After Hurricane Sandy clobbered the Northeast Coast last year, there was a considerable amount of concern expressed about what would happen if it were even worse. Shortly thereafter, we were visiting South Jersey over Thanksgiving and we realized that the force of the storm was strengthened by the fact that it hit around High Tide. In my teens, living in the town next to Atlantic City, I can recall once when the Ocean met the Bay. When you live on an island, that can be somewhat disconcerting.
Then, in yesterday’s newspaper, there were two articles along these lines. In the latest edition of Rolling Stone, “Goodbye, Miami”, Jeff Goodell compares it to the lost continent of Atlantis. Well, we have already seen numerous , similar articles, even with maps of where the land in Florida would be in 50 or 100 years.
Just like the Scientific Community found after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, that City is build on low-lying land that should still be wetlands. Likewise, I cannot say how many times, after a major storm, when beaches eroded, the Army Corp of Engineers was called-in to dredge-up sand and erect other “Walls against Nature”. In essence, the Oceans were taking back what rightfully belongs to them–and we were fighting Nature.
It gets especially sad when you consider the considerable amount of development that has been built all along the Atlantic Coast, and even more so, when you consider the fact that many of the inhabitants are retirees–Senior Citizens. For instance, many of the condo parking lots, along Miami Beach, are actually built below normal high tide level. So, if their cars won’t go after a storm, does the City and Country have enough buses to evacuate everyone? Many portions of Miami Beach flood during High Tide, even on sunny days. Hey, much of Houston is built below Sea Level; so, it’s not just an East Coast problem.
The other article that I saw in the Herald yesterday was about the well-known Dean of the University of Miami School of Architecture, relinquishing her administrative duties in order to teach and work on architectural changes due to rising oceans and climate change. Most school children have heard about the little boy (perhaps girl, now), in Holland, who saved the countryside by putting his/her finger in the dike. So, architects and scientists are certainly addressing the problems.
Several decades back, the Dutch Government built a high-tech system of levies to keep the seawater out. But, in the United States, our political leaders are not much for thinking ahead. And, since any costly projects will effect the budget during their tenure; but, the projects won’t be completed until years later. So, our Government “Leaders” often leave problems to the next officeholder, who also might opt to pass it to the next guy/gal to do the right thing.
But, there is hope. Just on one web site, there are several articles written by various teams taking different approaches and, obviously, what might protect against the oceans in New York might not work in stemming the cresting rivers in Calgary or Eastern Europe. Sharing ideas–in order to protect people and cities makes perfectly good sense. Remember that barrier islands, wetlands, river deltas, etc. were created by Nature to protect us. Let’s do our part!