Community Resilience: Prepare for the Really Big One

DSC00963This week’s New Yorker article by Kathryn Schulz, “The Really Big One”, about my beloved Pacific Northwest’s vulnerability to a devastating mega-earthquake and tsunami, has stirred a lot of debate and fear here in my hometown of Seattle. There’s been a run on the buying of ready-made disaster preparedness kits. Companies doing seismic retrofitting of houses are now booked out almost a year. As the article states, scientists report that we are overdue for a large or mega earthquake (9,0) and tsunami (100-ft) that will kill at least 13,000 people, injure 27,000, displace 1 million people, and destroy two-thirds of all hospitals. Everything west of Interstate 5 will be destroyed.

Currently, despite having the technology to install a sophisticated early-warning earthquake system, we don’t have one and we will have to rely on the “cacophony of barking dogs” to provide us with a 30-90 second warning before the ‘real quake’ hits. (Dogs can hear the high-frequency compression waves that precede an earthquake. Yet another reason to love dogs.)

It is clear that our government entities, businesses, hospitals, schools, fire departments, need to do much more to prepare for this disaster. As individuals we can support legislation to require better community-wide disaster preparedness (and support ways to actually fund these measures). As individuals we can heed the public health disaster preparedness advice and keep adequate disaster kits in our homes, school, and worksites. In a previous blog post titled “Be Very Afraid” (November 22, 2014) I wrote: “Or be at least a little bit afraid: not so afraid that you become paralyzed with fear and not so little afraid that you don’t do practical things to better prepare yourself (and your family) in case of disaster/emergency. Aim for being ‘just right’ afraid.” And I recorded the items I collected to make our family’s disaster/emergency preparedness kit–along with the realization that disaster preparedness is not an equal opportunity affair.

But something I have learned from my colleagues in New Zealand who work on post-Christchurch earthquake recovery efforts, is that an equally important part of disaster preparedness at the community level is promoting community resilience and wellbeing. More closely-knit communities–regardless of economic resources–tend to weather disasters better than others. Several of the Christchurch-area Maori marae (communal, sacred land/communities) organized to take in and provide food and shelter for foreign students and visitors affected by the earthquakes before any official government-sponsored program was able to do that. This isn’t to gloss over the very real socio-economic and racial disparities highlighted by ‘natural’ and man-made disasters. The lessons on this from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans stand as reminders.

I was somewhat skeptical when I first encountered these bright, up-with-people banners (shown in the photo above) I saw in the midst of the still fresh earthquake devastation in the downtown core of Christchurch in 2014. But as I focused more on their messages, I realized they were all about building individual and community resilience. They are part of the All Right? Campaign, a Healthy Christchurch initiative of the Canterbury District Health Board and the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. They based their campaign on the work of the UK-based social, economic, and environmental justice think tank, The New Economic Foundation, which developed the evidence-based Five Ways to Wellbeing (with a Kiwi slant below). Now these are some excellent ways to prepare for the Big One.

  1. Connect… With the people around you. With whanau, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school, or in your local marae, church or community. Think of these connections/relationships as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.
  2. Be active… Exercising can make you feel good! Step outside. Go for a walk or run. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Have a boogie or do some kapahaka. The most important thing is to find a physical activity you enjoy that suits your mobility and fitness. Do it with friends or whanau and you’ll be ticking two boxes… connect and be active!
  3. Take notice… Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.
  4. Keep learning… Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn Te Reo or how to play an instrument or cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.
  5. Give … Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, as linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you. Aroha ki te tangata, a Maori saying meaning respect for/goodwill towards others.

New Orleans Bottle Djinn: Stealing Stories?

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New Orleans, Louisiana, French Quarter, May 2014. Part II.

How do people deal with and bear witness to trauma? How have the people of New Orleans collectively chosen to remember Hurricane Katrina?

As I wrote in my previous post “Collective Sites of Memory: New Orleans” (3-28-15), those were some of the questions I was pondering last May as I returned to New Orleans for the first time since Katrina. Having visited–and been disappointed by–the Katrina National Memorial Park in New Orleans, I decided to visit the permanent exhibit “Living with hurricanes: Katrina and beyond” located at the Presbytere Louisiana State Museum in the heart of the French Quarter.

