high tiders

July 3rd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

I haven’t quite got the balance of continuing to write here during periods of busyness IRL. This morning the current events of the day have populated my brain with thoughts that don’t seem to belong anywhere else.

Hurricane Arthur approaches mid-Atlantic coast

Coming down the coast on SY Tranquility this past winter, Fabio and I comforted ourselves each time we left a place that we loved by imagining our triumphant return.  We imagined this trip as a first pass, a fact finding mission that would enable us to perfect a course up and down the unique communities and landscapes of the East Coast.

Thinking this way was the only way we were able to leave Manteo, Beaufort, Southport, and so on.

During our time here in Georgia (#georgiacoast), we have relaxed this idea a bit, unfurled, and dug a bit deeper.  We’ve become involved.  I have been working with a coastal conservation organization that has led me into research on climate change and sea level rise impacts that continually juxtapose the relative safety of GA’s marshy curve to the extremely vulnerable communities of, for example, the Outer Banks (#obx) of North Carolina.

In Georgia, the conversation (and its a fascinating one) is about where and how the hundreds of thousands of acres of salt marsh and its teeming inhabitants will migrate and (severely) contract. How can we anticipate the downstream impacts to economy and society? And so on.  The stakes are high, and the planning horizon is essentially one generation, but the professionals here have a lot of solid information to work from and they are making good use of it.  My spirits are buoyed with each conversation.

When we were in Hatteras, the “most sticky-outie part” of the Outer Banks (please pardon my technical jargon) I caught a glimpse of a paper NOAA map of sea level rise predictions for the area. Much of the Outer Banks, a cherished string of popular vacation spots, natural areas and singular coastal communities, was simply gone.

In the news of late, I have been loosely tracking the reports of real estate interests lobbying local representatives in North Carolina to deny available models of sea level rise on these wispy barrier islands. No comment.

OK, so thats the swirling mass of background thought. This morning I’m singing a song for Harkers Island.  I’m lifting my heart for the fine folks of Okracoke.  The “high tiders” who have weathered many storms, retreated and rebuilt with their kids, houses and cemeteries in tow. Hardy coastal families, more recent mainland castaways, speaking obscure dialects and practicing seafaring traditions that represent a precious and threatened human aspect to sea level rise, even in places where elected officials might deny its very existence.

I don’t have my own roots there, but these places left a deep impression on me and Fabio. We are so grateful that we traveled this route off season, and we hope for everyone’s safety and resilience.

safe harbor

December 2nd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

About a year ago, I experienced first-hand what climate change looks like when my community and region experienced massive flooding during “Superstorm Sandy”.  I watched closely and participated enthusiastically in the post-Sandy planning that was fast-tracked, and cheered for the storm surge barrier that the resulting plan prescribed for Newtown Creek, my backyard.

However, when that plan was set into motion, a recommendation called Seaport City appeared at the top of the stack. This element of the plan envisions a luxe development off the edge of lower Manhattan with a levee system under its skirt to (rumor alert) protect Wall Street. Classic Bloomberg. This is a land where skyscrapers are subsidized on former wetlands as common practice, while basic infrastructure is so primed to flood that “even on a dry day subway pumps remove millions of gallons of water” from the subway tunnels.

Therefore, I am often shocked at what other cities get done without pinning a condo on top.


In New Bedford, MA, we enjoyed the protection of a massive hurricane barrier that was built in the 60s by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect the commercial fishing fleets based there. The barrier extends well into the city of New Bedford, as well as the neighboring town of Fairhaven across the bay, with a fabled elevator and underwater tunnel across the actual gate.

More recently, in Norfolk, VA, we noticed tide gates around the Waterside neighborhood downtown, that led to some Googling and the discovery that Norfolk was the nation’s first “Tsunami-Ready City” in the US. I had no idea that such a designation existed, but was excited to find several more such sites coming up on our route.


No doubt that these infrastructure works were not implemented without extracting a pound of flesh (and not without major if not total Federal subsidy), but in both cases, the works extend well beyond a single development site, and included elements of placemaking and open space.

Are the condos underground? How do these other cities git ‘er done?

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