Taking on big questions in The Big Easy: Chautauqua ‘Travels’ to NOLA

New Orleans is a place most people associate with leisure time amid a rich, vibrant, joyful and diverse culture. It is those things — and much more. 

It is the “much more” that is the focus of a forthcoming departure of Chautauqua Travels that will explore the Crescent City’s resilience and adaptation following unprecedented weather emergencies that redefined notions of climate justice. According to Climate Signals, an attribution science group that has conducted research on the 2005 New Orleans climate crisis, “(Hurricane) Katrina is an iconic example of how the impacts of climate change are disproportionately felt by low-income communities and communities of color.”

A group of up to 25 Chautauquans will embark on their journey in November with the guidance of Chautauqua Travels partner Academic Travel Abroad — the official travel partner of Chautauqua Institution. Participants will visit the site of a notorious levee break during Hurricane Katrina and learn about efforts to protect against future flooding. They’ll also explore the bayou on a swamp boat in the heart of the delta. 

“These experiences are what we call ‘unshoppable,’ ” said Mark Wenzler, director of the Chautauqua Climate Change Initiative, who co-curated the program in New Orleans. “We like to give Chautauqua travelers experiences they can’t find on their own and that are unique to Chautauqua’s mission. This trip was created just for us.”

Travelers will convene via Zoom in advance of the trip to set the stage for both an enjoyable and productive travel experience. All travelers will also receive in advance a copy of the book Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, by Elizabeth Rush, selected by Wenzler to provide context for the trip. 

“A 2019-2020 (Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle) selection, this book focuses broadly on coastal marsh loss along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the U.S., including New Orleans,” Wenzler said. “It’s beautifully written. While not exclusively focused on NOLA, I think it puts what’s happening in NOLA into a broader context that is helpful.”

Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill and his husband Peter Korns are among the program attendees. 

“Peter’s family has deep roots in New Orleans, so we’ve visited there together and of course Peter is all but a NOLA native,” Hill said. “But the planned program will provide a window on the city that even regular visitors have never seen. We’re looking forward to traveling and learning with fellow Chautauquans through this new expression of our mission.”

Travelers will also experience art and culture and, of course, great food and conversation as part of the experience. New Orleans-based Chautauquans Stacey and Evie Berger will host the group for a reception in their NOLA home. They’ll also stroll through the French Quarter on an exclusive musical tour with Grammy Award-winning jazz musician (and past Chautauqua performer) Kevin Ray Clark — with front row seats as he joins a band onstage. 

Registration for the Chautauqua Travels journey to New Orleans remains open through the middle of September. The group is limited to 25 total travelers. Registration and additional information are available at 

Tags : Communityenvironment

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