The challenge of living with water is one shared by deltaic communities around the world. Nowhere is this more apparent than in post-Katrina New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region, where people live with a daily awareness of the threat, and opportunities, of water. New Orleans and the coastal parishes of Louisiana have survived the catastrophic consequences of Hurricane Katrina caused by both natural and human activities. But the costs have been enormous in terms of human life, the deep and continuing hardships for many survivors, and the loss of traditional ways of life richly grounded in a distinctive cultural milieu.
The 2010 Building Resilience Workshop addressed a broad range of issues, with discussions centered on sustainable approaches to rebuilding a culture of resilience in south Louisiana, spurred by impending climate change. BRW II, occurring March 17-19, 2011, will focus on the role of sustainability and resilience in mitigating catastrophic disaster. The emphasis will be on improving the region’s resilience by implementing strategies aimed at both avoiding harmful consequences and facilitating rapid recovery from extreme hurricane events. It will be a special focus of this year’s BRW II to capitalize on advances in research in the global arena. Participants from around the world will join us to share their work on innovative disaster mitigation approaches and transition methodologies. These approaches and methodologies address not just WHAT are the innovative infrastructural and non-structural solutions we can implement, but also HOW, in an election-driven political climate, we can design coordinated, long-term strategies to manage transition and facilitate implementation.
Workshop speakers and participants will address such questions as:
- What are the advantages of incorporating redundancy and adaptability into the design of resilient systems, and what are the obstacles to implementation?
- How can mitigation strategies that diffuse rather than concentrate risk reduce a community’s overall vulnerability and increase its resilience?
- How can we learn from international experience and innovations to develop solutions appropriate for the Gulf Coast context and culture? In what ways can new technologies be adapted to better serve social and cultural needs and traditional ways of life?
- What alternatives are there to the unsustainable policies and practices in widespread use today on which we have grown to depend for safety, such as evacuation by automobile, or the construction of ever larger barriers?
- What are some examples of multi-functional flood defense systems and how do they promote resilience? How can they increase the robustness of infrastructure?
- What can we learn from studying the resilient practices that were common in Louisiana’s history, and what can we do to rebuild Louisiana’s culture of resilience? How were past attitudes and approaches different? Could restoring some of the traditional, yet effective practices be useful to us today?
- What are the decisions we must make now to increase our future resilience, robustness, stability and adaptability? What strategies are needed to overcome the resistance to change that inhibits the implementation of new ideas?
- How can we support politicians with short terms in office to take a long-term perspective and encourage initiatives that may be unpopular in the short-term but will reduce our long-term vulnerability?
- What can the world learn from Louisiana’s successful recovery from catastrophic disaster? Can Louisiana lead by example and move into the vanguard of disaster resilience research and expertise? Can New Orleans capitalize on its experience and success, and brand itself at the forefront of the new industry of disaster resilience leadership training and management?
The Building Resilience Workshop II will bring together engineers, environmentalists, architects, city officials, planners, entrepreneurs, representatives of FEMA and the USACE, politicians, grass-roots community organizers, leaders in the reinsurance and oil & gas industries, academic researchers, students and other stakeholders, all in one room. Together we will learn about innovative strategies from around the world, discuss possible solutions appropriate for our unique local ways of life, and create the networks necessary to face the challenges ahead and support the changes we must make to build an authentic culture of sustainability and resilience in south Louisiana.
BRW II is made possible by sponsorship from the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Environmental Defense Fund. We welcome the participation of additional sponsoring partners.