Greeting me in a wildly disorienting way as I entered the main door of the museum building, was the art installation shown in the photos above. Hundreds of ‘floating’ glass bottles with messages curled up inside them, all hanging from the ceiling. Interspersed among the bottles are ghostly blue glass hands, reaching down–or wait! are they reaching up out of the deluge, the person attached to the hand drowning and asking to be rescued? I stood in the middle of the foyer gazing up at the display as the lights surrounding them gyrated from blue to purple to pink to red and back again–trying to figure out which way was up and which was down in this display. Who are the rescuers and the rescued? It felt as if I was simultaneously the rescuer and the rescued—floating in the midst of the primordial sea of life.

The brightly-colored bottle display also reminded me of that uniquely Southern folk art of bottle trees, shown here in a classic black and white photograph by the venerable writer (and WPA photographer) Eudora Welty. The folk belief is that placing bottles on trees away from the main entrance to the house will help to capture and repel ‘bottle genies’/djinn/or ‘haints’—spirits that haunt a place. The bottle trees are thought to protect people and their homes from calamities. Maybe all the pent-up bottle djinn in the New Orleans area had been released by Katrina.

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House with bottle-trees/Simpson County/1941/ Eudora Welty. From Eudora Welty Photographs, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 1989.

I have the habit of always looking at a piece of art before reading the accompanying information placard, which often ‘explains’ or interprets what the artist is aiming for. I like to experience the art before being told what it is I am looking at (or hearing), and how it should make me feel. But after several minutes of standing in the museum’s foyer gazing at the bottles and light show, I read the placard below:

IMG_2173The “Message of Remembrances”  (notice the singular ‘message’ in the title) was next to the official entrance to the Katrina exhibit, with a large sign stating “Resilience.” Oh no,  here we go with the official scripted, up-with-people resilience narrative, I thought, as I entered the darkened room.

‘Resilience’ is an oft-used and ill-used term. ‘Bad things happen to good people, but what doesn’t break you makes you stronger.’ I am highly suspicious of resilience and any context within which resilience is mentioned. I put it in the same category with all those ‘redemptive’ novels according to Oprah: catharsis equals a nauseatingly Hallmark Moment.

But, okay, I will attempt to suspend my critical stance and give this museum exhibit on Katrina an honest chance,  I told myself.

As I snaked my way through the rooms of the exhibit, I found quite a lot to admire in how the curators had chosen to ‘tell the story’ of Katrina. The first few rooms were dark and immersive, showing billowing smoke from one New Orleans building, next to a display of an ax stored in the attic of a ‘mock’ house (an essential home safety precaution that I didn’t know about–many people in Katrina got trapped inside their attics in the rising water and drowned because they couldn’t cut an escape route through their roofs).

Then I entered the second room of the exhibit, filled with separate displays on ‘ordinary heroes’ (what is an extraordinary hero–Wonder Woman?), hospitals, First Responders, seats from the Superdome (fiasco), samples of emergency cans of water from the Red Cross, and MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat that included little bottles of Tabasco hot-sauce). There was a brief and somewhat sanitized display labeled “Race, Class, and Inequality” with a heavily edited quote from then President George W. Bush. This second room was filled with random flashing lights of red, yellow, and that freaky blue again, echoing the bottle display.

There was quite a lot of content on the effects of climate change, environmental degradation, and engineering mistakes that all compounded the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Audio-recordings of Katrina survivors played on an endless loop. An African American man, a former resident of the most severely affected Ninth Ward had this to say: “The water in the vast area matched the speed of a second hand of a clock—that was the amount of time it took for that water to rise. I don’t remember hearing it before: a sound like a freight train.” I found his first person testimony both eloquent and haunting, and I listened to the loop several times to make sure I wrote down his exact words.

But one section of the Katrina exhibit has continued to bother me. It takes up the most space in the middle-part of the exhibit, being eight or nine panels, sections of the actual walls in a central New Orleans housing project apartment. The walls preserve the ‘wall diary’ of Tommie Elton Mabry, a 53 year old man (shown in photo below in front of his wall diary/ ‘ledger or graffiti’ as he called it–written with a black Sharpie.) Mabry, who had been homeless ‘since Regan was president,’ stayed in a first-floor apartment in the deserted high-rise B.W. Cooper public housing development in downtown New Orleans. Starting the day before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans until two months later when he was forced to leave by the housing authority officials (the building has been torn down).

