[Marxism] Fwd: Miami is Flooding - The New Yorker
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Mon Dec 21 08:45:03 MST 2015
The city of Miami Beach floods on such a predictable basis that if, out
of curiosity or sheer perversity, a person wants to she can plan a visit
to coincide with an inundation. Knowing the tides would be high around
the time of the “super blood moon,” in late September, I arranged to
meet up with Hal Wanless, the chairman of the University of Miami’s
geological-sciences department. Wanless, who is seventy-three, has spent
nearly half a century studying how South Florida came into being. From
this, he’s concluded that much of the region may have less than half a
century more to go.
We had breakfast at a greasy spoon not far from Wanless’s office, then
set off across the MacArthur Causeway. (Out-of-towners often assume that
Miami Beach is part of Miami, but it’s situated on a separate island, a
few miles off the coast.) It was a hot, breathless day, with a brilliant
blue sky. Wanless turned onto a side street, and soon we were
confronting a pond-sized puddle. Water gushed down the road and into an
underground garage. We stopped in front of a four-story apartment
building, which was surrounded by a groomed lawn. Water seemed to be
bubbling out of the turf. Wanless took off his shoes and socks and
pulled on a pair of polypropylene booties. As he stepped out of the car,
a woman rushed over. She asked if he worked for the city. He said he did
not, an answer that seemed to disappoint but not deter her. She gestured
at a palm tree that was sticking out of the drowned grass.
“Look at our yard, at the landscaping,” she said. “That palm tree was
super-expensive.” She went on, “It’s crazy—this is saltwater.”
“Welcome to rising sea levels,” Wanless told her.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels
could rise by more than three feet by the end of this century. The
United States Army Corps of Engineers projects that they could rise by
as much as five feet; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration predicts up to six and a half feet. According to Wanless,
all these projections are probably low. In his office, Wanless keeps a
jar of meltwater he collected from the Greenland ice sheet. He likes to
point out that there is plenty more where that came from.
“Many geologists, we’re looking at the possibility of a
ten-to-thirty-foot range by the end of the century,” he told me.
We got back into the car. Driving with one hand, Wanless shot pictures
out the window with the other. “Look at that,” he said. “Oh, my gosh!”
We’d come to a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes where the water
was creeping under the security gates and up the driveways. Porsches and
Mercedeses sat flooded up to their chassis.
“This is today, you know,” Wanless said. “This isn’t with two feet of
sea-level rise.” He wanted to get better photos, and pulled over onto
another side street. He handed me the camera so that I could take a
picture of him standing in the middle of the submerged road. Wanless
stretched out his arms, like a magician who’d just conjured a rabbit.
Some workmen came bouncing along in the back of a pickup. Every few
feet, they stuck a depth gauge into the water. A truck from the Miami
Beach Public Works Department pulled up. The driver asked if we had
called City Hall. Apparently, one of the residents of the street had
mistaken the high tide for a water-main break. As we were chatting with
him, an elderly woman leaning on a walker rounded the corner. She looked
at the lake the street had become and wailed, “What am I supposed to
do?” The men in the pickup truck agreed to take her home. They folded up
her walker and hoisted her into the cab.
To cope with its recurrent flooding, Miami Beach has already spent
something like a hundred million dollars. It is planning on spending
several hundred million more. Such efforts are, in Wanless’s view, so
much money down the drain. Sooner or later—and probably sooner—the city
will have too much water to deal with. Even before that happens, Wanless
believes, insurers will stop selling policies on the luxury condos that
line Biscayne Bay. Banks will stop writing mortgages.
“If we don’t plan for this,” he told me, once we were in the car again,
driving toward the Fontainebleau hotel, “these are the new Okies.” I
tried to imagine Ma and Pa Joad heading north, their golf bags and
espresso machine strapped to the Range Rover.
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