Dealing with personal catastrophe like losing one’s home, or one’s living is much harder when an entire region is affected. Support is harder to find as others around you suffer the same consequences, and people may even turn against each other as they compete over scarce resources like food, shelter, or potential home buyers.

Disasters that affect entire regions also undermine the most important factor that affects one’s well-being: the perceived control over one’s life. The lack of control over the destruction of a hurricane or over the stream of thousands of oil barrels emitted hourly to the sea, is a source of worry even for people who are not directly affected by it, and it brings people down.

The Gulf area has suffered two major blows in the past few years: hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill.

On my jourbey from New York to San Diego I will be riding through New Orleans and the Gulf area, and I am looking forward to meeting the people who live by the coastline, and hearing their inspiring stories. My expectation is that in any human environment you will find individuals who fourish and I hope to run into a few if them on the road.

Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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