Reports are in. There is empirical and substantial evidence that our coasts are changing. Sea level rise aggravates the impact of relatively minor storms such as tropical storms and category 1 hurricanes. As exemplified recently in the North East coasts, the devastation for coastal communities can be and is catastrophic. People lose their homes, lands, friends, family and even their own lives. This is said not to be morbid but rather to present an ever present reality. If planners and coastal communities remain with the present development mentality, this kind of senseless catastrophic loss will only continue. But wait, what does this have to do with inland communities? Everything.
One of the best advices for coastal communities is to focus their development farther from the coasts. In other words, go inland. And with over 50% of US populations living near the coasts, this shift presents several problems. For starters, how will our current transportation
infrastructure handle the added impact of this increase in volume? It is no secret that our transportation plexus is being out passed by population growth and the pervasive reliance on the automobile is negating planning efforts to diversify transportation options in order to alleviate this problem. There is a limit to how much our roads can handle, and the automobile, for all its glory, consumes too much space. This will only be exacerbated when coastal communities finally start moving inland. But our road network is not the only problem; housing also becomes a very real and lacking resource. Presently, there is a dearth of affordable housing in the United States. As more people are impacted by the effects of sea level rise and coastal change, people are going to need homes inland, and these homes will need to be affordable. Current credit restrictions have the potential to further complicate obtaining homes for people who are displaced.
The solution is not a simple one. The complexity of the situation demands a fairly complex solution. But it starts with public education of the current trend of coastal change. Because the fact that this catastrophic impact is felt most on the coast, does not mean that it won’t affect the rest of us who live inland, and to be blindsided by politics, can be just as catastrophic, not just for the few, but for all of us.