Resilience Workshops Kick Off in New Orleans

From Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Isaac, to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, New Orleans is no stranger to dealing with—and recovering from—catastrophe.

The Louisiana city is among the first 33 cities selected for the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge. Last month, leaders from local agencies and organizations joined 100 Resilient Cities—Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation, for a two-day resilience workshop, the first step in building a city that can emerge stronger from future disasters.

River flooding and storm surge are greater threats to New Orleans than hurricanes, as one may think. A Mississippi River flood could potentially affect 695,000 residents—that’s 73 percent of the New Orleans metropolitan area. Storm surge threatens 528,000 New Orleanians: The Big Easy ranks 13th globally for population exposed to storm surge.

The city also ranks seventh globally for economic production lost to storm surge. The economic consequence of disaster has been devastating—and could be worse in the future. If New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were to have another year like 2005, when both Katrina and Rita hit, the impact could be as much as $200 billion in 2030. Under extreme climate change, such a year could occur 2.5 times more often.

Putting cost-effective measures in place now is critical to future resilience. More than 33 percent of loss could be averted through preventive measures such as improved building codes and wetlands restoration.

That’s exactly what the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge aims to do, working together with city officials and residents alike. As the program’s Managing Director Michael Berkowitz said during the New Orleans workshop, “The more cohesive communities are, the more likely they’re able to survive a big shock or a stress. The better economic opportunity is out there, the better transportation is out there, the better people will be able to recover from the next shock.”