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Tommie Elton Mabry in front of his diary of Katrina written on wall of New Orleans Housing Authority building. Photo: Thomas Neff, November 2005.

What bothers me about this part of the exhibit is the unacknowledged ethical issues, power dynamics, and inherent racism and classism. Mabry’s diary entries are written in about a fourth or fifth grade level, include frequent f-bombs, and many of the entries focus on him getting drunk or nursing a hangover. These all highlight negative stereotypes of homeless people, and especially of African American poor people.

In the photo and in several local newspaper articles (see below), Mabry appears to be proud of the fact that his diary is now on permanent display in a museum. But did anyone bother to ask his permission before they preserved his ‘wall diaries?’ Did anyone consider setting up some sort of appropriate payment–or housing fund– for use of his words?

Tommie Elton Mabry died of a heart attack in 2013, at the age of 58. He was still homeless and couch-surfing at the time of his death.

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Resources/related articles and videos:

“After Hurricane Katrina struck, Elton Mabry used writing as a way to survive the storm” by Maria C. Montoya. The Times-Picayune, August 23, 2008.

“The diary of Tommie Elton Mabry” (video). The Times-Picayune, September 1, 2010.

“Hurricane Katrina survivor and chronicler Tommie Mabry dies at 58” by Elizabeth Mullener. The Times-Picayune, February 1, 2013.

“Jungleland: The Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans gives new meaning to ‘urban growth,” by Nathanial Rich. NYT, March 21, 2012.

 

Collective Sites of Memory: New Orleans

Storm clouds over the Mississippi River, New Orleans. Photo credit: Josephine Ensign/2014
Storm clouds over the Mississippi River, New Orleans. Photo credit: Josephine Ensign/2014

New Orleans, Louisiana, French Quarter, May 2014.

I returned to New Orleans in May 2014 to attend the National Health Care for the Homeless Conference and Policy Symposium. The last time I was in New Orleans was in the summer of 2005, less than a month before Hurricane Katrina tried to return the city to the sea. In Seattle, in the first few years after Katrina, I had taken care of many homeless and near homeless patients who had been displaced by the storm. I knew that most of these patients were among the more than 100,000 former residents of New Orleans who left in the aftermath of Katrina.

Now, almost a decade after the devastating hurricane and the national tragedy of how it was handled, I wondered how the citizens of New Orleans had chosen to remember it. I went back to New Orleans to participate in the conference and policy symposium, but also to track down their Katrina memorials, their collective sites of memory. Hurricane Katrina was, of course, both a natural and a man-made disaster, what with its socially determined patterns of protection and vulnerability based on race, class, and gender–not to mention the effects of environmental degradation and Global Warming. How individuals and communities deal with the aftermath of a large-scale and complex disaster was something I’d been pondering. I had recently visited the Christchurch, New Zealand post-earthquake sites of memory (and written about it in a series of blog posts, the most popular one here).

How do people deal with and bear witness to trauma?

I went in search of the National Katrina Memorial Park. No one, not even the concierge at my mega French Quarter conference hotel had ever heard of this memorial. With hazy directions and a very silly-simplified tourist map from my hotel, I hopped on a streetcar not named Desire and headed up Canal Street towards the Cities of the Dead.

The Katrina National Memorial Park is located at 5050 Canal Street, across the street from some strange Herb import store painted bright green (reminiscent of the Green Pharma’ing of Seattle since our state legalized marijuana). Entering the black wrought-iron gates and reading the first marker/sign greeting me inside, I realized that I had arrived at Potter’s Field, or the ‘City of the Poor and Forsaken Dead’ as I prefer to call it.

Potter's Field Crematory, New Orleans. Photo credit: Josephine Ensign/2014
Potter’s Field/Charity Hospital Cemetery, New Orleans. Photo credit: Josephine Ensign/2014

It is the site of the Charity Hospital Cemetery, on land purchased by Charity Hospital in 1848, and called Potter’s Field in the lingo of the time. “It has historically been used to bury the unclaimed from throughout the city, including the victims of several yellow fever and influenza epidemics,” proclaims the sign. It also contains the ashes of people who “donated their remains to the Louisiana State Anatomical Board for medical education.”

