Why would anyone establish a city in a place that is below sea level, floods nearly every year, is as hot and humid as any tropical jungle, subject to outbreaks of deadly disease and faces annihilation as the result of a direct hit from a hurricane? More to the point, why would anyone try to save it?

When you mention New Orleans to most people, the images evoked are of a lively port city populated by a sultry mix of people from many different cultures and, of course, jazz, Mardi Gras and world class cuisine. What few people realize is that the very forces that created New Orleans now threaten its very existence. The eco-system is incredibly fragile and volatile, and if no action is taken, the city could be wiped out in the next hurricane or gradually swept into the sea from the current course of things.

With the critical issues of global warming and our ongoing struggle to strike a healthy balance between a healty environment and a growing economy, New Orleans serves as a microcosm in which we can examine the critical issues facing our planet.

Walter Williams is a New Orleans native who, among his many credits, is the creator of Mr. Bill.