Argument: New Orleans can be a model for all threatened coastal cities

Issue Report: Rebuilding New Orleans


Joel K. Bourne, Jr. “New Orleans: A Perilous Future”. National Geographic. August 2007 – Torbjörn Törnqvist, a Dutch coastal geologist now at Tulane, is a rare scientist who is bullish about the future, seeing New Orleans’ struggles with rising seas and stronger storms as a preview of what other coastal cities will soon face. He envisions a new urban landscape perfectly adapted to climate change, with restored wetlands, high-tech floodgates similar to those in the Netherlands, and a cleaner, greener, denser city. The entire pre-Katrina population, he contends, could live quite comfortably in the parts of the city that did not flood, transforming warehouses and blighted districts into new walkable, sustainable neighborhoods on the high ground.

“The situation here is a huge opportunity for the city and the nation,” says Törnqvist, who says he can’t imagine Holland turning its back on Amsterdam, or Italy giving up on Venice. “If we walk away, we’ll miss a fantastic opportunity to learn things that will be useful in Miami, or Boston, or New York in 50 years.” That kind of revival, however, would require a massive infusion of federal help, better engineering than ever before, and more social and urban planning than regulation-loathing Louisianans have ever stomached.