Green Infrastructure and Socioecological Contradiction in Louisiana

Authors: Joshua Lewis*, Tulane University
Topics: Planning Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Green infrastructure, environmental justice, urban ecology
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 6
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Planners, decision-makers, and scientists have pursued a wide variety of green infrastructure initiatives in Southeast Louisiana over the past two decades. These initiatives range in scale from empty lots in the urban core, to landscape-scale environmental engineering in the city’s coastal periphery. This paper analyzes two contexts where green infrastructure has been pursued and contested in the region: 1) urban landscapes subject to abandonment following flooding events and 2) Coastal estuaries targeted for large-scale ecological engineering. Neighborhoods subject to depopulation following Hurricane Katrina have been recast as important sources for resilience, due to their potential capacity to intercept and store stormwater. Similarly depopulated coastal areas have also been re-envisioned by state planners as important areas to enhance flood protection and buffer storm surge impacts. The pursuit of green infrastructure initiatives has been controversial, with disputes over knowledge, race, and risk emerging as projects move toward implementation. Concepts like ‘resilience’ and ‘adaptation’ are used by proponents of green infrastructure in the region to articulate a broad-based public constituency for green infrastructure initiatives. Residential lots converted to stormwater catchments may impact mosquito populations and other pest species. Land-building initiatives along the coast may impact fisheries and undermine traditional livelihoods. Building from analysis of these dynamics in Southeast Louisiana, the paper argues that new democratic practices and planning paradigms are needed to balance the benefits and risks of green infrastructure initiatives.

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