S2EP68: What would happen if our rivers ran wild?—w/ Tyler J. Kelley, author of Holding Back the River

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Since the first levee was built in New Orleans in 1717, we have been trying to manage America’s rivers. But now our infrastructure is failing. And if we don’t compromise on a plan to restore (or strategically remove) our dams, levees, and locks and give our waterways more space, flooding events will continue to devastate entire communities over and over again.

Tyler J. Kelley is a journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Yorker, among many other national publications. His first book, Holding Back the River: The Struggle Against Nature on America’s Waterways, was published in April 2021. On this episode of Reversing Climate Change, Tyler joins Ross to explain why riverboat traffic is still important to the US economy, moving more than 1,000 semi-trucks’ worth of vital commodities daily.

Tyler discusses the extensive work we’ve done to manage rivers in the US, describing how much land would be unlivable without levees and why the risks of flooding will only increase with climate change. Listen in for Tyler’s insight on the Dutch Delta Works project to give land back to the rivers and fortify existing infrastructure and learn how we might create a similar comprehensive flood control plan to protect communities here in the US.

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Resources

Holding Back the River: The Struggle Against Nature on America’s Waterways by Tyler J. Kelley

Tyler’s Website

‘The Fight to Tame a Swelling River with Dams That May Be Outmatched by Climate Change’ in The New York Times

Elizabeth Kolbert on Reversing Climate Change S2EP50

Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future by Elizabeth Kolbert

Levee Wars on Sny Island

Rebuild Pinhook

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