Levees Not War
Make Wetlands Not War.

I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.

—THOMAS JEFFERSON

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Levees Not War founder Mark LaFlaur is the author of Elysian Fields (2013), a critically acclaimed novel set in New Orleans in 1999, winner of the rare “double crown” of starred reviews from both Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly. Totally fiction and nonpolitical (the opposite of this blog), Elysian Fields includes some characters who worry (but not too much) about coastal erosion and the prospect of flooding in case of an overwhelming tropical storm, such as the powerful Hurricane Georges in 1998 that, until it swerved, was heading straight for the city. Elysian Fields is available in paperback and Kindle editions from CreateSpace and Amazon.

A wholly involving story with Faulknerian characters in a fully realized setting. . . . LaFlaur’s descriptive talent shines.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Life in the Weems family of 1999 New Orleans is anything but Elysian in this engrossing Southern Gothic snapshot. . . . [R]eaders will find the author’s portrayal of New Orleans convincing and his characters fascinating and fully developed.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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See the Rising Tide Blog’s profile of Mark LaFlaur and Levees Not War here.

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Founded in 2005, Levees Not War is a New York–based, New Orleans–devoted information / action network to build political will on the national, federal level to help the stricken Gulf Coast. We grew out of the 300,000-strong antiwar mobilization in Washington on Sept. 24, 2005—the weekend of Hurricane Rita, and only a month after Katrina. In Washington we and dozens of other marchers carried homemade signs saying MAKE LEVEES, NOT WAR. (We thought we were original until we saw everyone else’s signs, all saying the same thing.)

 

LNW@WDC.9-24-05

 

We mounted persistent letter-writing and e-mail campaigns and fax- and phone-blitzes to the White House and Congress and the “media elite,” urging serious financial help and sustained media attention to rebuild and protect New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. And we were sure as hell motivated when we learned of a highly respected Corps of Engineers official’s estimate that before Katrina, for only about $2.5 billion the New Orleans area levee and flood protection system could have been upgraded to Category 5 strength. (The U.S. burns through $2.5 billion about every three or four days in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The monthly cost for Iraq alone is now $12 billion.)

The responsibility of ministers for the public safety is absolute, and requires no mandate. It is in fact the prime object for which governments come into existence.

—WINSTON CHURCHILL

Levees Not War is dedicated to the proposition that the government of the United States of America, if it is to be a legitimate representative of the people who support it through compulsory taxation, must help protect our people and our cities and farmlands, in their persons and property. We say that the safety of people’s lives and livelihoods comes before the survival of any politician’s career. And we are dedicated to the firm belief that Homeland security begins at home.

Levees Not War is a persistent and growing information resource and political action group that has been mentioned online in DailyKos, The NationHuffington Post, the Washington Post, and New Deal 2.0 (Roosevelt Institute). This nonprofit network is also a way for a native Louisianan living in New York to try to help his former neighbors. On a broader scale, our aim is to generate public demand and political will for humane assistance for the Katrina storm victims; aggressive funding—liberal funding, even—for coastal restoration (“Wetlands Not War”); and a comprehensive storm protection system for America’s beloved city of New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast. Congress, entrust the Corps with the money to do the job right—let the Army Corps of Engineers “be all they can be.” We need national defense in the Dutch sense of the term: storm gates more than smart bombs.

America, this concerns every one of us, regardless of residence or party affiliation: We’re all endangered by a massive underfunding of public safety, infrastructure, and emergency preparedness. (Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu says that as a percentage of the nation’s gross domestic product, the U.S. spends only “one-tenth as much on infrastructure as we did 70 years ago.”)

If New Orleans is not safe, no place in this country is safe. Hurricane tidal surges of 10 feet or more could swamp Houston, Charleston, Long Island . . . Where will the federal government be when you’re down and out? Earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes, collapsing bridges, hijacked planes . . . If the federal government neglects one city’s disaster, it can neglect them all. Without funding, without investment, things fall apart. The collapse of the physical infrastructure and the hospitals and schools and the justice system after the storm-what’s happening to New Orleans is happening to the entire country—except perhaps in luxury high-rises and gated communities. The Lower Ninth Ward is the national predicament carried to an extreme.

About This Site

Here you will find:

  • news and commentary (on hurricanes, wars, activism, etc.)
  • links to lively NOLA blogs and must-read web sites in Louisiana, Washington, and beyond
  • relief and environmental groups (suggestions welcome)
  • phone and fax numbers of the White House | Congress | media
  • Senate testimony and legislation + experts’ reports
  • interviews with authors + experts
  • a well-stocked library of recommended reading, etc.

Our web site and advocacy work have benefited greatly from consultation and in-depth interviews with engineers, public officials, and other experts in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Washington, D.C. We are grateful to the LSU Hurricane Center • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers • Times-Picayune reporters • Port of New Orleans Harbor Police • Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana • engineers on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ levee-breach investigation team • and the staffs of various members of Congress. (Such consultations and interviews of course do not necessarily imply endorsement of or agreement with any views expressed here.)

We welcome news items, hot tips, guest contributions (commentary), political activism ideas, etc. E-mail us at leveesnotwar@mac.com.

We do not want to live in a world without New Orleans—and we do want to live.

ML09Les bon temps rouleront encore—the good times will roll again.

MARK LaFLAUR (LSU ’81, ’87) left New Orleans in 2001 to get married in New York City. He lives in Kew Gardens (Queens), with his wife, Janet, and works in book publishing. He is the author of the novel Elysian Fields (Mid-City Books, 2013), a friend of the Rising Tide community of NOLA bloggers, and an occasional volunteer for Organizing for America.

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