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Contesting the coast: Ecosystems as infrastructure in the Mississippi River Delta
Stockholm Univ, Stockholm Resilience Ctr, SE-10691 Stockholm, Sweden.;Tulane Univ, Water Inst, 6823 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70118 USA..
Philosophy and History, KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, History of Science, Technology and Environment. Univ Manchester, Sch Environm Educ & Dev, Dept Geog, Manchester M13 9PL, Lancs, England.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6415-4821
2019 (English)In: Progress in Planning, ISSN 0305-9006, E-ISSN 1873-4510, Vol. 129, p. 1-30Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

We develop an analytical repertoire for understanding historical interrelationships between water infrastructure, regional environmental politics, and large-scale coastal ecosystems. In doing so, we scrutinize how notions of urban resilience, climate adaptation, and ecosystem-based infrastructure are influencing contemporary planning practice. Our account from New Orleans and the Mississippi River Delta traces several large-scale hydrological engineering projects with origins in the early 20th century, which aimed to restructure the landscape for more effective maritime transportation, flood protection, and urban drainage. The account then turns to a discussion of a massive and ongoing planning project, which aims to restore the historical dynamics of the Mississippi River Delta, diverting the river into nearby coastal wetlands to provide storm protection for vulnerable communities, most especially New Orleans. Our analysis shows how the development of water infrastructure systems in the region produced cleavages in the region's body politic and eco-hydrology, generating disputes that threaten to slow or obstruct the plan's implementation. The study shows how the forms and discourses of political contention in the present are deeply informed by past decisions regarding the placement, operation, and maintenance of water infrastructures in the region. The conflicts that emerge from these cleavages comprise the primary obstacle facing ecosystem-based strategies aimed at securing New Orleans and other major settlements in the region from storm surges. This raises fundamental challenges for planning practice, which are explored here through a discussion of situational dissensus, conflicting rationalities, and pathways for democratic institutional innovation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
PERGAMON-ELSEVIER SCIENCE LTD , 2019. Vol. 129, p. 1-30
Keywords [en]
New Orleans, Deltaic landscapes, Environmental politics, Urban ecology, Expertise
National Category
Environmental Management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-251337DOI: 10.1016/j.progress.2017.10.003ISI: 000464482700001Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85035814320OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-251337DiVA, id: diva2:1317590
Note

QC 20190523

Available from: 2019-05-23 Created: 2019-05-23 Last updated: 2019-05-23Bibliographically approved

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Ernstson, Henrik

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