The Mississippi Symposium was the eighth on a sea or river dedicated to seeking solutions to both local and global environmental problems. The Mississippi River plays a key role in the American economy. With the arrival of the Europeans, the forces of Man and the forces of Nature collided. Man's goal has been economic growth and prosperity for some by shackling the river with dams to produce electricity and irrigation, levees to protect from flooding and strait channels to facilitate navigation. With each new imposition on the river for Man's benefit, Nature has fought back. So the price was paid later: in wetland loss, hurricane damage, ecosystem collapse, flooding, pollution, dead zones in the Gulf, toxic spills and human health.
Aside from dealing with the evident ecological problems, the symposium participants, scientists, religious leaders, activists, politicians and the media discussed questions of global importance: Should coastal areas be abandoned or defended? Can religion help save the planet? Is global capitalism compatible with a habitable planet? What were the lessons from Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and the Gulf area?