For land-use planners, the only feasible long-term way to make coastal cities resilient is to rethink them. According to Danielle Spurlock, a frequent co-author of Berke’s and a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, city planners and other officials have so far been able to ignore any kind of meaningful reckoning with nature. “Although the magnitude of hurricane damage is huge, it’s intermittent enough to where people have been able to avoid proactive money-spending to fix it, until now,” Spurlock says. “More frequent events are putting that kind of prioritization into question.”
One solution of course is to simply stop draining wetlands. But cities will also have to find out ways to reverse the existing degradation of wetlands, and to scale back roads and suburbs that are already built. Perhaps the latter goal is not feasible, but cities can use better planning to create more purposeful density inside their built boundaries and slow geographic growth, while at the same time restoring wetlands and even encouraging their growth and incorporation within existing areas.