Tuesday
Jun252013

Goodbye, Miami

Seventeen things I underlined in Jeff Goodell's distressing piece in the current Rolling Stone:

1. ... Miami embodies the central technological myth of our time – that nature can not only be tamed but made irrelevant.

2. ... "a citadel of fantastical consumption."

3. ... the unavoidable truth is that sea levels are rising and Miami is on its way to becoming an American Atlantis.

4. "Miami, as we know it today, is doomed," says Harold Wanless, the chairman of the department of geological sciences at the University of Miami. "It's not a question of if. It's a question of when."

5. ... South Florida is uniquely screwed ...

6. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development lists Miami as the number-one most vulnerable city worldwide in terms of property damage, with more than $416 billion in assets at risk to storm-related flooding and sea-level rise.

7. With just three feet of sea-level rise, more than a third of southern Florida will vanish; at six feet, more than half will be gone; if the seas rise 12 feet, South Florida will be little more than an isolated archipelago surrounded by abandoned buildings and crumbling overpasses. And the waters won't just come in from the east – because the region is so flat, rising seas will come in nearly as fast from the west too, through the Everglades.

8. "Imagine Swiss cheese, and you'll have a pretty good idea what the rock under southern Florida looks like."

9. "I mentioned sea-level rise, and I was treated to a 15-minute lecture on Genesis by one of the commissioners. He said, 'God destroyed the Earth with water the first time, and he promised he wouldn't do it again. So all of you who are pushing fears about sea-level rise, go back and read the Bible.'"

10. "If you live in South Florida and you're not building a boat, you're not facing reality."

11."New Orleans looks a lot like the Netherlands – it is below sea level, with a big dike around it," says Piet Dircke, program director for water management at ARCADIS in the Netherlands. "If you don't pump it out, the city drowns. It's a big bathtub. We know how to do that. Miami is different. It is also a low-­lying city but far more complicated because of issues about water quality, the porousness of the limestone the city sits on, as well as water coming in from the west, through the Everglades."

12. Miami is the most connected city in America, a place where the entire economy is geared toward the next big banking deal, real-estate deal, drug deal. As Wayne Pathman, a land-use attorney in Miami, put it to me, "The biggest question for the future of Miami is how investors will react when they understand the risks of sea-level rise."

13. ... Stiltsville ...

14. "How do you build a floating city in this kind of environment?"

15. ... the city of Miami may well have time to transform itself into a modern Venice. But more likely, the ocean will seep slowly into the city, higher and higher every year, until a big storm comes along and devastates the place and people begin to question the wisdom of living in a world that is slowly drowning. The potential for chaos is self-evident as Miami becomes a place people flee from rather than flock toward. Liberty City, a black community downtown, is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Miami. It also happens to be on some of the highest ground.

16. Americans will also have to face up to the fact that Everglades National Park, home to one of the most remarkable ecosystems in the world, is a goner. More than half the park will be inundated with just three feet of sea-level rise, and the rest of it will vanish shortly thereafter. "We are going to have to change the name to Everglades National Marine Sanctuary," one scientist told me.

17. "The unpleasant truth is that it will be all too easy for the rest of the nation to just let South Florida go."

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