Walking farther into the cemetery, I was greeted by these strange, shiny black marble structures, which another sign identified as the Katrina Memorial mausoleums. They contain the ashes of the dead.

Katrina National Memorial Park, New Orleans. Photo credit: Josephine Ensign/2014
Katrina National Memorial Park, New Orleans. Photo credit: Josephine Ensign/2014

A sign states that the swirling pathways lined with these strange structures is supposed to mimic the shape of the hurricane. It is designed to “create a meditative labyrinth, a healing space for reflection.” The fact that the Katrina mausoleums most strongly echo back to the Nazi concentration camp boxcars for extermination of Jews, Gypsies, disabled, homeless and other ‘undesirables,’ did not make this space–this site of memory–either meditative or healing. Who, I wondered, was responsible for the design of this place?

Ah, of course! I thought, as I read a sign stating that this Katrina Memorial was created by Dr. Frank Minyad, Coroner of Orleans Parish. Dr. Minyard, an OB/GYN physician by training, a white man dubbed “Dr. Jazz” as well as “friend of the police” because of love of both trumpet-playing and covering up controversial ‘accidental’ deaths of black men while in police custody. Dr. Minyard, the self-proclaimed “community servant,” upholder of what he calls “the Palace of Truth,” at the time of Katrina our county’s longest-serving big city elected coroner (and not a forensic pathologist,) and a rather loathsome interviewee in Frontline’s 2011 stark, startling, and effective video episode Postmortum: Death Investigation Crisis in America. I show and discuss this video every spring in my undergraduate nursing health policy course, so I remembered Minyard very well.

As sat on a bench waiting for the Streetcar Not Named Desire back to my French Quarter tourist hotel, I felt sad, empty, and duped. This was not the community/collective site of memory of proper remembrance of the national shame, of “Is this America?” of post Hurricane Katrina that I had come in search of.

Cultural and Spiritual First Responders

We’re used to hearing the term ‘first responders’ whenever there’s any news coverage or conversations about disaster/emergency preparedness, response, and recovery efforts. And we’re used to seeing images (like the one below) of the typical types of official first responder personnel and their equipment: firefighters, police officers, EMS, Search and Rescue, etc. FEMA_-_37224_-_First_responders_in_Texas

This past year I’ve become more aware of the importance of cultural and spiritual first responders, especially in terms of the resilience of communities. Spiritual first responders we may think of as only pastors, priests, imams, and other religious leaders. These people are important sources of solace and ethical guidance. But the cultural and spiritual first responders I’m referring to are the artists and writers within communities who aid in our attempt to make meaning out of catastrophe and chaos, to find ways to not only survive but also thrive in the midst of adversity. They point the way to healing, to the alchemy of remembrance and forgiveness, to resilience.

I’m currently writing an essay ‘Bearing Witness’ about these cultural and spiritual first responders, and about the sticky ethics of witnessing. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to share with you some photos I’ve taken (within the past year) of powerful public artwork in response to the Christchurch earthquakes and ongoing recovery. I am very thankful for the inspiration, perspective and meaning-making they have provided for me. I include the artist’s name when I’ve been able to establish who they are. These are in addition to ones I shared in a previous blog post “Bounce Back” (February 7, 2014) when I was living and working in New Zealand.

DSC00958 - Version 7I believe this street art mural on the side of a partially-demolished building in downtown Christchurch was part of Canterbury Museum’s ‘Big Walls’ street art project.  I haven’t been able to discover who the artist is but I love this arresting piece. Is the hand held up to stop you from coming too close into the danger zone? Is it calling on you to halt your strange disaster walkabout and reflect on what you are seeing, on what you are doing here?

