The Dry Line

24 thoughts on “The Dry Line”

  1. I’m not so worried about sea level rise per se. There will be more hurricanes and more King Tides. Humans are pretty adaptable. We’ll muddle through. We’ll abandon places that aren’t profitable. The poor will get screwed but somehow it was their fault. America!

    More problematic in the big picture is the social and economic upheaval, both nationally and globally. The Pearl River Delta, the world’s workshop, and home to 57 million people (more than all of California), is extremely vulnerable to climate change. Imagine the humming factories of Shenzhen offline for a week. Target, Amazon or Wal-Mart much? Is your retirement portfolio tied to these multinationals that are dependent on such a small region of the world for P&L? Might some instability be a good excuse for a war?

  2. Re the last two paragraphs in your post:
    1 – ‘Them as has gets…’ And good luck with your half-assed barrier thingie fellas – water always goes where it will.
    2 – Might be best – and cheaper – to move upland; starting about thirty years ago.
    Per example:
    Just over a decade ago we spent some time in Metarie, LA, which is an unincorporated suburban development that was built in a former cypress swamp between central New Orleans and Lake Ponchartrain. The house we occupied sits about six blocks from the levee that runs for miles along the south edge of the lake – which is really a very large brackish bay of the
    Gulf. The levee is a massive earth-fill type structure roughly thirty or more feet high and two or three times that in cross-section at the base. It is punctured here and there by drainage outlets serviced by huge pumps that connect to a vast network of drainage canals inland. Near where we lived there is a marker in the center of the street that indicates that this location is four feet below sea level. During Katrina water was standing two feet deep in the house we later were living in (the house itself sits about three feet above the street) in spite of the levee and the huge pump that drains the area where we lived. I once asked our neighbor across the street what they’d do if/when there was another Katrina. He replied that they were thinking of moving to Baton Rouge. My thought was maybe Memphis would be better – or Colorado.

      1. Yeah, we now live just outside Medford, OR – waitin’ for the next wildfire conflagration and/or the “Big One”. I’m personally happy I’m not my grandkids – and yes, I feel for their future.

    1. Huge numbers of New Orleanians moved to Texas after Katrina. I was teaching HS in Waco TX in the central part of the state and had perhaps a half-dozen new students from LA and MS after Katrina. Kids all loved TX and had no interest in moving back. Absolutely huge numbers moved to Houston. Then a decade later Harvey happened.

      I don’t know if any place is absolutely armored against climate change. But we were done with Texas and moved back to the greater Portland area in the northwest. Climate change is happening here as well, but at least a few degrees of warming won’t make the place uninhabitable like it will Texas or the low coastal areas of the Gulf and Atlantic seaboard.

      I think a lot about how places like New Orleans or Miami will die. I don’t think it will be slowly with encroaching seawater. I think it will be sudden. Some day another Category 5 storm will hit and do so much damage that people will just walk away. When enough banks and insurance companies and individuals decide it isn’t worth rebulding yet one more time in the face of rising seas it won’t happen.

      1. It could be that one too many storms kills a place. Or it could be something that involves less Hollywood drama. Salt water intrusion into the drinking water supply would kill a place invisibly with no sexy video footage.

        There’s the possibility that just about everyplace will be hit with some version of disruption so people won’t have the choice of simply relocating to (insert your personal safe haven here.) We might be facing a future in which people become permanent migrants drifting from place to place – and not always being welcomed. Or many of us might realize that hunkering down in your chosen disaster area with your own people makes more sense. We’ll find out…

        1. I was born and raised in northern lower Michigan and I have trouble seeing major disruption happening to the climate there (Upper Great Lakes) that would cause significant financial or societal problems. Maybe more regular tornados in the southern flatness of MI near the IN/OH border or more severe earlier/later occurring winter storms blanketing the area. The snowstorms is less a possible problem as natives in the Upper Great Lakes can handle more snow unless it started becoming a next Ice Age.

