Our land has experienced centuries of woodland clearance, decades of overgrazing and burning upland heaths and bogs, and relatively recent ‘reclamation’ (for intensive farming) of heathy hillsides, scrubby banks, old pastures and floodplain meadows. On heavy clay soils, and where wetlands used to be, land drainage, river canalisation and dredging have enabled farmers to cultivate land where cultivation was considered impossible not that long ago.
The naive notion that we can, for example, “just use more air conditioning” as the globe warms betrays a perplexing misunderstanding of what we face. Even if one ignores the insanity of burning more climate-warming fossil fuels to make electricity for more air-conditioning, there is the embedded assumption that our current infrastructure with only minor modifications will withstand the pressures placed upon it in a future transformed by climate change and other depredations.
The floodplain does the job that ecology might expect it to, which is to take-up the excess water when the river is in flood.
Last week, Greater New Orleans Inc. — a regional economic development organization — unveiled its Urban Water Plan for Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes.