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About Mission 2010
FINAL PRESENTATIONS: This web site was developed by staff for the Mission 2010 class. Class research is now complete and students are presenting their final recommendations by streaming live video in a Final Class Presentation on December 5th and in much more detailed fashion on a web site.

Solving Complex Problems (12.000) is designed to provide students the opportunity to work as part of a team to propose solutions to a complex problem that requires an interdisciplinary approach. For the students of the Class of 2010, 12.000 will revolve around the issues associated with the long-term future of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and surrounding areas. There were more than a thousand fatalities, billions of dollars in property losses, and tens of thousands of people were stranded and/or lost their homes. Despite a long history of flooding and dire predictions, all levels of government failed to act in a timely and organized manner, which further exacerbated the problems. In the past year, recovery efforts were slow and there was much discussion of topics such as race, class, government response, and how the nation as a whole should think about New Orleans and the Gulf Coast’s future.

You will have the unique opportunity to make a difference by contributing to the national debate revolving around the reconstruction of New Orleans and the management of the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast. The destruction of New Orleans and many other parts of the Gulf coast by Hurricane Katrina has posed many challenging scientific and socio-economic questions. Was the disaster preventable? Are hurricanes getting stronger? Have engineering controls of the Mississippi created more harm than good? Why did flood protection fail? Should New Orleans be rebuilt and, if so, how? Can the Gulf and New Orleans be better protected against future hurricanes? What is the best long-term strategy for other coastal cities in the U.S. and the rest of the world? Students of all backgrounds and interests are welcome to work in teams toward the final design, which will be web cast at the end of the semester in front of a panel of prestigious judges.

Students in 12.000 will be responsible for developing and articulating a comprehensive plan for the future of New Orleans and should address questions that include, but are not limited to, the following.
  • Given the history of subsidence and loss of wetlands in the region and predictions of sea-level rise, should we redevelop and repopulate New Orleans at pre-Katrina levels?

  • If regions are selected not to be repopulated, how can it be done in a fair and equitable manner?

  • How can we better deal with future catastrophes in the Gulf Coast and minimize loss of life and property? Can a city be evacuated in an organized manner?

  • What kinds of engineering solutions can be proposed that will protect New Orleans for the next 100 years or more? Will these be applicable to other coastal cities such as New York or even Boston?

  • Humans have controlled the course of the Mississippi River for over two hundred years with many consequences. How much longer can this be maintained and are there other solutions?