France Is Taking a Drastic Approach to Sea Level Rise

When I was in elementary school in the early ’90s, there was already a clear understanding of climate change and its causes amongst educators — but these individuals weren’t necessarily part of serious political or industry discussions. In any case, there wasn’t serious action taken to address the problem.

Then when I was in university, Al Gore made a film called “An Inconvenient Truth.” Despite the public screenings, photo ops and widespread media attention, there still wasn’t much fundamental change in environmental regulation or energy policy.

The 2008 financial crisis happened as I was leaving school and starting a teaching career — and economic issues took up a lot of the oxygen in the room. I’s taken another ten years for us to really get a grasp on how the levers of power are controlled by rich white men, corporate interests, major donors, political cronies and an often complicit media.

Only in today’s political discourse are we for the first time discussing strategies for disrupting the established interests who want to delay action on climate change to maximize profit.

After decades of talking to my students, friends, families, elected representatives and readers about averting climate change, now I have to discuss mitigation and infrastructure preparation against its effects: drought-resistant crops, levies and sea walls.

Sea walls have been a staple of future-focused science fiction since the ’90s, but now they’ve become an inevitability. A wall may have to be built around Hong Kong, Tokyo, the British Isles, the coast of Thailand and the major cities of the Eastern Seaboard.

In less dense areas, where the cost of building and maintaining a wall to hold back the ocean simply isn’t economically viable? People need to retreat.

At least, this is the recommendation for coastal communities throughout the United States — and it’s what’s happening now in France.

We can’t rebuild after a freak storm because we can no longer deny that what we rebuild may very well be destroyed again by extreme weather. Major storms, like hurricanes, are only becoming more frequent and more powerful — such that they can no longer be considered abnormal. And they’re only the leading edge of sea level rise that will follow some decades after.

France has realized it’s better to cut losses and recognize that what used to be beachfront property is now on the front lines of climatic destruction.

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