He sees the possibility of a future New Orleans that combines elements of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Scenarios TechnoGarden and Global Orchestration, by using technological innovation to ‘green’ the city, ecological engineering to produce a safe livable city , and poverty alleviation to produce a fair and open city. He envisons how these things can combine to noursh a vibrant distinctive creative city.
AtKisson writes based upon his experience with a regional vitalization process in New Orleans:
What follows are very preliminary thoughts on principles for eventually creating a “New New Orleans,” one that is more environmentally secure, more economically successful, and more socially healthy and equitable, while retaining the culture that made it world famous. As the news reports continue to create a picture of the city’s horrible descent into hell, such an exercise feels a bit foolhardy; but there is so much dreaming to be done, to restore this great and wondrous city, that the dreaming must begin now.
Beginning in 2001, my firm was engaged by a consortium of regional leaders in New Orleans to help them design and launch an ambitious regional initiative, called Top 10 by 2010. … this extraordinary group worked together for a year and a half to craft a new foundation for regional progress. It was just in the process of re-forming and assessing progress so far when Katrina struck.
AtKisson writes that today New Orleans is functionally destroyed, and therefore now is the time to start thinking of its future. Based on his sustainability work and the regional planning process he draws out five draft principles for rebuilding a Bright, Green, Safe New Orleans:
1. Work with nature, and technology, to protect the city from future worst-case scenarios
…Whether or not global warming played a role in this catastrophe, it is absolutely the case that a new New Orleans must be built for much greater resilience in the face of a changing climate.
The city was always one of the world’s most vulnerable; that is what makes rebuilding it such an extraordinary opportunity for learning. If we can make New Orleans a secure place for the 21st century, we can make every coastal city secure.
There is no one in the world smarter at managing land and water than the water engineers of the Netherlands. They have a thousand years of cumulative experience.
But pumps, levees, and high-tech sea walls are just the beginning. The other major partner for rebuilding a secure city must be Nature itself.
The science of living more sustainably on the Mississippi Delta is actually quite well developed. The mechanisms that were causing erosion of wetlands and coastal islands are understood, and can be reversed. The task involves rethinking the management of the entire river system. It involves restoring wetlands, the “land” part of which were being erased by lack of sedimentation from above, and getting sucked down under the water level from below, by subsidence caused by oil removal. It involves letting the river rebuild the intricate network of coastal islands and shoals that buffer the region from storm surges. It’s about learning to work with the natural features of Southeastern Lousiana, rather than continuously fighting a pitched battle against them, or attempting to bend them to the will of vested economic interests.
A New New Orleans will likely depend on a combination of very large, very high-tech storm and flood protection systems (such as the Dutch and the British have recently built in the North Sea, to protect their polders and London respectively), and much more “natural” land and river management. Yes, this will change the face of the region, economically and geographically. But Katrina has already made that inevitable.
2. Use rebuilding to lift the poor to safer economic and social ground
…. Katrina was not alone in her killing; her accomplice was terrible poverty.
While simple morality should make this principle clear and sufficiently compelling, it also behooves the nation to rebuild the city in a way that uplifts even its poorest residents, for simple security reasons. The alternative is chaos, and the scenes of looting, shooting, armored vehicles and violence that followed eerily in the hurricane’s wake are but a foreshadowing of what New Orleans could become, semi-permanently, if a truly visionary and socially just rebuilding does not occur.
The poor of New Orleans have suffered the worst of the worst, starting well before Katrina; the New New Orleans must promise them a much better life.
3. Create an economy of creativity
…New Orleans cannot hope to revive as simply “a place to do business.” It must again become something special, something truly wonderful; and that means embracing creativity in all its forms, with a passionate ferocity. It means envisioning the city as a whole as a work of art — one that cannot be restored exactly as it was, but that can be recreated.
…”an economy of creativity” means embracing creativity in general as the only viable strategy for the city’s long-term economic vitality. New Orleans has — or rather, had, and must now reassemble — most of the ingredients that tend to attract high-tech companies, including that ineffable quality of “character”.
The New New Orleans must truly be new.
4. Become a clean, green showcase
…The rebuilding process offers a once-in-lifetime opportunity to clean up the city, in every way imaginable.
But it would be nothing short of criminal to rebuild the city of New Orleans and not aspire to run the place on renewable energy. The sun shines mercilessly there; solar panels need big markets to push their development curve up and prices down; and so New Orleans (not to mention its sister cities like Biloxi or Mobile, also terribly affected by this storm) could provide a tremendous opportunity to spur the nation’s energy independence.
New Orleans could become a living laboratory for solar roofs, mini hydro generators, architecture that creates cool buildings without air conditioning, electric and fuel cell vehicles … the whole list of green dreams for technically sustainable world.
5. Dare to dream
These are days of despair and sorrow for the great City of New Orleans. Those days will not end soon. And as anyone who has weathered the death of loved ones or the loss of a home knows, there is no way out of grief except through it.
It takes courage to dream in the face of catastrophe. And courage often comes from being encouraged, with the thoughts, wishes, hopes, words, and yes, the dreams of others. We can all contribute to the recreation of New Orleans. We can all dream for her, and help her residents to dream. They have now lived through a nightmare — one that many feared would one day become reality, and has. We can all now help her to dream a beautiful dream of recovery, restoration, and renewal, and to make that dream become real