My deadline for the manuscript for "This Land" -- a look at sprawl and smart growth to be published in the spring by Johns Hopkins University Press -- was the end of August, so I can now return to the weblog. In Katrina's wake, both sides of the development debate in this country have jumped into the fray on how flooded neighborhoods in New Orleans and Mississippi should be rebuilt. The New Urbanists see the disaster as a big chance to make a statement, urging the restoration of traditional urban fabric just the way it was, and more compact reinventing of lower-density areas, with a rethinking of transit at the same time. Meanwhile, Randal O'Toole of the Thoreau Institute, a critic of smart growth, observes that anyone who owned a car could get out of New Orleans or Biloxi, while those without that crucial mobility could not http://www.ti.org/vaupdate55.html
. Since Sept. 11, "rebuilding" was a term and a debate limited to lower Manhattan; the decisions about how these devastated stretches of human settlement are reimagined will reveal even more about attitudes toward the future landscape.