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Why did the hurricane Katrina happen?

Reasons given by some environmentalists

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Essays discussing the beliefs of others are available elsewhere.

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hurricane damage A brief review of the Katrina hurricane of 2005 (repeated):

On 2005-AUG-25, Katrina, as a Category 1 hurricane, struck south Florida. It strengthened over the Gulf of Mexico to Category 4. It hit New Orleans, the rest of Louisiana, and Mississippi on AUG-29.

The total death toll as a direct result of Katrina is about 1,800.  Hundreds of thousands of residents were dislocated; a quarter million into Texas alone. Staff writers for the Washington Post said:

"The evacuees [from New Orleans], most of them black and poor, spoke of violence, anarchy and family members who died for lack of food, water and medical care." 1

Many had no homes, assets, or jobs to which to return. Property damage was immense.

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Reasons given by many spiritual and political environmentalists:

Deborah Caldwell, wrote a report for the Beliefnet web site titled: "Did God Send the Hurricane? This natural disaster is bringing together a perfect storm of environmentalist and religious doomsday sayers." She writes:

"Meanwhile, spiritual and political environmentalists say that massive hurricanes such as Katrina, along with the Asian tsunami, are messages from the earth, letting humanity know of the earth’s pain." 2

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Reasons given by many spiritual environmentalists:

Many spiritual environmentalists follow the Gaia Hypothesis -- that the Earth herself is a type of life form. This worldview has been widely held by people following Aboriginal religions, Wicca and other Earth-based Neopagan religions. James Lovelock wrote a series books in which he promoted the Gaia hypothesis. 3,4 In Stephen Miller's review of Lovelock's 1989 book, he wrote:

"What is the hypothesis of Gaia ? Stated simply, the idea is that we may have discovered a living being bigger, more ancient, and more complex than anything from our wildest dreams. That being, called Gaia, is the Earth."

"More precisely: that about one billion years after it's formation, our planet was occupied by a meta-life form which began an ongoing process of transforming this planet into its own substance. All the life forms of the planet are part of Gaia. In a way analogous to the myriad different cell colonies which make up our organs and bodies, the life forms of earth in their diversity coevolve and contribute interactively to produce and sustain the optimal conditions for the growth and prosperity not of themselves, but of the larger whole, Gaia. That the very makeup of the atmosphere, seas, and terrestrial crust is the result of radical interventions carried out by Gaia through the evolving diversity of living creatures." 5

In this hypothesis, Gaia may sense a looming threat to all forms of life on Earth due to the exploitation by humans of the Earth's resources. It may be reacting like a bucking bronco, trying to rid herself of this dangerous species of life in order to save countless numbers of other species. One manifestation of this might be an increasing human death toll from tsunamis, hurricanes, and tornados.

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About the Gaia Hypothesis:

You might find one or more of the following books of interest. They are the result of a search for "gaia hypothesis" in the Amazon.com data base.  If you see a generic Amazon ad below, please click on your browser's reload icon.

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Reasons given by many political environmentalists:

Most political environmentalists probably accept the climate change theory: that the extensive burning of fossil fuels generates higher levels of greenhouse gasses. These gasses in the atmosphere are increasingly trapping the sun's heat, similar to the panes of glass in a greenhouse. This causes the earth's temperature to rise, and the weather to become unpredictable.

The Union of Concerned Scientists note that:

bullet"Since the beginning of the 20th century, Earth's mean surface temperature has increased by about 1.1°F (0.6°C)."

bullet"Warming in the 20th century is greater than at any time during the past 400 to 600 years."

bullet"The Arctic ice pack has lost about 40 percent of its thickness over the past four decades."

bullet "Global sea level is rising about three times faster over the past 100 years compared with the previous 3,000 years." 6 This is resulting in the flooding of low lying islands and coasts.

In its 2001 assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that:

"... an increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system."

Global warming is disturbing weather patterns worldwide. In addition to the above four symptoms, global warming is causing:

bulletIntervals of unusually elevated temperatures.

bulletHeat waves which kill thousands of vulnerable people.

bulletMajor downpours, heavy snowfalls, and flooding.

bulletPeriods of drought.

bulletForest and prairie fires.

bulletMelting of glaciers.

bulletWarming of the Arctic and Antarctic producing shortening winters, lengthening springs and thawing permafrost.

bulletRelocations of plant and animal species to cooler habitats.

bulletBleaching of coral reefs. 7

Although there is a general consensus among scientists that global warming is a real phenomenon, there is less of a consensus on its cause or impact:
 

Caldwell commented in her Beliefnet article about a recent CNN poll. It shows that:

"55% of those responding believe that global warming is causing the severe weather we've experienced recently, which is a kind of admission that a huge hurricane is part of the wages of (environmental) sin." 2

bullet A small and shrinking minority of scientists believe that it is a natural, cyclical phenomenon and not necessarily caused by atmospheric pollution. 8

bulletMost polls show that about 40% of Americans expect the end of the world will occur within their lifetime. Many are conservative Christians who believe in Dispensational Premillennialism: (a.k.a. Dispensationalism). This relatively new concept teaches that the end of the world as we know it will occur in our immediate future. All believers, dead or alive, will be removed from the Earth in the rapture , and Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) will return to reign. One of his first actions will be to eliminate all pollution from the earth. Being God, he would be able to do this instantly. Thus, atmospheric pollution and global warming are not matters of major concern.