Peter Majendie’s ‘temporary’ installation “185 Chair Memorial” set up in an empty lot in downtown Christchurch, on land where there had been a Baptist DSC00990Church before the earthquakes destroyed it. (The A-frame white building in the background of this photo is the gorgeous “Cardboard Cathedral” by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban.) Majendie’s original title for his chair installation was “Reflection of Loss of Lives, Livelihood and Living in Neighborhood” and was initially set up in February 2012 for a week to mark the first anniversary of the most devastating Christchurch earthquake. Each of the 185 white-painted chairs represents a person killed by the earthquake. There are desk chairs, bar stools, lawn chairs, stuffed lounge chairs, folding chairs, rocking chairs, children’s chairs, director’s canvas chairs, infant car seats, infant highchairs, and wheelchairs. The sign encourages people to sit quietly in a chair to which they are drawn. “The installation is temporary—as is life,” the artist states.

DSC01214Love this one! “Weaveorama” is an interactive street art installation by textile artist Hannah Hutchinson. Part of the Gap Filler project in Christchurch, it is a giant public loom with a sign that says “join with us in creating a new city fabric” and encouraging people to add their found or recycled objects. I especially loved the addition of the pink satin bra. Finding a place for appropriate humor and whimsy is important for individual and community resilience.

Be Very Afraid

IMG_3124Or be at least a little bit afraid: not so afraid that you become paralyzed with fear and not so little afraid that you don’t do practical things to better prepare yourself (and your family) in case of disaster/emergency. Aim for being ‘just right’ afraid.

Public health messaging about ‘appropriate’ disaster preparedness has been a topic of fascination for me since teaching my community health course in New Zealand this past winter. (See my previous ‘New Zealand Postcards’ blog series, especially ‘Disaster Tourism; All Right?’ and ‘Disaster Preparedness: Lions and Tigers and Zombies and Earthquakes, Oh My!’) When I returned to Seattle in April I had resolved to practice what I preached in this regard and make a disaster preparedness kit for our home. Seven months later I’ve finally put one together.

This cute little red ‘lunchbox’ disaster/emergency preparedness pack in the photo is one that got delivered to my university office this past week. A one-person 72-hour survival kit. Inside it has pouches of water, high-energy food bars, a mini first aid kit, a whistle, a flashlight/extra batteries, hand sanitizer, an emergency survival blanket, maxi pads, hand warmers, and a poncho (this is Seattle after all and we like our rain gear). The CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response website and FEMA’s ‘Ready’ website  recommend having smaller grab-and-go personal disaster preparedness kits like this one at work/school, in your car, or other places where you spend a lot of time. They recommend having a larger ‘family-sized’ disaster preparedness kit at home and they provide lists of recommended items for the kits. Some of the recommended items on the two lists are the same (like water and food), but many of the items on the lists differ. An interesting but largely unsurprising fact. I prefer the CDC list. The American Red Cross survival kit list on their website seems to follow the CDC list and both seem to have taken health literacy factors into account.

Through the process of researching and putting together a household disaster/emergency preparedness kit, I’ve realized the health and safety advantages of having camping and hiking as hobbies. Swiss Army knife. Check. Tent. Check. Portable water filtration kit plus iodine water purification tablets. Check. Sleeping bags. Check. Portable first aid kit with hand sanitizer. Check. Toilet paper and small plastic shovel for digging a latrine. Check. Rain poncho. Check. Hand-cranked and solar-powered flashlight and NOAA weather radio. Check.  All stored in one easily-accessible place at home. Check. The only items I needed to add to my preexisting camping supplies were cans of food and water jugs. I now having a home disaster preparedness kit. In Seattle, if you could chose an ideal place to be when disaster strikes, I think it would be inside REI’s flagship store downtown.

I’ve realized that even basic home disaster/emergency preparedness is not an equal opportunity endeavor–it is mainly available to people with the resources to: 1) research and figure out what a disaster kit should include, 2) purchase the items (or purchase a ready-made kit), and 3) have a home in which to store the disaster/emergency preparedness kit.

 

 

New Zealand Postcards/ Disaster Preparedness: Lions and Tigers and Zombies and Earthquakes, Oh My!

DSC01509There are many things to worry about in this world. For instance, right now in my hometown of Seattle, the Alaskan Way Viaduct is sagging a bit due to the large-scale drilling going on in the downtown area. The Alaskan Way Viaduct is built on ‘reclaimed land’ from Puget Sound that would most likely turn to liquefaction in our next earthquake (similar to what happened in the Christchurch earthquakes). But OK—state officials say it’s nothing to worry about.

