An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature

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LSU Press, 2006 - History - 245 pages
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Strategically situated at the gateway to the Mississippi River yet standing atop a former swamp, New Orleans was from the first what geographer Peirce Lewis called an "impossible but inevitable city." How New Orleans came to be, taking shape between the mutual and often contradictory forces of nature and urban development, is the subject of An Unnatural Metropolis. Craig E. Colten traces engineered modifications to New Orleans's natural environment from 1800 to 2000 and demonstrates that, though all cities must contend with their physical settings, New Orleans may be the city most dependent on human-induced transformations of its precarious site. In a new preface, Colten shows how Hurricane Katrina exemplifies the inability of human artifice to exclude nature from cities and he urges city planners to keep the environment in mind as they contemplate New Orleans's future. Urban geographers frequently have portrayed cities as the antithesis of nature, but in An Unnatural Metropolis, Colten introduces a critical environmental perspective to the history of urban areas. His amply illustrated work offers an in-depth look at a city and society uniquely shaped by the natural forces it has sought to harness.


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Review: An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature

User Review  - Robin B - Goodreads

A bit dry, and in some parts more technical than I would have liked, but a very informative book on how New Orleans was shaped and how previous environmental problems influenced the city's history and ... Read full review


The City and the Environment
1 Water Hazards
2 Remaking the Environment
3 Inequity and the Environment
4 Environment Comes to the Fore
5 Combating New Flood Hazards
6 Reintroducing Wetland Environments

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About the author (2006)

Craig E. Colten is the Carl O. Sauer Professor of Geography at Louisiana State University. Before returning to academe in 1996, he worked with state government in Illinois and as a private consultant in Washington, D.C. His previous books include The American Environment, The Road to Love Canal, Transforming New Orleans and Its Environs, and Louisiana Geography.