Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Striving After Sand

Some thoughts on "The Beach Builders", a New Yorker article by John Seabrook that asks the question, "Can the Jersey Shore be saved?"

How many houses were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy? The article, quoting Governor Christie, says 365 (thousand!). 365,000 ?!!

Where sand for beach renourishment comes from: In the documentary "Shored Up", sand is described as a limited resource along the Jersey shore. There's only so much to dig up from deeper waters to replenish what the ocean erodes away. In the article, Seabrook describes how the sand now being used to buttress barrier island development from storm damage comes from a beach from the last ice age, back when vast glaciers covered much of North America and the sea was 60 feet lower. In other words, past solar energy (in the form of fossil fuels) is being used to dig up past beaches in order to prop up present day lifestyles. 

Shifting Perceptions: The article contemplates how people will view the ocean after a couple more storms like Sandy. Will the ocean maintain its appeal, or will people "see only the menace"? 
        We've seen this shift elsewhere. People's views of cigarettes changed, as the romance fell away, revealing the underlying addiction and danger. Planes in the sky after the 9/11 terrorist attacks appeared menacing. I've wondered when we'll start looking at automobiles and other machines differently, once their role in altering climate and sea levels becomes more apparent in coming decades. 

Ocean Avenue, and what's in a name: Oftentimes, developments are named after what is no longer there--some natural feature or animal banished by the development. Ocean Avenue, however, is an example of a name that actually foretold what it would become, at least during Hurricane Sandy. The road was covered by the ocean, requiring snowplows to clear the sand from the pavement.

Christie's quote denying human-caused climate change was worse than originally thought: The governor is, of course, serving as cheer leader for the shore, which is a big part of the Jersey economy. But for someone who brags of taking action when past governors have not, and who speaks of what sort of world our grandchildren will inherit, his dismissive attitude towards climate change is jarring. The full quote in the article is worse than the snippet reported in the news. Asked about climate change and Hurricane Sandy, he said "I haven't been shown any definitive proof yet that that's what caused it. Listen, this is distraction. I've got a place to rebuild here, and people want to talk to me about esoteric theories. We've got plenty of time to do that later on." 
        "Distraction.....esoteric theories.....plenty of time.....later on." These words, like New Jersey's beaches, offer a flimsy defense against the rising tide.