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Hurricanes, tornados, and El Niños are heat-driven, and are thus intensified by higher land and ocean temperatures. According to the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), a division of the Federal Government's National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

"The strongest hurricanes in the present climate may be upstaged by even more intense hurricanes over the next century as the earth's climate is warmed by increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Although we cannot say at present whether more or fewer hurricane will occur in the future with global warming, the hurricanes that do occur near the end of the 21st century are expected to be stronger and have significantly more intense rainfall than under present day climate conditions. This expectation...is based on an anticipated enhancement of energy available to the storms due to higher tropical sea surface temperatures." 9

Two GFDL scientists, Thomas R. Knutson and Robert E. Tuleya, performed a computer simulation study. They found that:

"...if the frequency of tropical cyclones remains the same over the coming century, a greenhouse-gas induced warming may lead to a gradually increasing risk in the occurrence of highly destructive category-5 storms." 9

Their simulations also show that Category 4 hurricanes may occur at about the same frequency, and that there may be a reduction in Category 3 storms. 10

Thus, Katrina may be a harbinger of future disasters.

In addition, there are many factors found in Louisiana which exacerbated the effects of the hurricane:

bulletMuch of New Orleans is built below sea level. So, when a levee was breached, about 80% of the city filled up like a gigantic bathtub.

bullet

Decades ago, there were miles of wetlands between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. According to Wes Granberg-Michaelson, the general secretary of the Reformed Church in America:

"These act like a 'speed bump,' absorbing and lowering some of a hurricane's force. But they've been disappearing, making way for shopping malls, condos, and roads, so 25 square miles are lost each year - an area the size of Manhattan. And the city has kept moving closer to the Gulf." 1

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About global warming and climate change:

You might find one or more of the following books of interest. They are the result of a search for "climate change" in the Amazon.com data base. If you see a generic Amazon ad below, please click on your browser's reload icon.

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Beliefnet forum:

Some Internet surfers who read Deborah Caldwell's essay on Beliefnet.com titled "Did God send the hurricane?" responded with their views on the cause of Katrina's devastation of the Gulf Coast. 1 We selected the following ten which appear to be primarily motivated by environmental concerns:

bullet"The 'Universal Energy' which some call G-d does not send floods nor famine. We create our own realities and this is one of them. The weather is changing due to environmental abuse there is not doubt but has nothing to do with g-d.

bullet"This is not about God... It is about greed on the part of the oil companies. It is about Global warming because we are using our natural resources in excess... "

bullet"If anyone is to blame for the increase in hurricanes and their severity, it is us. As global warming increased, the earth tries harder and harder to cool itself and hurricanes are one way to remove the energy from the oceans. The warmer it becomes, the more severe the storms are going to be. This has to do with physical laws, not God's punishment on the unjust."

bullet"Human pollution has added to climate change, creating more and stronger hurricanes as nature deals with greenhouse gasses from human petrochemical addiction. Therefore, it would be more honest to say that humans created Katrina (specifically the Bush agenda to destroy the Kyoto accord on these emissions)."

bullet"I think God is giving us a big hint that we'd better listen to our Scientists about Environmental changes, and do something about them, as the rest of the world is doing."

bullet"It's about time that we realized that the earth is a closed system and very susceptible to small changes. Actually, it is amazing to me how resilient that it has been up to this point. When you consider how we have de-forested the planet, polluted the seas, and plundered the natural resources, it's amazing to me that any of us are still here."

bullet"The Goddess Oya manifests hurricanes and tornadoes in order to renew nature. Nature needs hurricanes as much as we need air. They are, like earthquakes, the way the Earth keeps itself in balance."

bullet"We cannot treat the earth with contempt and expect it to shrug it off. You may see only materialist nature in that equation, but I see the laws of Karma (in the Christian view, reaping what you sow)."

bullet"As we continue to inflict damage on the planet, we can expect to see more effects from nature as it attempts to reach equilibrium - and what's frightening might be natures attempts to balance over population!"

bullet"God did not send this hurricane. I am so tired of people blaming God when bad things happen. I believe it is the earth crying out to the people living on it, to stop polluting, destroying etc. people need to wake up and we all need to change. The sad thing is we are all to comfortable with our lives to ever really change in order to stop global warming etc."

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Manuel Roig-Franzia & Spencer Hsu, "Many Evacuated, but Thousands Still Waiting," Washington Post, 2005-SEP-04, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  2. Deborah Caldwell, "Did God Send the Hurricane? This natural disaster is bringing together a perfect storm of environmentalist and religious doomsday sayers," Beliefnet, circa 2005-SEP-03, at: http://www.beliefnet.com/
  3. James Lovelock, "Ages of Gaia: A Biography of Our Living Earth," W.W. Norton, (1988) Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
  4. James Lovelock, "Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth," Oxford University Press, (2000). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
  5. Stephen Miller, "Gaia Hypothesis," 1989, at: http://erg.ucd.ie/
  6. "Global Environment: Global warming," Union of Concerned Scientists, at: http://www.ucsusa.org/
  7. "Global warming: Early warning signs," Union of Concerned Scientists and six other agencies, at: http://www.climatehotmap.org/
  8. "Global Warming," Cooler Heads Coalition, at: http://www.globalwarming.org/
  9. "Global Warming and Hurricanes," Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, at: http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/
  10. "Idealized hurricane simulations," Image, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, at: http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/
  11. Wes Granberg-Michaelson, "Acts of God or sins of humanity?," Church Herald, 2005-OCT.

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Copyright © 2005 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-SEP-06
Latest update: 2014-MAR-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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