“Jungleland,” Nathaniel Rich’s recent New York Times Magazine piece, explores the ecological transformation of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward since the devastation Hurricane Katrina left behind. It is a fascinating read that interweaves the human, environmental, political, and societal issues surrounding the remaking of a city; a city that has been left behind by human public policy and taken over by the world’s natural elements.
I highly recommend this thought-provoking read written by someone who lives and works in New Orleans. Here are two of my favorite quotes:
A variety of species, some exotic, have moved in, among them crepe myrtle, black willow and golden rain trees laced with vines. The undergrowth is a chaotic mix of weeds as high as basketball hoops and flowering shrubs like lantana, oleander and oxalis. Invasive species have infiltrated the neighborhood from the major avenues, the seeds transported by the flatbed trucks that drive to the city. The plant and animal life varies quixotically from plot to plot, as the new species entrench themselves, mustering strength, before fighting for additional territory.
The ecological composition of the neighborhood may be diverse, but it is also extremely unstable. “It’s a very odd mix, one that you wouldn’t otherwise see in nature,” Blum says. “It’s a Frankenstein community.” Ecologically speaking, Katrina has created a monster.
Finally I gave up. Yaukey was too deep in the woods. It was no longer possible to distinguish which calls were his and which the birds’. He walked around a stand of 15-foot Chinese tallow trees, the green and crimson leaves waving mournfully in the wind. And then he was gone. The wilderness just swallowed him up.