Waves of Adversity, Layers of Resilience: Floods, Hurricanes, Oil Spills and Climate Change in the Mississippi Delta

  • Bruce C. GlavovicEmail author
Part of the Environmental Hazards book series (ENHA)


The Mississippi delta is a place of remarkable ecological, cultural and economic significance. Prevailing practices are, however, unsustainable; and climate change compounds disaster risk in the region. Delta communities need to build layers of resilience as a buffer against the waves of adversity they face. The historical context and distinctive social-ecological systems of this region are described and the relationship between resource use, disaster risk and resilience explored, with a focus on Hurricane Katrina and the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This exploration highlights four delta imperatives: (i) stem wetland loss and restore delta ecosystems to sustain coastal livelihoods and reduce disaster risk in the face of climate change; (ii) confront the ‘safe development paradox’; (iii) address the drivers and root causes of social vulnerability that predispose marginalised groups and communities to disaster; and (iv) reframe governance thinking and practices that lead to environmental degradation and compound disaster risk. Barriers and opportunities are then discussed with respect to the human, physical, economic, social and natural capital needed to construct layers of resilience. A process of deliberative delta governance is recommended to foster community resilience, adaptive capacity and sustainability. Three priority actions are highlighted to translate this recommendation into practical reality: (i) articulate, share and celebrate delta narratives about overcoming adversity and building resilience; (ii) design and institutionalise inclusive processes of community disaster risk reduction and resilience planning; and (iii) sustain region-wide strategic collaborative planning processes to address the intractability of climate change that delta communities cannot resolve alone.


Mississippi delta Katrina BP oil spill Climate change adaptation Governance 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of People, Environment & PlanningMassey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand

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