Brad Pitt’s Promise to New Orleans Coming True

Some of the greatest achievements in history have been born of tragic events. It’s one of the most inspirational aspects of human nature: our ability to transform both devastated spirits and landscapes into fertile grounds for innovation and positive change. The key is having the vision and determination to build a better way in the face of ruin.

Four years ago today, Hurricane Katrina unleashed unspeakable loss on hundreds of thousands of Americans. On the ground and across the globe, we shared a sense of powerlessness as the storm flooded communities with not only water but injustice. We now have the opportunity to not only make things right in New Orleans, but use the lessons learned to profoundly impact the world. The vehicle for such momentous change? Affordable, safe, green houses. Or, in other words, houses that “Make It Right.”

The art of building is at its core a creative and constructive act — so when the Lower Ninth Ward was swept away by Katrina, it wasn’t surprising that many people’s first instinct was to literally help rebuild. When homes are razed, families displaced, and ground laid bare, what else can inspire hope and bring a community back together like the act of building?

From the start, resurrecting the Lower Ninth wasn’t just about putting four walls and a roof back together. It was about restoring community and bringing fairness and dignity back to the people who suffered most during Katrina and its aftermath. And so, the Make It Right Foundation (the vision of actor Brad Pitt) was born, and we brought the community together with the brightest minds in architecture to bring the people of the Lower Ninth Ward back home.

When we asked residents what they needed, they were quick to tell us. Houses, to be sure, but structures that would keep them safe from future storms. They needed to be affordable; rising energy costs strapped families with prohibitive utility bills that made homeownership out of reach. And was there a way, many asked, to make homes that would keep families safe not only from storms, but from toxins and other environmental threats as well?

Conventional wisdom would have you think this to be an impossible feat; that green architecture is only for the well-off. Yet two years after those initial community conversations, 13 LEED Platinum certified homes are standing where there was once six feet of water. By the end of 2009, more than 80 Lower Ninth Ward families will own or be in the process of buying their own high-performance Make It Right home, and 150 homes will stand by 2010. When they move in, these people are the new owners of storm-resistant, non-toxic, energy-efficient, beautiful houses which often cost less than $20 per month to run. Such homes were non-existent in the Lower Ninth Ward before the storm.

When Katrina swept through the Gulf South, it left in its wake tremendous grief and loss for thousands. But within the devastation was opportunity: to build something better than what existed before. The Lower Ninth Ward is now the “largest, greenest neighborhood of single family homes in America,” according to the US Green Building Council. It is a model that works – and one that can positively transform other neighborhoods across the U.S. and the globe.

I’ve always thought of buildings as pieces of art that you get to walk through and experience. In the case of the Lower Ninth Ward, these homes and neighborhoods are not only edifices of art, but of the future. Katrina’s legacy may not be the devastation she unleashed, but how she inspired us to usher in this new way of interacting with the world. We are all neighbors on this planet. Equipped with passion and purpose, we can work together to not only Make It Right, but build a better way.

This anniversary, what will you do to Make It Right for New Orleans?


Aud Nordby
Aud n4 years ago


Mary C.
Mary C8 years ago

Well said Bruce!

Margaret D.
Margaret D8 years ago

"Make it Right" has been coined from Canada's Mike Holmes of Holmes on Homes TV show who coincidentally did go to New Orleans with crew to help re-build. I"m a humanist myself but consider myself to be a good person so Brad Pitt's atheism doesn't bother me, nor should it anyone.

Ian MacLeod
Ian MacLeod8 years ago

So a pot-smoking atheist dared to act where all these vocal "good Christians" sat on their hands deploring the abandonment of these people and doing nothing. It seems that lack of a God or an afterlife just paints life as that much more precious.


Bruce C.
Bruce C8 years ago

I have one more comment to add about his not believing in god: the radical right would have us believe that if we don't believe in God and the Bible, we'll all become immoral thieves, fornicators and liars, that society will dissolve into anarchy. "Christians" do all these right now, even when they do believe in God, and then condemn those who do not believe. They are already reducing our society to anarchy with their efforts to put the rest of us into their religious straitjacket; like eliminating funding for women's healthcare because it allows doctors to actually talk truthfully about abortion. Another example is condemning gays and lesbians for not having stable relationships, then denying them the right to marry the person they love.

Actions like these from people who publicly announce they do not believe in God shows how utterly wrong this idea is. Doing good, without the promise of heaven or the threat of hell shows that heaven and hell are not need to motivate people.

If your faith motivates you to do what is good, good for you; there needs to be more people like you. But do not lose respect for people who do good without your faith.

Doing what is good, just, and right is doing what is good, just, and right, whether or not you have any religious beliefs or none at all.

Marcia Barnes
Marcia Barnes8 years ago

I think what he has done is awesome and the phrase "Put your money where your mouth is." is most appropriate here, he apparently lives it and that is exceptional.

Debbie Z.
Debra Z8 years ago

We need more humanitarians like Brad Pitt. I couldn't care less if he's an atheist or smoked pot. He's helping citizens who are much less fortunate than he is. It's great to see a celeb who doesn't have a huge ego & is willing to use his millions to help those in need.

Debbie Z.
Debra Z8 years ago

We need more humanitarians like Brad Pitt. I couldn't care less if he's an atheist or smoked pot. He's helping citizens who are much less fortunate than he is. It's great to see a celeb who doesn't have a huge ego & is willing to use his millions to help those in need.

BMutiny ThemIDefy

Good for Brad Pitt that he is not a hypocrite, and not afraid to say that he doesn't believe in God! Better than the LIES politicians tell us! {If they really believed for one moment that there was actually a Hell and Eternal Punishment, politicians would NEVER try to pull off the chicaneries they do!} Good for him not being a hypocrite and not denying he smoked pot! {As almost ALL of our leaders, their families, their staff members and their friends have done, and probably still do! There's ABSOLUTELY NO HARM in that!} Also, not mentioned here, KUDOS to Brad Pitt, and to his "significant other", for not wanting to get "officially married" until ALL in the U.S. have the Legal Right to Marry, including Gay Men and Lesbians!!! I am very impressed with this guy! VERY!

Apparently, Brad Pitt's Atheism and his Pot Smoking have got his head turned on in the right direction. {Not in SPITE of, but BECAUSE of.} You need to THINK ABOUT values in life, EXAMINE them, and not merely parrot what tradition tells you. Mr. Pitt has evidently done this. {His being GREEN, and being ALTRUISTIC, sharing his money and talents, is part of the whole picture.....}

Brad Pitt is a ROLE MODEL for us all, especially young people. He is not afraid to state HIS OWN TRUTH. In public. Let the brickbats from the ignorant, fly.

Clinton O.
Chuck O8 years ago

Kudos to Brad Pitt -- and the people he hired to run the Make It Right Foundation -- for being an activist, for seeing people in need and wanting to help them, and for insisting on "Green" ways to rebuild homes for these people. This is an incredibly enlightened way to make a difference. Longer term, he's creating a model that will help move the entire green building industry forward. I already admired his acting ability, and now I admire his intelligence and generosity, too.