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After a Dozen Hurricanes and 40 Years, Familiar Dangers With Higher Stakes

Years ago, banks and other businesses gave customers paper hurricane maps so that they could plot the latitude and longitude of developing storms. Now nearly everyone is glued to their phones and computers, watching projected storm tracks play out in real time.Still, many things have remained the same: Hurricanes often confound the forecasters. They don’t totally surprise anymore, but they drift past expected targets and, worst of all, they sometimes quickly become much stronger than expected. […]

New Orleans Looks to Houston, and Sees Itself

PhotoHomes under water near the 17th Street Canal after the collapse of its levee in 2005.Credit Vincent Laforet/The New York TimesNEW ORLEANS — Several of Nance Harding’s clients were acting oddly last week. Ms. Harding, a psychotherapist in New Orleans, noticed that some were quick to cry, others were irritable and easily startled; some were drinking more heavily than usual.These were clients who had gone through Hurricane Katrina 12 years ago, and she was picking up the signals of a localized form of post-traumatic stress syndrome — or, as she calls it, “Katrina brain.”It is a condition, she said, that ramps up each June with the return of hurricane season and spikes with the anniversary of Katrina on Aug […]

In a weird twist, hurricanes help keep deltas above water.

As sea level rises, tropical storms will be a bigger problem for coastal cities — but the same storms could potentially deliver sand, silt, and clay to bolster sagging shorelines.

New Orleans, Shanghai, Cairo, Dhaka, and Karachi all sit on deltas, where a major river fans into smaller tributaries and wetlands to meet the sea. When big rainstorms wash lots of dirt downstream, it can replace, and even add to, eroding deltas. A third of the sediment flowing into Southeast Asia’s Mekong Delta, for example, is runoff from big tropical storms, according to a new study this week in Nature.

“We’ve all seen images of storm surges battering New Orleans or up the East Coast,” says geologist Steven Darby of the University of Southampton, who led the Mekong study. “But equally,” he says, “those surges and flooding … can have a constructive effect.

Whether the influx of sediment can balance out losses from erosion and sea-level rise remains to be seen. As storms get bigger and make landfall in new places, each delta will react differently — and for some coastal cities, it’s possible that the storms that plague them will also play a role in keeping them afloat.


Climate activists arrested while protesting offshore drilling

Climate activists arrested while protesting offshore drilling

By on Aug 24, 2016Share

Four activists were arrested Tuesday in Louisiana for refusing to leave the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management office, the agency responsible for selling offshore drilling rights.

The activists were part of a group petitioning to end all new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, including the auction of 23.5 million acres in federal waters off the coast of Texas scheduled this week in the New Orleans Superdome. For the first time, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will close the auction to to the public and stream it live online to prevent disruption from protestors.

The activists delivered a petition with 184,000 signatures, according to the Associated Press, and demanded to meet with President Obama, who was in Baton Rouge touring damage from the worst disaster in the U.S. since Hurricane Sandy.

“In the midst of a climate-fueled disaster, which will most gravely impact those already marginalized in our society, moving forward with this auction is a terrible idea,” wrote the activist group Bold Louisiana in a statement. “Selling fossil fuels at the New Orleans Superdome — the site of one of the most visible and tragic instances of climate injustice in recent memory — is nothing short of insulting.”

Election Guide ? 2016Making America Green AgainOur experts weigh in on the real issues at stake in this election

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A Year in the Life of New Orleans’ Chief Resilience Officer

