I have held the views I am expressing today for some time. My recent reading of The Water Will Come by Jeff Goodall only solidified, amplified and justified them. Climate change is real and some places are simply predictable targets of extreme weather which climate change will make more frequent and severe. We, as a society can no longer serve as an insurance policy for people who want to continue to rebuild in areas that are effectively doomed. However, like most things in modern life it is neither that simple nor that cut and dry. Let’s explore.
I have lived in three states (New York, Florida and North Carolina). All three are susceptible to extreme weather events and the future looks bleak not bright on that front. Superstorm Sandy taught us a lesson about sea level rise and storm surge. Florida is synonymous with hurricanes and has been for decades. If you think sea level rise is a left wing myth ask the people of Miami who deal with its effects on a daily basis. During just this decade parts of North Carolina have been devastated by hurricane associated flooding so frequently they cannot complete rebuilding from the first event before the second hits.
This is not just an East Coast phenomenon nor am I a bad luck charm. Some Californians insist on building homes on mountainside because of the picturesque views. The view is beautiful until gravity takes the house for a “walk” during a mudslide. (Wildfires and storms are getting worse due to climate change.)
Through relief efforts and/or underpriced insurance we as a society, largely via the government, help the victims of these events rebuild. The problem is we help them rebuild in the same area which is too prone to another, and in most cases even more severe, weather event in the near future. We keep repeating the process which borders on insanity.
Sea level rise makes it even less sensible. In many cases the sea level rise itself will render the land uninhabitable or at least silly to build on. In other cases it guarantees that future storms will cause even more damage than their predecessors did.
The bottom line is that we simply cannot afford to keep bailing people out.
I’m a typical liberal (and in this case typical American), in that I want to help my fellow man in need. In part it is simply the morally correct thing to do. From a practical and selfish standpoint if Americans share the cost of natural disasters they become at least somewhat affordable. It’s like we all insure one another
I feel we have reached the point where this continuous cycle of bailing the same communities out is far from the best use of our resources. The money would be much better used to relocate people and industries to places that are better suited to a sustainable future. I’m not saying I want to leave people out in the cold. If disaster hits I think we should make the victims whole again, we just may need to move them. This is easier said than done and I fear our office holders will lack the courage and be unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices. This is especially true of coastal communities. Man has a natural love of living near the water and the seas are rising.
America is also a country of rights and freedom. Most Americans feel it is their right to live near the shore if they so choose. I agree. I’m just not willing to pay for your right to place yourself in danger. As of a date certain we have to declare certain areas as too prone to severe weather to repeatedly make people whole. At that point we buy people out or allow them to live there until the next natural disaster at which point we make them whole for the final time. If they choose to continue to live there they are on their own. No insurance subsidies via government programs and no rebuilding aid. That includes the infrastructure, not just the homes. The bridge washes out – go build a new one yourself.
I’m not saying we suddenly become a cruel heartless society. We help people like the victims of the unpredictable (i.e. tornadoes) but the idea of constantly rebuilding in areas that are effectively doomed is simply an imprudent use of our resources.
This “plan” is nothing more than an extremely basic outline. Much planning and refinement is needed. What it does is recognize reality. The biggest obstacles will be greed and the lack of political courage. Imprudent or insane; you pick the adjective but that is simply what continuing on our current path is. It is certainly not prudent or economically sustainable.
Please note: This article was written well in advance of publishing in order to accommodate my holiday travel and grandpa time schedule.
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