Two and a half years after the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, New Orleans and south Louisiana continue to struggle in an unsettled gumbo of environmental, social, and rebuilding chaos. Citizens await the fruition of four successive recovery and reconstruction planning processes and the realization of essential infrastructure repairs. Repopulation in Orleans Parish has slowed considerably; the parish remains at best two-thirds of its former size; thousands of former residents who wish to return face barriers of many kinds. Heroic efforts at rebuilding have occurred through the efforts of individual neighborhood associations and voluntary associations who have attempted to address serious losses in affordable housing and health care services. Walking to New Orleans traces how a dominant but paradoxical model of the relation between the human and natural worlds in Western culture has informed many environmental and engineering dilemmas and has contributed to the history of social inequities and injustice that anteceded the disasters of the hurricanes and subsequent flooding. It proposes a model for collaborative recovery that links principles of ethics and engineering, in which citizens become active, ongoing participants in the process of the reconstruction and redesign of their unique locus of habitation. Equally important, it gives voice to the citizens and associations who are desperately working to rebuild their homes and lives both in urban New Orleans and in the villages of coastal Louisiana.
In Walking to New Orleans Robert and Deanne Ross have written an important book about the tragic conditions in New Orleans. Or, we really should say, the New Orleans tragedy--for the symbolic importance of what happened and what did not happen there will doubtless stand on its own for years to come as a symbol of what can only be described as a national loss of the sense of community. For not only did New Orleans lose itself, but all of the rest of us lost New Orleans. We lost it by reading and not thinking, by watching and not seeing, by knowing and not acting. By not really caring enough about our fellow citizens, friends, and neighbors. This is quite a beautiful book in its conception, expression, and deep valuing of human beings and their communities. And it raises important questions about who we are and what we have become as Americans in the twenty-first century.
Founder and Former Director
Center for Improving Government Performance
The National Academy of Public Administration
Walking to New Orleans is an astonishingly informed and informative account of one of the major human, natural and political disasters in recent memory. Having personally suffered the furor of Katrina, part-time New Orleans residents and longtime students of Louisiana history and Cajun culture Robert and Deanne Ross have written a book that is must reading for anyone concerned about the implications of the interplay between our natural environment and political process for questions of social justice. Weaving together historical, theological, scientific, political and economic analysis, they create a compelling narrative about pressing issues whose significance extends far beyond this particular event. Not content with criticizing the mistakes of the past, the Rosses develop a richly suggestive notion of ""Participatory Design,"" which can serve as a model for future development. Issuing an ethical challenge that we ignore at our own peril, this book is social criticism at its best
-Professor Mark C. Taylor
Chair, Department of Religion, and Co-Director of the
Institute of Religion, Culture and Public Life, Columbia University, and
Cluett Professor of Humanities, Williams College.
Robert R. N. Ross currently teaches co
Robert R. N. Ross currently teaches courses in the areas of philosophy and the study of religion at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and at Starr King School for the Ministry/Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California; he also works with congregations in transition as an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister. Ross has been a teaching fellow at Harvard University, a philosophy professor at Skidmore College, a consulting engineer at Digital Equipment Corporation (where he holds patents in the design of complex, heterogeneous computer networks), and a senior consultant at the National Academy of Public Administration, where he has worked with large-scale organizations and agencies in transition. Robert is an active surfer, kayaker, and leader of the Cajun-Zydeco band 'les cigognes'. Deanne E. B. Ross is a civil rights attorney and a member of the bar in Massachusetts, Louisiana, the District of Columbia, and the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. She served as trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division, Voting Section, of the United States Department of Justice for over ten years, as Special Counsel to the State Legislature of Louisiana on voting and redistricting for three years, and, most recently, as Special Counsel to the City of Springfield, Massachusetts. Deanne is also a working artist in fabric and paint media.
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