          Though, educated people are currently speculating that the Great Lakes region could be a likely destination for climate change refugees from east/south/west of the USA. We’ll see.

          1. I have no idea how things will play out anywhere. The one thing I’m sure of is that we’ll all be surprised by how things unfold.

            At the moment I know of small towns in Montana (to use just one example) that are in an uproar because Californians with money are arriving in modest numbers and driving up the cost of real estate for the locals. That’s a tiny hint at what could happen on a larger scale if a small fraction of the population began to migrate.

            Prolonged draught in Syria caused internal displacement, economic hardship, and civil war. The formerly middle class refugees spilled out into Europe and created disorder in the larger region.

            The Great Lakes have a high concentration of aging and not-very-well-maintained nuclear plants. How many Fukushimas or Chernobyls would it take to make all that lovely farmland and fresh water turn to crap? I’m guessing… one?

            1. Good point regarding the nuclear plants. The one ‘downriver’ south of Detroit could have drastic Chernobyl-like impact. Then due to prevailing winds (w-e) contamination gets blown/flow east across Lake Erie, which would directly impact NEOH, Ontario Canada population centers and western PA/NY. Wouldn’t be good.

              1. I’ve been to Pripyat and Chernobyl so I know what the aftermath of that kind of event looks like up close. I decided that the Earth will carry on just fine as nature heals itself in the absence of humans. It’s not the end of the world. But there’s that one part… “The absence of humans.” If we won’t take corrective action ahead of the curve (assuming we even know what that action is) we could just make ourselves irrelevant. We won’t be missed.

        2. That is happening where I live in SoCal. As more ground water is pumped out the Pacific Ocean gradually moves in underground. The local water company, now run by the county govmnt, sends out a report annually with a summary of water source and quality. When I moved here 2 decades ago 85% came from local wells, the rest imported. Now the quantities are reversed. Those imports come from the Colorado river and the California Aqueduct, all sources hundreds of miles away. All those systems are subject to interruption from earthquakes, storms, and electricity outages.
          Most of the water goes to grow strawberries, avocados, tomatoes, bell peppers, citrus fruit, and other fruits and vegetables. All a major part of the local economy.
          Occasionally I read about a govmnt committee studying the situation and recommending to growers that they reduce well pumping. Under current California law I don’t think that the govmnt can stop someone with “water rights” from using it.
          I imagine that people are rubbing rabbits feet, or similar, hoping we go into a wet weather cycle.
          Even though the current season has had the most rain and snow in a decade the underground aquifers, like Lake Powell, will probably never be replenished.
          Unless, as Johnny noted, there are a lot fewer people around.

      2. I’m not sure Katrina or Harvey are examples of climate change. It’s weather combined with the choices of people and the failure of their engineering. There is actually a geological record in the Mississippi delta of mega hurricanes from hundreds/thousands of years ago. Storms came through the region that were apparently more powerful than anything anybody living has seen. Big, bad hurricanes happen.

        I’ve always wondered if the mound building native American civilizations that once existed might have dealt with flooding in part by building their mounds. All the mound sites are next to waterways. Bunches of them exist along the Mississippi and are sited in flood plains. There are mound sites even just off the Gulf coast. Somehow those folks managed.

        I was also in Houston for Harvey. The front page photos of the highwater that were in the NY Times was just 10 blocks from where I live. It covered the bike path I normally bike, run, and walk on. Most of that water was gone in less that 24 hours. Houston proper actually drains fast. Flooding happens often in certain places and people just deal with it. It’s not a catastrophic amount of water. If it was, Houston and bunches of other places would be dying right now and they aren’t.

        What is likely to kill Houston or Miami, is as likely to kill Portland and San Francisco…. which is some cosmic cataclysm. Climate change, whichever way it is heading, is on a slow roll and will be dealt with over time, I think. Yes… Houston, Miami, and New York aren’t looking good if the seas are higher thousands of years from now. However, Portland won’t be looking so good if there is more ice thousands of years from now. New York is screwed either way. In the meantime Portland also has a bunch of volcanoes to contend with.

