Europe is an outsized indicator of the “shocking levels” of worldwide inequality. OXFAM’s September 2015 press release, “Increasing Inequality Plunging Millions More Europeans into Poverty”, makes a stark comparison between the “123 million people – almost a quarter of the EU’s population – at risk of living in poverty and its 342 billionaires”. Other reports show how, worldwide, the fortunes of the mega-rich have soared during the crisis, a situation summed up in the notorious statistic “Richest 1% Will Own More Than All the Rest by 2016”. The socioeconomic effects of this indecent inequality and how to deal with them are widely discussed and one product of the debate is a fast-expanding interest in the universal, unconditional basic income, which is usually presented as a measure for combatting poverty.
This is an excerpt from Chapter 9 of “How the World Breaks: Life in Catastrophe's Path, From the Caribbean to Siberia” by Stan Cox and Paul Cox, published last month by The New Press. The book's ten stories of unnatural disaster include post-Sandy New York and pre-inundation Miami. This passage expands on those stories.
When danger looms in the United States of America, there’s always one answer close at hand: build a wall. Since well before they came into fashion for border control, concrete and earth have been piled along almost every coast and waterway to keep floods and storms at bay. Even in the decade following Hurricane Katrina—as obvious a case of this strategy’s failure as one could ask for—official attention focused on reinforcing the levees around New Orleans and the Army Corps of Engineers’ construction of a 1.8-mile-long storm surge barrier. But after 2005, with the nation’s attention riveted on Louisiana, planners also needed to show something fresher than the same old fortifications. So they called in the Dutch.