Score: 33

A family beach destination for decades, the Mississippi coast has seen Hurricanes Camille and Katrina, the legalization of casino gambling beginning in the 1990s, and this year’s oil spill. All have transformed the struggling resort area in difficult and different ways.

Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:

"Before Katrina you had to seek the real stories of the coast out on the back roads, behind the cookie-cutter hotels and new casinos. After the hurricane these historic places were almost wiped from the face of the Earth. The oil spill is the final trial for the region."

"Already a disaster before the oil spill—many years of environmental neglect and poor planning."

"When the coast bounced back from Katrina, much of the new development was the same old stuff: strip malls, typical Walmarts, tacky casino architecture. But some areas have improved. There are now some good examples of sustainable design and development."

"Given the recent natural and human disasters, the inexorable popularity of casinos, and more pressing priorities for locals, I have doubts that there is a glowing future in sustainable tourism. Some bright spots, however: Ocean Springs, historic renovation of parts of Biloxi located away from the casino, and the Gulf Islands National Seashore."

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