Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Orleans: a Model Urban Biosphere

Christine Alfsen informed me that the City of New Orleans has endorsed the project "New Orleans: a Model Urban Biosphere". Ms. Alfsen is the Senior Program Specialist for Sciences at the UNESCO Office in New York.

The program has the following specific objectives:
  1. Actively conduct and network research linkages between social and ecological issues;
  2. Provide a forum for the general public to inform and create community-driven solutions;
  3. Facilitate development of action-based, multidisciplinary projects working at the interface of human security and management of the natural environment; and
  4. Provide technical expertise and inform policy to international initiatives, programs and projects.
Hurricane Katrina has set the stage for urban and rural ecological transformations in and around New Orleans on a scale never before witnessed in United States modern history.

The brochure describing the project notes:
UNESCO has partnered with the Center for Bioenvironmental Research of Tulane University and the Stockholm Resilience Center in post-Katrina New Orleans and coastal Louisiana to create a world-class program to research urban ecosystems at risk.
The work in New Orleans is one of a number of coordinated studies networked via ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability. You can see descriptions of the cases at this website.

Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research Deputy Director, Douglas Meffert, serves as the New Orleans coordinator for UNESCO╩╝s Urban Biosphere International Partnership of Cities which also includes New York and Phoenix (USA), Stockholm (Sweden), Cape Town (South Africa), Istanbul (Turkey), and Canberra (Australia). Read more about the Center's UrbanEco effort.

UNESCO has been involved with a major effort on People, Biodiversity & Ecology for many years, built around the Man and the Biosphere Program. UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Urban Group is specifically backing this program in conjunction with the Urban Biosphere Network (URBIS), a collaboration between UNESCO and the Stockholm Resilience Center.

This project illustrates one of the ways in which the United States can benefit domestically from UNESCO's ability to form international networks in the sciences. The work of the scientists in New Orleans will be strengthened by their collaboration with researchers from other nations, and the combined body of knowledge from the comparative case studies will enrich our general understanding of urban ecology, and understanding which will in all probability improve the effectiveness of the reconstruction in New Orleans.

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