The overwhelming human and financial impacts of Hurricane Katrina are powerful evidence that political and economic decisions made in the United States and other countries have failed to account for our dependence on a healthy resource base, according to an assessment released today by the Worldwatch Institute.

Alteration of the Mississippi River and the destruction of wetlands at its mouth have left the area around New Orleans abnormally vulnerable to the forces of nature. According to many scientists, the early results of global warming—90 degree Fahrenheit water temperatures in the Gulf and rising sea levels—may have exacerbated the destructive power of Katrina.

"The catastrophe now unfolding along the U.S. Gulf Coast is a wake-up call for decision makers around the globe," says Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin. "If the world continues on its current course—massively altering the natural world and further increasing fossil fuel consumption—future generations may face a chain of disasters that make Katrina-scale catastrophes a common feature of life in the 21st century."