To dyke, or not to dyke: A debate coming to a town near you

Finally, President Obama’s state of the union called out Congress’s problem with climate change. Their denial is merely a symptom of overall scientific ignorance, a simply medieval issue that has temporarily stalled many great nations’ progress throughout history. Yet, President Obama’s points about climate change and it’s relevance to the nation gives one hope that there is a small smoldering ember of collaborative-driven leadership buried under piles of Benghazi reports, and it couldn’t come a moment too soon. The USA has stalled its scientific and technological growth at a key time in global history and is already generations behind the modern world in technological advancements to protect its people against a rising threat – the ocean.

Let me present you with a case study. I live in Zeeland in the Netherlands, and this area is protected by the world-famous Oosterschelde surge barrier; a 9km system of dams, movable concrete slabs, and artificial islands.  The Oosterschelde is one of many ocean barriers strategically placed along the Dutch coast and has been deemed one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.  During storm events, the Oosterschelde’s massive concrete slabs shut and cut off Zeeland’s waterways from the surge of the North Sea.

By Nils van der Burg from Madrid, Spain (IMG_7446) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Oosterschelde Delta Works – 9km long: By Nils van der Burg from Madrid, Spain (IMG_7446) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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#DrownYourTown Coastal States Road Trip is coming to your (virtual) town

Last week, I kicked off the #DrownYourTown Coastal States Road Trip with a cruise through California. Over the next few weeks, we’ll visit every coastal US state (and territory) and see what they look like after 5 meters of sea level rise. The first week of images is available at the #DrownYourTown tumblr and you can follow along in real time on twitter @DrownYourTown.

Panama City, FL after 5 meters of sea level rise.

Panama City, FL after 5 meters of sea level rise.

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Global is Personal: 4 Lessons About Climate Change Outreach from #DrownYourTown

Almost four months ago, I sat down at my computer with a puzzle to solve: is there an easy way to model sea level rise without using expensive GIS programs. I found that solution in Google Earth and, after a few days of experimenting and tweeking, #DrownYourTown was born.

1 meter of sea level rise would make for a very soggy superbowl.

1 meter of sea level rise would make for a very soggy superbowl.

#DrownYourTown is a tool for exploring sea level rise through real-time, interactive, GIS modeling. Anyone can submit a request via twitter or tumblr and receive a custom, 3D model of sea level rise anywhere in the world. The system allows users to produce dramatic visuals of both plausible and implausible climate change scenarios. The project is ongoing, with user generated content, an active tumblog, and a vibrant twitter community centered around the hashtag. I am constantly exploring new ways to reach a broader audience. Currently, #DrownYourTown is on a virtual road trip, visiting a new coastal state each day, and cruising through towns after 5 meters of sea level rise.

#DrownYourTown has been an exciting and sometimes humbling journey. Here are four lessons about climate change outreach I learned from drowning your town.

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Check out my #DrownYourTown feature at Zócalo Public Square

One day, I’ll look back fondly and tell my grandkids about the week I spent flooding the planet.

It began as a lark. For the past few months, I’ve been writing installments of a serialized science fiction novel about a world in which the oceans have risen nearly 80 meters and most of the human race now lives at sea. As the characters in my story ventured closer to shore, I realized I needed a simple way to visualize what that world would look like. I took to Google Earth and Inkscape—both free, readily available software packages—and simulated 80 meters of sea level rise. The results were stark, post-apocalyptic images of city skylines, submerged. Los Angeles was completely inundated south of the financial district. In D.C, only the Washington Monument rose above the encroaching Potomac. Telegraph Hill was an island in the expanded San Francisco Bay. North Carolina was a warm, shallow sea stretching from the Outer Banks to Rocky Mount. Florida was gone.

Want to read more? Check out my article at Zócalo Public Square: Why I Drowned L.A. and the World