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Some Hopeful Efforts on the Gulf Coast, Post-Katrina
Emily Gertz, 29 Aug 07

Nothing can or should diminish the fact that two years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is far from made whole. Or that the rebuilding and repair and business renewal that have been accomplished have not been socially equitable, benefitting wealthier neighborhoods but not poorer.

About the only good thing one can say about this situation is that it's left a lot of opportunities open to restore New Orleans, and the rest of the Gulf Coast, using values like ground-up community involvement, locally appropriate solutions, economic justice, and ecological sustainability.

Here are some inspiring ideas and projects already at work in the region that have come to my attention. What else is out there? Tell us via the Worldchanging suggestion form.

  • Over at Popular Science, engineer Robert Bea explores 3 Ways to Re-engineer the Gulf and Stop Katrina 2.0. Bea is "the engineer who wrote the definitive report on the failure of New Orleans’ levee system."
  • When the Saints is an online petition in support of Senator Chris Dodd's (D-Connecticut) Gulf Coast Recovery Bill of 2007. I cannot recommend or not recommend Sen. Dodd's plan in particular (having not read it) -- but here's this neat resource, Congresspedia, hosted on, where we can put our collective intelligence to parsing the legislation.
  • Thanks to the involvement of celebrity actor Brad Pitt, Global Green got a burst of attention recently for The Holy Cross Project to build "the first sustainable low-income housing community in New Orleans’s ravaged Ninth Ward."
  • Worldchanger David Zaks pointed me at work his colleagues from the University of Wisconsin - Madison water resources management program are doing in New Orleans to restore Bayou Bienvenue, a former cypress swamp in the Lower Ninth Ward's Holy Cross Neighborhood, to mitigate future storm surges and provide other environmental benefits, at the invitation of the neighborhood association. This summer UW-Madison students "gathered data on the history of the bayou, its current ecological conditions, and community attitudes about its proposed restoration," according to this univeristy press release. "They will analyze the data this fall and present their findings to the neighborhood association by the end of the year."
  • Public radio's Marketplace is offering some excellent reporting from New Orleans, including one about the Belles of Bayou Road, four small businesswomen who have pooled resources in a decimated New Orleans neighborhood to help bring it back. The story also points us at Idea Village, a group that offers strategic and other support to innovative entrepreneurs in the Big Easy. Most of the rebuilding aid that's gone to New Orleans has been for housing; Idea Village's perspective is that the re-establishment of the small business community will drive the resurgence of the city.
  • Worldchanger Cameron Sinclair's group, Architecture for Humanity, has run a pilot effort, The Biloxi Model Home Program, to bring housing back to the low-income neighborhood of East Biloxi, Mississippi -- which lost about 3,500 homes in a community of 12,000 residents. As reported recently by Allison Arieff in The New York Times,

    "Everyone was trying to serve the residents with just one piece of the puzzle,'' said Sherry-Lea Bloodworth, the Gulf Coast development director of Architecture for Humanity. "If you send someone out the door with a loan but nothing else, they are completely lost."

    So the group approached things differently, setting up a partnership with the East Biloxi Coordination, Relief and Redevelopment Agency, with which it established a loan fund that the agency will administer over the next 10 years.

    The agency, meanwhile, established a community board to identify the neediest families and determine which of them would qualify for the Biloxi home program. Architecture for Humanity, after sending representatives out to canvass door to door and surveyors out to document every property in eastern Biloxi, took the lead in coordinating design efforts.
  • ...In the spring of 2006, Architecture for Humanity invited 26 architects, chosen on the basis of geographical proximity and reputation, to design houses that were affordable and could conform to a labyrinthine set of structural requirements. The architects were to be given a stipend for expenses but provide their design services for free. Thirteen responded, and last August they presented their designs to the seven families [chosen for the pilot program] and the town of Biloxi at an Architecture for Humanity-sponsored house fair held downtown in a Salvation Army Quonset hut. Each family was allowed to choose its architect (even if another family had chosen the same one), a highly unusual form of client empowerment in this kind of housing competition.

  • As this story on Disaster News Network reports, the efforts of millions of volunteers have have played a crucial part in the Gulf Coast's recovery.

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three wor solution for NEW ORLEANS:
clean fill needed
1. move the river- unblock the achafalya, let old man riover roll on down to new deepwater port
2.never again send "FEMA TRAILERS" int a flood zone, only fema housboats, chartered cruise ships, or old amphibious transports(from the reserve fleet
3. 50000 truckloads a day of sand gravel and silt go past N.O. every day, do what they did in Galveston 100+yearsago- tellthe ciizens to R A I S E therehouses by time X, or we will let others R A Z E them for the timber, then start the pumps. fill to 10-15 feet above sea level (the people keep title to the land, its just 30 feet closer to heaven,
4. no more gov't levees around swamps for real estate speculation- you want protection for your newsubdivision- you pay for it.

Posted by: clark of Wayzata on 3 Sep 07



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