An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature. Craig E. Colten. 2005. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, LA. 245 pp. $39.95 hardcover.
The history and geography of New Orleans, perhaps more than any other American city, is inextricably entwined with the challenges presented by the city's natural setting. In his unexpectedly timely book, An Unnatural Metropolis, author Craig E. Colten recounts this intricate relationship and the human attempt to, in effect, hold nature at bay at the mouth of the Mississippi. Although Colten covers a wide range of the dilemmas faced by New Orleans' residents over the past 300 years (many of which, such as sanitation and water delivery, were by no means unique to New Orleans among nineteenth-century cities), in light of recent events, most readers probably will be most interested in his account of New Orleans' levee and drainage systems, and the shaping of the city's modern-day racial and social geography.
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