Friday, 16 November 2012

Building on a Swamp Doesn't Make It Not a Swamp, Or My Mother on Rising Sea Levels

The New York Times has an opinion piece today arguing that rebuilding along the New York and New Jersey shoreline in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is not a good idea.   "Retreat from the Beach" it's called, and it points out that people know what locations are chancey, and have a for a long time.

"Respecting the power of these storms is not new," writes Orrin H. Pilkey. "American Indians who occupied barrier islands during the warm months moved to the mainland during the winter storm season. In the early days of European settlement in North America, some communities restricted building to the bay sides of barrier islands to minimize damage. In Colombia and Nigeria, where some people choose to live next to beaches to reduce exposure to malarial mosquitoes, houses are routinely built to be easily moved. "

My mother, who loved the beach and delighted in living not far from one in San Diego, also was careful to buy a house on high ground.  "You can build on a swamp, but that doesn't make it any less a swamp," she said many times.  It was good advice decades and decades ago,  and it becomes more pertinent as sea levels rise with climate change.

BTW, the picture is of Sunset Cliffs, where she loved to sit and watch the surf, but where she would never have bought. 

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