Friday night topic: Rebuilding New Orleans

— 4:30 PM on September 2, 2005

Once the disaster relief effort is over and the water has been pumped out of the area, we will face another difficult question in light of this week's horrors. Should New Orleans be rebuilt, at its present location, below sea level? It's the question of the hour, and it's a conflict of site versus situation:

Geographers refer to this as the difference between a city's "situation"—the advantages its location offers relative to other cities—and its "site"—the actual real estate it occupies. New Orleans has a near-perfect situation and an almost unimaginably bad site. It's because of the former that people have worked endlessly to overcome the hazards of the latter.
Perhaps it's time to reevaluate that tradeoff for this city? It seems impossible to conceive of a wholesale change of location, but the disruption and loss of life from Katrina is also difficult to comprehend. If New Orleans weren't rebuilt in the same place, would we lose something distinctive in its culture? Discuss.
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