As I write this post I am sitting on a ‘somewhat active’ series of volcanoes, on land that was covered in a hot mud eruption only ten years ago. Rotorua, on the North Island of New Zealand is a hot mess. The youth hostel we are staying in has fire action directions in each bedroom, but no information about what to do in case of an earthquake–or a volcanic eruption.

Disaster preparedness and effective disaster messaging are important components of public health. In the U.S., disaster preparedness communications specialists came up with the  Zombie Disaster Preparedness Campaign. Supposedly this campaign started out as a joke by a CDC communications specialist frustrated over the lack of public interest in their traditional disaster preparation information. But then the Zombie Campaign became so effective they’ve continued to use and expand upon it. This shows that with the ‘Chicken Little’ dire warnings of impending doom, a little levity can help.

Last week in Wellington, we talked with Sara McBride, a PhD candidate at Massey University at the Joint Center for Disaster Research. (The photo here is of the inside of their Emergency Operations Center where they coordinate disaster response for the university and conduct trainings). Her area of expertise is as a risk communicator, work which she was doing in Christchurch before the earthquakes. She told us that disaster communication is tricky because too much emphasis on doom and gloom results in people becoming fatalistic. Ms. McBride is currently doing research and work on earthquake/disaster preparedness and messaging in Washington State (where she grew up). As Professor Timothy Melbourne writes in his guest editorial in today’s Seattle Times, the Seattle area is at high risk for major earthquakes and tsunamis on the scale of those in Japan three years ago (“What Our Region Has Not Learned from the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, 2-25-14). He points out that Washington State needs an honest and transparent assessment of building safety (and other structures such as our dams and bridges). This is an excellent ‘health in all policies’ topic for nurses to get involved with.

New Zealand Postcards: Disaster Tourism; All Right?

DSC00965DSC01014DSC00994DSC00949Clearly I was an Ugly American Tourist/Professor stumbling (unprepared) into the Red Zone of Christchurch yesterday. After all, the New York Times lists Christchurch as #2 in its “52 Places to Go in 2014.” The article talks about things like seeing the “re-birth of a quake-ravaged city,” and shows a photograph of the inside of a transitional church made of cardboard tubes. What a good place to go on a Sunday afternoon stroll with a bunch of students, right?

I thought I had done my homework. I knew we would likely encounter some signs of the destructive earthquakes that hit Christchurch and surrounding areas in September 2010 and again in February 2011 (killing 185 people, including many international students.) But I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of the still-raw destruction in the downtown core. It’s been almost three years and entire blocks of quaked-out buildings are propped up with shipping containers or just left in charred ruins.

Near the core of the central business district is this temporary memorial of ‘ghost chairs’ sitting out in a now-open field. The chairs are individualized to the people who died, so there are wheelchairs, armchairs, deck chairs, student desk chairs, toddler chairs, and infant seats. The plaque that describes the memorial encourages people to sit in a chair that speaks to them in some way and just spend a quite moment in reflection. This memorial reminded me of the shoe display room at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. It is truly haunting.

The second to the top photo I’ve included here is of a former Starbucks store near the downtown ReStart shipping container mall that has sprouted up since the quake. If you look at the window of Starbucks it has “OK, TFI Clear 26/2,” meaning it was checked and marked as not having bodies to remove four days after the earthquake. How long does it take to clean up a city after a major disaster? More than three years? That is what I thought–and still think–although I recognize I really know very little about the politics and psyche of this country I am visiting.

There are ‘Up With People/We Will Overcome’ signs posted everywhere amidst all the rubble. My favorites were on the outside of a temporary Christchurch Art Gallery space (in modular shipping container-like structures), and the mental health/PTSD prevention banners tied to chain-link fences, like the one in the first photo here. The banners are part of the All Right Wellbeing Campaign, Healthy Christchurch, a social media campaign supporting community mental health and wellbeing.

But I keep asking myself, “Why are we here?” Are we inadvertently participating in trauma tourism–also called disaster tourism, dark tourism, thanatourism? In downtown Christchurch they even have those very British double-Decker sightseeing buses for “Red Zone Tours.” At least we didn’t pay to ride on one of those, but is it even worse to have walked around taking photos of destruction, peering into windows of what people left behind when they fled?