After Irma and Harvey, Time to ‘Collaborate with Nature’

Article ID: 681124

Released: 14-Sep-2017 11:05 AM EDT

Source Newsroom: Northwestern University

Expert Pitch
  • Credit: Northwestern University

    Joe Schofer

Newswise — EVANSTON, Ill. --- Now that Hurricanes Irma and Harvey have passed, affected areas face the daunting task of rebuilding badly tattered infrastructure. Northwestern University infrastructure expert Joe Schofer says those efforts should include a serious conversation about the risks of building near water and about ways to collaborate with, rather than fight, nature. 

A leading academic specialist on transportation policy and host of “The Infrastructure Show” podcast, Schofer is available to comment on the smartest approaches to rebuilding areas devastated by the recent storms.

He can be reached at 847-220-7925 and j-schofer@northwestern.edu. Please note Schofer will be away from the area Friday through Monday but available by phone and email.

Schofer, also a transportation committee member for the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, recently provided infrastructure expertise related to Harvey and Irma in segments/articles for NPR, WTTW Chicago and FOX-32 Chicago.

“A key challenge when rebuilding is finding ways to collaborate with nature rather than always choosing to fight against her,” said Schofer, a professor of civil and environmental engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering. “As the Dutch have said for more than a decade, we need to make ‘room for the river’ -- flood waters and storm surges -- rather than always choosing to build blocking infrastructure, so we can safely absorb environmental blows and live to fight another day.”

Continuing to build near water for private gain costs society as a whole, added Schofer.

“While there is huge market and emotional value that goes with living near water, in some places – the Gulf Coast especially, but also along some of our rivers – people are choosing to put themselves in harm’s way,” he said.

“From a public policy standpoint, we need to recognize that these individual risk choices are very often social risk choices, because the costs of disaster relief and rebuilding are shared through insurance and voluntary contributions.”


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