I have read and listened to people speak about sea level rise before, but for some reason, this time it was different…
Last week, in Hollywood, Florida, at the sparkling ocean side resort, the Westin Diplomat, I listened to Dr Harold Wanless, Chairman of the Department of Geological Sciences, University of Miami. I experienced half denial and half fascination as he gave his unemotional, scientific presentation at the Florida League of Cities Annual Conference. The first sentence he said was “Sometime in the next 30 years, people in South Florida with 30 year mortgages will not be able to sell their homes.”
He cited Miami as the ninth most vulnerable city in the world to sea level rise and number one in exposed assets. He noted the warming and expansion of the world oceans, and the melting of Greenland and the polar glaciers. He said the oceans will rise 2-5 feet by the end of the century. Miami International Airport will be a marsh. He calmly projected that there will be forced evacuation of most barrier islands.
“Guess what?” he said. “The ocean has arrived.”
“The ocean city, Sewall’s Point. The island city that is…”I fantasized.
Dr Wanless like a mannequin continued.
The porous sand of Florida will not allow what Holland and New Orleans have done. South Florida will be under water and if not underwater the water will be so close underground that it will make maintaining roads and infrastructure almost impossible for cities…
At two feet increase, 72% of Miami’s land mass will remain above water. At six feet, 44%.
At this point I started doing the math. In years that is. I wrote down my age, 50, and all the ages of my family. In 34 years, with his prediction for two feet, I would be 84. Ed my husband, 92. My parents in heaven. My sister 81; my brother 78; my nieces 44; 46; 47 and 47. “I guess Ed and I can’t leave the house to the “kids…” I thought.
The whole time I was watching my real estate values go down, I was wondering about my beloved Indian River Lagoon. Can we still save her? Will the ocean reclaim her? Will she still be an estuary? Is all our work in vain?
There were two more speakers after Dr Wanless. Attorney Thomas Ruppert and Assistant Public Works Director of the City of Ft Lauderdale, Nancy Gassman. Basically Ruppert said you can’t win and Gassman said not to panic. Cites have gone through changes before…we must believe in humankind. We will keep building; we will adapt and survive.
As someone who has given my life to the preservation of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, I felt like “preserve” was suddenly a word that was outdated.
I starred thinking…worrying…’
“I must rather help the lagoon “adapt” to changes the best I can. If this to be, which I do not know, but probably is… I cannot preserve her, in fact I never could, she has always been changing. Wow, this is uncomfortable. It’s like my world is upside down. How can I plan if this is to be the future? …I must stay the course; I will not abandon ship. I will keep my values…
I think I’ll go to my room and look out the window, at the ocean…when is happy hour?
I think I will begin to prepare for the storm ahead…”
–thank you to Mayor, Cindy Lerner, Village of Pinecrest and Ryan Matthews, FLC for organizing this presentation.
Sea Level Rise and the Impacts of Climate Change