The position of Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) in Urban America has only been in existence for little more than a year, but already there are at least 14 CROs in the United States thanks to an ongoing grant from the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Program. And what is a CRO, exactly? He or she is a top-level advisor that reports directly to the city mayor, and is tasked with establishing a compelling resilience vision for his or her city, working across departments and with the local community to maximize innovation and minimize the impact of unforeseen events on anything involving city operations, from budgets to buildings. We wanted to speak to one of the first CROs in the country – Jeff Hebert of New Orleans – to find out what his first year in office was like. On January 24, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded New Orleans $141.2 million from the National Disaster Resilience Competition. The award is the second largest among the 13 total awardees, making nearly $1 billion available to states and counties/parishes to fix damage from presidentially declared disasters in 2011, 2012, or 2013. A graduate of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning, Hebert has been on the job since November 2014. Here’s our edited discussion: Q: As one of the first – if not THE first – CROs in the country, you have a unique vantage point. During the first year, what were your major challenges? What did you learn that other CROs might benefit from across the country? A: We have two big accomplishments. The first was the development of New Orleans’ first resilience strategy and to have it done in time for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Its main goal was to move New Orleans from thinking of recovery to thinking through the lens of resilience, which means looking forward. We were also developing our proposal for the National Resilience Disaster competition as soon as we got the strategy done. Then just last Thursday we were announced as one of the recipients of National Disaster Resilience Competition – the second largest award in the country. Those were two key wins that were big down payments on the future of the city. Q: What was so hard about putting together the resilience strategy? A: The strategy is not a regular plan; it’s much more far reaching. It’s really a holistic view of the shocks and stresses that the city will encounter in the future as well as a holistic list of tasks to try to work within that structure. A big challenge was outlining guiding principles and collaborative actions that could be applied across city government. This strategy goes beyond traditional public sector silos, serving as a call to action on generational issues. Q; Can it be a template for other city governments to use? A: Yes. New Orleans was the first city to finish using this approach. Norfolk, Virginia was the second. We designed the strategy to be transferrable to other places – such as Porto Alegre in Brazil, Melbourne, Australia and San Francisco – and as a template to other cities around the world. Q: What other challenges have you faced in your first year? A: The CRO position is a new position. It has a cross departmental mandate. The challenge is how to deliver value to other departments so that they can engage in the process. In city government, bureaucracies operate in silos and the whole purpose of a CRO is to disrupt those silos. There’s an inherent tension inside of municipal bureaucracies. I and some of my colleagues are in the position of having worked in city governments for a while but some other colleagues – not so much. Your portfolio is how to connect things together and how to innovate new ideas. A lot of our work will be green infrastructure-based but we have a huge need for jobs for underemployed people – how do we connect the jobs to the people…how do we focus those workforce development programs on really innovative green infrastructure work. That kind of work is challenging – which is not me sitting in my office doing my own thing – it’s sitting with people in economic development, public works and the sewage and water board. It’s a process that takes a lot of coordination. Q: How do you prove your worth? A: It’s the ability to work together to prepare for what’s coming in the future, by highlighting areas of weakness or gaps that we can fill. For example, we’ve been focusing a lot on disaster recovery and rebuilding the city after Katrina. What we haven’t been focusing a lot on is our carbon footprint and our greenhouse gas emissions. The city’s come back gangbusters from Katrina, but we haven’t attacked the root cause of climate change – what we’re putting into the atmosphere – even though we are one of the most vulnerable cities in the world to the effects of climate change. My job is to find a solution. With our NDRC grant, I would hope someone would think that we brought some value – particularly monetary value – because that’s what a lot of people are judged by. Just rainfall for us can be an issue, which is why we’ve focused so much on storm water management as a large part of our resilient strategy. Q: How helpful has the 100 Resilient Cities been to this effort? A: It’s been transformative for us in New Orleans in terms of moving the focus from just the past to how do we make the city more resilient in the future. It’s pushing us to think about the future: if this is where we want to be, then how do you back up to today. That’s not something we were doing. How do we rebuild after Katrina isn’t our only problem – such as how we build our levees stronger and our houses better – it’s also about sea level rise calculation that will affect New Orleans, Miami, Norfolk, New York and Boston. We have to have a different eye to the future. The support we’ve gotten – particularly on the technical assistance side – has been tremendous. Q: How do imagine that design and architects can address some of the challenges we’ve talked about? A: I’m a designer myself; the way the design profession has an impact on this kind of work is that we’re trained as design thinkers, and design thinking is a very multi-disciplinary kind of process, in a way that is foreign to us. I have a different approach to my work because I am used to working in teams and the iterative process of design. What you learn through design training is a process which is all about continuing to improve something – you start with one design, you continue to improve it. That’s not something that everyone is trained to do. Q: What is your biggest challenge for 2016? A: It will be large scale community education and outreach – around climate change for our region, and to complete our climate action plan for the city. We want to institutionalize this work in city government for the long haul. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

