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Resilience and Opportunity: Lessons from the U.S. Gulf Coast after Katrina and Rita

August 19, 2011


resilience and opp

Four Tulane University scholars are contributing authors of the recently published book, Resilience and Opportunity: Lessons from the U.S. Gulf Coast after Katrina and Rita.    

Since the 2005 storms that devastated the U.S. Gulf region, the world has witnessed new catastrophic events, which include earthquakes, floods, a tsunami, and—closer to home—tornados. Leaders worldwide continue to turn to the Gulf Coast in search of lessons learned. A new book, Resilience and Opportunity: Lessons from the U.S. Gulf Coast after Katrina and Rita, from Brookings Institution Press presents the complex lessons of the 2005 storms and their aftermath.

Featuring four scholars from Tulane University, including two from the school of law, Resilience and Opportunity offers the first comprehensive look at how the Gulf Coast communities are reemerging from the disasters with resilience and determination. It documents the unprecedented civic revival that has breathed energy and accountability into reforms and has the potential to make the region more resilient to future catastrophes. It also assesses the state of current reforms in education and land use planning, as well as less-publicized reforms such as in evacuation planning and criminal justice.

“Indeed if there is one common theme in humankind’s reaction to great disasters it is the tendency to try to become ignorant of their lessons as quickly as possible,” says contributing author Mark Davis. 1 “We can muddle along, content to be victims of change, or we can use the best of our abilities – our science, our engineering, our laws, arts, ethics, and our policies – to be purposeful managers or stewards of change. There is scant middle ground.”

Davis, who is behind the book’s twelfth chapter, “Coastal Restoration and Protection and the Future of New Orleans,” is a Senior Research Fellow at Tulane Law School, where he serves as director of the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy. Authors also stemming from Tulane include Professor Karen DeSalvo of the Tulane School of Medicine (“Delivering High-Quality, Accessible Health Care: The Rise of Community Centers”), David Marcello of The Public Law Center at Tulane Law School (“Systemic Ethics Reform in Katrina’s Aftermath”), and Michael Schwam-Baird of the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives at Tulane University (“School by School: The Transformation of New Orleans Public Education”).

On August 29, Davis and DeSalvo will take part in a forum to introduce the book and discuss its implications. Hosted by the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center and University of New Orleans, the forum will recognize those achievements perhaps overlooked, examine where the city is today, and honestly assess the business undone and what New Orleanians, its leaders, and many partners must do to make greater New Orleans a model of growth and resilience. Copies of the book will be available on site for purchase at a discount. To learn more,
  click here .

“New Orleans is a portent of the challenges that face many places,” says Davis. “The central lesson is that the tradeoffs we make matter and there is hell to pay when we get it wrong. It is a lesson well taught. Whether it is a lesson well learned remains to be seen.”

1 To What End: Resilience, Tradeoffs, and the Lessons of Katrina, Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education, Universities Council on Water Resources, Issue 141, March 2009.


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