Living by the sea can be a swell thing. Where we live, the breezes are mostly mild and scented with salt, sea shells, and mermaids.
People, lots of people, choose to live in coastal cities, and they always have. And those who don’t or can’t, come for holidays. Many of the benefits are obvious. Lovely pic of a coastal guy on his lunch break from here. Experts from all over (e.g.) say that just breathing sea air allows us to sleep better, and that can have real benefits to how happy and healthy we are.
But of course we can’t be blind to the other side of living with the sea as your neighbour. Our salty benefactor that serves up so much pleasure and good health can also serve up destruction and death. The truth is, sometimes, the bountiful sea doesn’t stay put. Sometimes, it comes calling.
Venice is the most famous and photogenic example. And though Venetians are justly famous for just carrying on and wading about their business, the government is spending a fortune (even by Venetian standards) to try and keep the Mediterranean out of the piazzas and palazzos. One story here
New Yorkers got a taste of life with the Atlantic ocean too close for comfort during and after Hurricane Sandy Oct 2012. Since then, the city has been re-thinking the way Manhattan works in order to prevent similar damage from future, inevitable storms. Here is one of many reports on the plans.
It is not just New York’s problem. This is something all great and small coastal cities should have on their agenda. Because there is more water in all the seas than there once was, and the only place it has to go is up, where we are, by the sea. Why?
The ice at the top and bottom of our planet is melting fast enough to cause measurable changes in sea level around the world. Whether you think the reason is man-made climate change (we do), natural cycles, socialists, or alien misbehavior, the melting of arctic and antarctic ice is real. It is not a theory or a political platform. It happens daily, sometimes in dramatic fashion.
This berg is about to shed a wedge of ice the size of warehouse. Beautifully photographed in Alaska by Betty Sederquist. More here.
At the other end of the earth, this is a giant iceberg in Antarctica about to leave the mother ship. It was deemed separated in April of this year and weighed in at “the size of Chicago” or “as big as Singapore”, depending on your source. Lots of video coverage via this site
What this event means for those of us who live by the sea now is not much, in terms of our day at the beach. Even if it drifts into warm waters and melts completely, even when Chicago melts, you’d need more than an eagle eye to spot the rise in sea level. But there are lots more city size ice cubes breaking away and melting. This is a recent summary report from the NY Times
This beautiful object (wonderful photo by Camille Seaman) may not be much of a threat to modern ships or tomorrow’s day at the beach, but it and its kin are slowly raising the tideline around the world. Choice property will be lost–some quickly in murderous storms, some slowly over generations.
We can’t stop it, but we can do what we do when we are at our best: we can start thinking differently about how we respond to this force of nature. We in coastal cities can start planning–as New York is doing–for dealing with higher water when it comes, taking preventative action, reducing the destruction. Instead of pure admiration or pure fear of the ocean, we need to get more realistic and show more respect for the ocean we love. As sailors always have.
It’s time to move the carousel. Pic from Brooklyn Oct 2012.