Managed Retreats From Rising Seas

Live on the coast? Your home might be swallowed by the sea by 2100. Now, a controversial solution used around the world could help solve the crisis before it's too late.

Often equated as a four-letter word in policy

More than 13 million residents along the U.S coasts could see their homes swamped by 2100 in consonance with Nature Climate Change. Retreats from rising seas are already happening in many parts of the world — but for many in in the U.S, it’s a controversial response to the climate crisis. Pulitzer Prize nominated author Elizabeth Rush spent 5 years exploring America’s coastlines and documenting applications of climate retreats.

“A lot of people would be like “Oh my God, retreat happened in New York City?” And the answer is yes, all along the eastern shore of Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy. Thousands of citizens who were tired of flooding came together and they started these grassroots buyout campaigns where they asked ultimately the governor to purchase and demolish their flood-prone homes. At a larger scale, part of what I think is really fascinating and promising about managed retreat is that, you know, that climate change resilience strategy, it demands that we recognize a kind of porous relationship with the more-than-human world and that kind of humility that we can't just as a species design our way out of this problem, that we are part of the world in which we live,” Elizabeth Rush tells Brut.

In 2016, the Louisiana community of Isle de Jean Charles was the first in the U.S. to be given a federal grant to resettle because of flooding. The $48 million resettlement project is a test case for more to come. According to researchers, the potential exodus from the coasts could be similar in size to the 20th century's Great Migration. Florida accounts for 40% of the riskiest coast land in the country — where 6 million Floridians will need to move inland to avoid inundation. While managed retreat still has a reputation problem, Rush documented several examples of successful managed retreats, including in New York City.