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 , 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