Deltaic Dilemmas Ecologies of Infrastructure in New Orleans

Detta är en avhandling från Stockholm : Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University

Sammanfattning: This thesis explores the relationship between water infrastructure, ecological change, and the politics of planning in New Orleans and the Mississippi River Delta, USA. Complex assemblages of water control infrastructure have been embedded in the delta over the last several centuries in an effort to keep its cities protected from floodwaters and maintain its waterways as standardized conduits for maritime transportation. This thesis investigates the historical development of these infrastructural interventions in the delta’s dynamics, and shows how the region’s eco-hydrology is ensnared in the politics and materiality of pipes, pumps, canals, locks, and levees. These historical entanglements complicate contemporary efforts to enact large-scale ecosystem restoration, even while the delta’s landscape is rapidly eroding into the sea. This historical approach is extended into the present through an examination of how waterway standards established at so-called chokepoints in the global maritime transportation system (the Panama Canal, for example) become embedded and contested in coastal landscapes and port cities worldwide. Turning towards urban ecology, the thesis examines socioecological responses to the flooding following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, with a special focus on how infrastructure failures, flooding intensity, and land abandonment are driving changing vegetation patterns in New Orleans over the past decade. The thesis contributes new conceptual language for grappling with the systemic relations bound up in water infrastructure, and develops one of the first studies describing urban ecosystem responses to prolonged flooding and post-disaster land management. This provides insights into the impending planning challenges facing New Orleans and coastal cities globally, where rising sea levels are bringing about renewed attention to how infrastructure is implicated in patterns of ecological change, hazard exposure, resilience, and social inequality.