How Long Can You Hold Back The Sea?

I’m on business trip in South Florida and happened be near 10th and Alton in Miami Beach. That may not mean much to you, except you might have seen a 2014 New York Times article titled “Miami Finds Itself Ankle-Deep in Climate Change Debate”, which included this picture of the corner of 10th and Alton.


As the caption indicated:

“Scenes of street flooding, like this one on Alton Road in Miami Beach in November [2013], are becoming increasingly common.”

In this part of the USA, rising sea levels are not a distant prospect. As the Miami Herald explains:

“Every fall when the king tides roll in, the most obvious sign of climate change asserts itself in South Florida: flooding everywhere”.

And so to somehow handle that flooding, there is an ambitious nearly half billion dollar engineering project to install 80 pumps, raise street levels and other related construction. It leads to scenes like this that I saw yesterday on the other side of the street corner in the picture above.


If you happen to go to the Starbucks down the block on 10th towards Biscayne Bay, here’s how you’ll be able to enjoy your latté.


Elsewhere in Miami Beach, there are similar, even more disconcerting, scenes, including the one below of Miami Beach Engineer Bruce Mowry showing the big difference between street and sidewalk.


It’s not that I’m criticizing local officials and engineers for this response, even if it is something of an experiment. On the local level, mitigation is perhaps a reasonable answer to the problem.

But at the national and international level, this situation highlights the ultimate debate about whether to hope for mitigation of the effects of climate change in the future or to do something more globally about to reduce it now.

All of this reminds me of the legendary story of King Canute of England setting his throne on the seashore and ordering the tide to stop so he would not get wet. Of course, the sea paid no attention to his command. People sometimes misinterpret the story as demonstrating the folly of the king’s arrogance. But, in the original tale, he went through this exercise to persuade his people that even a king’s power had limits.

No matter which version of the story you remember, there’s food for thought as we consider how the public and officials at all levels of government are responding to climate change.

© 2016 Norman Jacknis, All Rights Reserved


It Just Takes Some Imagination

I had the good fortune to be around Miami this past Saturday night as the city hosted Sleepless Night when the clocks were turned back for the end of daylight savings time.  This is part of the international Nuit Blanche network of cities celebrating the arts and culture.  

Of the more than 100 events in Miami Beach, one that attracted a very large crowd was the “vertical dancing” on the glass side of the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center, which houses the New World Symphony.  It was performed by Project Bandaloop as “Bound(less)” with Dana Leong.

I posted ten minutes of excerpts from this show at  (There’s a two minute version someone else posted at

Aside from noting how cool this is, as I was watching, I thought how straightforward this was – instead of letting the side of a building just provide a skin for the occupants, this transformed the side of the building into a dance floor.  (The other side of the building is a huge screen that lets people outside see and hear the concerts going on inside.)

It’s simple and, compared to lots of other civic events across the US, it is relatively inexpensive.  All it takes is some imagination to create this kind of Wow! experience in your city.

I realize, of course, that not every city has the large pool of artists, dancers, musicians, etc. that can be found in Miami.  So I’m not suggesting that every city imitate this particular event.  But every city has the potential for interesting experiences, which can be discovered with a little imagination.  

As the broadband-based video communications becomes more widespread and more of what we produce are intangible services and knowledge, there will be an increasing number of people who can make a living anywhere they choose to live.  What a city might have done to attract tourists in the past, it will have to do to retain and attract residents.  

Like SleepLess Night, give them a reason to be there.

© 2011 Norman Jacknis