Re-Examining the Geography of New Orleans Post-Spill

In the wake of the BP oil spill, geographer Richard Campanella of Tulane University takes a look at the geography of New Orleans and the Gulf region, and suggests that the disaster will fuel a renewed discussion of the area's uniqueness.

1 minute read

September 12, 2010, 9:00 AM PDT

By Nate Berg

The city's diverse history has made it one of the more interesting cities in America, which Campanella suggests is a product of it being so different from other areas. But the uniqueness of New Orleans, its delta and the Gulf region are largely a result of the area's geography, a fact that should be even more clear after the recent oil spill, according to Campanella.

"While the case for cultural differentiation was subject to scholarly challenge, proof of the region's physical uniqueness had only strengthened in the three hundred years since Iberville ambled amid the brambles. Why? Because anthropogenic interventions had converted the once-vibrant Mississippi Delta into the most troubled environmental region on the continent. Levees erected since colonial times, and greatly fortified in the past century, had strait-jacketed the land-creating Mississippi River and turned it into a garden hose, spewing precious sediment and freshwater uselessly onto the Continental Shelf rather than on the wetlands. Manmade canals - for navigation, drainage and petroleum extraction - scored those wetlands and exacerbated their erosion while allowing salt water to intrude and kill inland freshwater swamps. Municipal drainage allowed dried-out soils in greater New Orleans to sink five to ten feet below sea level, while levees around the city interrupted tidal cycles and further degraded natural systems."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 in Places

Chicago Intercity Rail

Amtrak Ramping Up Infrastructure Projects

Thanks to federal funding from the 2021 infrastructure act, the agency plans to triple its investment in infrastructure improvements and new routes in the next two years.

September 25, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

Google maps street view of San Francisco alleyway.

Ending Downtown San Francisco’s ‘Doom Loop’

A new public space project offers an ambitious vision—so why is the city implementing it at such a small scale?

September 26, 2023 - Fast Company

Google street view of yellow "End Freeway 1/4 mile" sign on 90 freeway in Los Angeles, California.

Proposal Would Transform L.A.’s ‘Freeway to Nowhere’ Into Park, Housing

A never-completed freeway segment could see new life as a mixed-use development with housing, commercial space, and one of the county’s largest parks.

September 26, 2023 - Los Angeles Times

View of downtown Seattle with Space Needle and mountains in background

Seattle Passes Downtown Zoning Reforms

The changes, part of the mayor’s Downtown Activation Plan, make way for more residential development in the city’s downtown core.

36 minutes ago - The Urbanist

Close-up of 'bike lane' road sign with bike logo

Report: U.S. Biking Boom Slows

The pandemic bike boom is petering out, but more Americans are biking than ever before, signaling a need for cities to keep improving bike infrastructure and make roads safer for cyclists.

1 hour ago - Streetsblog USA

Newly constructed houses in Tempe, Arizona.

Tempe Historic Preservation Proposal Could Make it Harder to Build New Homes

Proposed changes to the city’s preservation ordinance would make two-thirds of the city’s housing stock eligible for preservation.

2 hours ago - The State Press