the destructive nature of the storm. The flooding of several areas as a result of the devastative nature of the hurricane also does not serve as the only disorderliness that comes with the hurricane, but also as a separate force which is able to cause its own destruction. Thirdly, the pervasive nature of nature or forces of weather is seen in the manner in which it displaces people even from their domicile. For a fact, the situation in Bob Chick’s house is a clear epitome of the destructive nature of the flooding that came up as a result of the hurricane.
Indeed, as Helvarg maintains that the forces of nature are indeed stronger than men, so can one find the vindication of the claim in the interference with human programs and activities. For instance, the several traffic snarl-ups that are recounted by Helvarg serve as examples to these disruptions of human programs. At the first instance, he comes head-on with traffic jam that starts from Baton Rouge right to the south on Interstate 10. So profound is the disorderliness and turmoil that even the traffic police officers and other security and law enforcement agencies are not able to cordially order the flow of traffic. Secondly, Helvarg is stopped at the National Guard checkpoint, even after having been cleared by other traffic police officers. The third instance is seen later on, when other traffic police officers stop Helvarg in order to make him detour, even after Helvarg has been cleared by both the previous traffic officers and the National Guard officers (Rhee, 15).
In the same vein, the assertion by Helvarg that nature and its forces seem to overwhelm man is a matter which can be clearly seen by the extent of destruction that the hurricane left to the immediate environment. First, besides the houses and storehouses which have been fleeced of their roofing, there are cardboards that are filled with rainwater at the CPA office. At the Ne Orleans Aquarium, most of the fish have been lost on the pumps experiencing failure. Only the penguins and the sea otters are salvaged and taken to Monterey. Secondly, as Helvarg drives into Lakeview and into the major sections of the city, the devastations of nature are more apparent and readily perceptible.
This is mainly due to the fact Lakeview had at the time been sunk by the floodwaters for over two weeks. Most of the items that had been being considered precious had to be bulldozed. Thirdly, the damages that are done to the infrastructure epitomize the unrelenting mien of nature. In the major cities and occupations in Lakeview, power poles had been brought down while electric lines remained precariously hanging. The presence of smashed cars, ubiquitously strewn metal pieces and sheets, fallen street signs, dilapidated pavements and footpaths, torn-open houses- all these items covered with the grey and brown mud. All these are testaments of the destructions that had been brought about by the flood (Travis, 19).
In a similar wavelength, in order to underscore his standpoint that man is to a greater extent, the subject of nature and its forces, Helvarg is seen to employ the use of cause and effect in his narration. At a certain point (p.2), Helvarg seems to implicitly recount the devastations of the flood by making mention of the new urban landscape as consisting thousands of homes, offices, schools, banks, churches, grocery stores and other ruined structures. Secondly, Helvarg intimates that all these have been undermined, weakened or totally destroyed by the flood by saying that all these structures were traceable by the brown floodwater line which designated them. Thirdly, Helvarg brings in a more interesting twist which is; the main sewage plant not escaping the rubric of these destroyed structures. From this juncture, the outbreak of diseases is inferred: a broken sewer mixing with floodwaters and a totally ruined infrastructure is definitely concomitant with the serious waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid, among others.
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That the place of outbreaks of diseases is a matter which Helvarg infers as a facet of the destructive force which outdoes the capacity of man, can be seen in the case of Bob Chick, Helvarg’s friend. It takes Chick full protective gear to rummage through his house which has been run down by the deluge. First, this is because Chick’s property is totally destroyed. Chick at this point has fit himself with gas mask, leather gloves and strong rubber boots. Secondly, this makes it obvious that such heavy clothing indicate the presence of diseases, both water and airborne; diseases whose spreading must have been spurred on by the flood. Thirdly, that Chick has undergone emotional drain and anguish, courtesy of the hurricane, is a matter that cannot be gainsaid.
The full weight of the horrendous nature of the forces of nature and weather is a matter which Helvarg makes mention of in his narration by referring to disaster preparedness and management teams. Some of these teams include the animal rescue teams, military patrol teams, body recovery and search teams with K-9 dogs and the utility crews from New York and Pennsylvania. Herein, the author, Helvarg uses exemplification to deliberate on the extent of the destruction that emanated from the flooding. For instance, first, the presence of the animal rescue teams intimate the reality of animal disappearance (and possibly, injuries and/ or deaths); while the presence of the patrol teams with K-9 dogs insinuate the inevitable prospects of death. The dogs in the case herein would help sniff bodies of the hurricane’s victims. Secondly, the presence of the military patrol teams would likewise serve the immediate aforementioned. Ultimately, the deterioration of security may also have necessitated the presence of the military patrol teams. The fact that there were cases of larceny and break-ins in the wake of both hurricane Katrina and Rita is a stark reminder to the crucial role that the military personnel may have played; and hence their presence (Robbins, 33).
Therefore, from the contributions which have been made by Helvarg in his narration on the flooding, there is clear veracity to the claim that nature can outdo and surpass man and the measures that man has put in place to control nature’s catastrophes. The 21st century has indeed seen the materialization of cataclysmic events such as the hurricanes and subsequent flooding, earthquakes and volcanic eruption as developments which have not only curtailed developments, but also claimed many lives. That this is true is a matter which is underscored by the fact that although the 21st century serves as the zenith of human civilization and technological sophistication yet, man at his best has not been able to show maximum capacity to either ward off the subsequent deaths, or to control the very forces of weather themselves.