Documentary highlights the global evolution and impact of urban farming

From vacant lots to rooftops to front yards, urban agriculture is growing, and this documentary explores the challenges and successes of farming in the city. […]

New Orleans Tells the Story of Resilience After Disaster

Ten years ago last week, teachers in schools across New Orleans were prepping their classrooms in anticipation of the first day of school. The New Orleans Saints faced off against the Atlantic Seahawks in their first pre-season matchup at the Superdome. The Prince Hall Shriners, the fraternal and charitable group best known for buzzing around in little cars during Mardi Gras, donned their clown garb and makeup at their annual convention. It was business as usual for the city, a city that in more ways than not, was like any other global city at the time: a web of complex systems and interrelated challenges built up over decades. Within days, that world had changed. Not just for the city of New Orleans, but for cities everywhere. Today, crisis has become the new normal for cities, due to the volatile mix of 21st century trends of globalization, urbanization, and climate change. And, no, cities can’t hide from the reality that what happened in New Orleans could happen to them. It might be a flood or a storm. Or a wild fire, a tornado, or a protest turned violent. In this era marked by disruption, we must reimagine our cities, plan differently, and make choices in a more integrated way in order to build resilience to these threats. Resilience is the capacity of cities and the physical, social, and economic systems within them to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience. Resilience is just as much about planning and preparing as it is responding and reacting. No city knows this better than New Orleans. But the story of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina wasn’t just about a failure of the levee system. It was also the other problems the storm floated to the surface: a lack of jobs, racial divisions, poor leadership, poor public education—the same fault lines that have caused trembling in places like Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., over the last several months. Today, thousands are flocking to a renewed New Orleans. Why? Because the city is rebuilding in a more resilient and more inclusive, integrated way—especially for communities historically denied opportunity. In the last several years, New Orleans has transformed its public education system, diversified its economy and reimagined its neighborhoods, with transformative results—yielding what we call resilience dividends, those benefits which pay off in the good times, while reducing vulnerabilities in bad times. A city once brought to its knees, is rising again, stronger than before. New Orleans still has a lot of work to do, including solving for its high unemployment among African American men—about 52%— and bringing down still-high crime rates. But the resilience-building process they have undertaken significantly increases the likelihood of success. It’s not only the city of New Orleans that has transformed over the last decade. We are seeing a broader shift in this country’s overall approach to disasters, from one of reaction and response to one of planning and preparation. For example, President Obama’s National Disaster Resilience Competition is awarding $1 billion to communities that have been impacted by disasters in recent years to help them better prepare for the future. The Rockefeller Foundation is providing training and expertise to help these communities submit strong proposals that incorporate resilience planning. While federal agencies are promoting more resilient approaches, it is cities like New Orleans, and others of all sizes, that are leading on implementing these solutions. The City Council in the town of Moore, Oklahoma, the site of a deadly tornado in 2013, just approved the formation of a Resiliency Department to integrate disaster teams into every city agency to ensure all departments are working together to prepare for the next crisis. In Boston, Mayor Martin J. Walsh has committed to infusing resilience thinking into all aspects of city planning, with a focus on addressing socio-economic inequity, a lack of affordable housing, and unemployment. And 20 years after a heatwave killed 700 people in Chicago, Chicago and other U.S. cities are both mitigating heat emergencies by planting more trees and green roofs, and taking steps to build more community cohesion in poorer neighborhoods, which was proven to differentially save lives in the Chicago heatwave. These are just a few examples of how cities are preparing for—rather than reacting to—the social, economic, and physical threats of the 21st century world. But more must be done to ensure all cities can manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable, while creating jobs, economic development, and greater social cohesion with the same investments. How else will the United States be able to afford its ever-growing, post-disaster recovery bills? How else will cities like New Orleans, New York or Miami change their approach from fighting water to living with water? They can’t. Building resilience offers a way out. Judith Rodin is the president of The Rockefeller Foundation and the author of The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong. […]