        Like Johnny says, pick your poison.

        1. I tend to frame any mention of climate change in a much larger context so as to avoid the current political conflict. There’s a camp that believes business-as-usual will continue forever with no long term consequences. There’s another group that believes the-end-is-near. Repent! Repent! I suspect change will come in fits and starts with winners and losers over decades and centuries. The key is for individuals to pay attention to the early signals and act accordingly.

  3. I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic and dystopian books. It’s a little pedantic, but “New York 2140” was a fun read about how people survive in “Super Venice.” That is, fun as long as it’s fiction.

    1. I also read and enjoyed New York 2140. Kim Stanley Robinson paints a vivid picture. I’m very fond of Paulo Bacigalupi and his extrapolations on what places like Bangkok and Phoenix might be like in the coming years. Try the Wind Up Girl and the Water Knife if you haven’t already.

      1. Yes! I have read both books, plus most of his books, including his young-adult fiction. What I like about Bacigalupi is that the stories are optimistic, even in the midst of disaster and the worst possible situations.

  4. It’s just mind-boggling to me to see how gorgeous these parks are in NYC. I lived there from 1988-94, and I had a friend who joined the NYC Parks Dept in 1988 and probably still designs these, though he is near retirement now. He lived on Roosevelt Island, and I remember taking the tram over there and seeing an abandoned hospital or prison at the south end of the island. The whole place had an IKEA like vibe with planned housing and a strange disconnection with the rest of the city.

    I understand that NYC also has a homeless situation, but unlike Los Angeles, I don’t see (in your photos) shopping carts and garbage dumped alongside the waterfront, in Central Park or on the High Line.

    I visited there last December and the entire city is seemingly more magnificent than it ever was, with every last decrepit section undergoing a transformation to surface affluence.

    As for flood control, I have no doubt that NYC will construct some oceanic fortress to protect Wall Street and Lower Manhattan.

    1. I actually lived in New York on and off in my youth. I had my 4th birthday in Queens, then enjoyed some adolescent misadventures in Alphabet City, Hell’s Kitchen (now rebranded as “Clinton”) and so on. Back then – early 70s to mid 80s – these neighborhoods were at the bottom of the cultural and economic cycle and populated by tranny whores and heroin addicts. Rent was cheap. The trash was piled high. Nothing had seen paint in decades. There were no Gucci shops or fine dining. No Museum complexes or exquisite parks. I liked it just as much back then, just for different reasons. There was a kind of freedom in the ruins.

      What isn’t readily obvious about the homeless situation is that the cast offs of society have simply been relocated to the new emerging slums in unexpected places out on the periphery. For every glossy new starchitect tower in one place there’s a dead strip mall and festering garden apartment complex elsewhere.

    2. How much of the operations of Wall Street is actually humming away inside giant server farms in places like Nevada, Utah, and the Oregon desert? I know there is a lot of “stuff” in lower Manhattan, and a whole bunch of people work there. But how important is that actual piece of real estate to the functioning of the American economy?

      I honestly have no idea.

      1. That’s a fascinating question. From what I understand there are no human traders anymore. There’s a giant server farm across the river in Jersey and another in the suburbs of Chicago. London, Shanghai, etc, have their equivalents.

        The modern world is unbelievably complex and all that complexity has to be managed and mediated and massaged by an army of middle men. They tend to live and work in a handful of locations. Manhattan is one of them. If they all disappeared would anyone miss them? We may find out someday…

  5. The sensible thing is of course for the City to levy a tax on the district protected or have a corporation created (like a business improvement district corporation) that specifically pulls revenue from members to build and maintain the barrier infrastructure. That said it’ll probably be funded through shenanigans like the Hudson Yards.

    1. There’s a problem with special corporate entities that are used to build public infrastructure. The city is the financial backstop if the corporation becomes insolvent. It’s a backdoor way of making it look like a project will pay for itself, but the taxpayers tend to bail it out in the long run anyway.

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