Foreword to the 2nd Edition


- Center for Human-Environmental Research (CHER)

- Department of Anthropology, Tulane University

This primer discusses land loss along the Mississippi River Delta Gulf Coast in the state of Louisiana (hereafter abbreviated “MRDGC”; see Figure 1). It examines the environmental and geological causes of an enormous set of problems facing this region. This book also examines how past human activities have caused problems for the MRDGC, how humans have adapted to coastal landscapes, and some ways in which we might approach the current set of problems related to coastal land loss. It assumes a little prior knowledge of basic concepts in the environmental sciences, though it assumes very little knowledge about the specifics of climate change models, alluvial geology, human prehistory and history, and engineering.

This primer is concluded by a glossary of important terms and each section includes some suggestions for further reading, as well as research exercises that involve the use of Google Earth©. You can download a free copy of Google Earth for your personal computer or smart phone at the following url:

In 2018, with support from the RosaMary Foundation and the Clif Bar Family Foundation, we produced 1,000 copies of the first edition of this textbook. It has now been used as resource in Orleans, Jefferson, Terrebonne Parish high schools, and has been distributed to a wide range of local, state, and federal agencies. But a lot can change in a year: writing now in September of 2019, we have already had to deal with protracted Mississippi River flooding and a record-long opening of the Bonnet Carre spillways—with disastrous consequences for the region’s coastal ecosystems. In addition, controversy continues to swirl around many of the Louisiana’s coastal restoration projects, especially the sediment diversions. Other problems abound but progress has also been made. For these reasons, I felt that it was a good idea to update the second edition of this textbook in light of what has happened since 2018. While these developments illustrate some of the central concepts of this book, they also point to the seriousness and immediacy of many of the problems facing Louisiana’s coast.

Go to: Introduction