Unable to See the Forest For the Trees

Or in the realty of rising sea levels it’s a case of not seeing the shoreline for the water


As global warming continues to melt glacial and polar ice, causing sea levels to rise, greater flooding in towns and cities along our eastern seaboard are occurring.  This hard reality no longer needs the projection of climate scientists and oceanographers to tell coastal residents what they already know by living it.  And yet there still remain skeptics in these locales that just can’t seem to take their denier blinders off.

Across a narrow inlet from Wallop Island, Virginia where NASA’s billion-dollar space launch complex occupies a barrier island, sits the island town of Chincoteague, gateway to a national wildlife refuge blessed with a stunning mile-long recreational beach – a major tourist draw and source of big business for the community. But the sea is robbing the townspeople of their main asset.
The beach has been disappearing at an average rate of 10 to 22 feet (3 to 7 meters) a year. The access road and a 1,000-car parking lot have been rebuilt five times in the past decade because of coastal flooding, at a total cost of $3 million.
Officials of the wildlife refuge say they face a losing battle against rising seas. In 2010, they proposed to close the beach and shuttle tourists by bus to a safer stretch of sandy shoreline.
The town revolted. Like many local residents, Wanda Thornton, the town’s representative on the Accomack County board of supervisors, accepts that the sea is rising, but is skeptical that climate change and its effects have anything to do with the erosion of the beach. As a result, “I’m just not convinced that it requires the drastic change that some people think it does,” she said.
Four years on, after a series of angry public meetings, the sea keeps eating the shore, and the government keeps spending to fix the damage.   SOURCE

The problem with ideologues who buy into the climate denier skepticism is that when confronted with realities that debunk long-held beliefs they, like any true believer of false hopes, will bury their head in the sand and imagine they can will it all a way.  “Just keep the faith” they encourage others while believing that doing anything that conflicts with their unsustainable views is somehow worse than being swept into the ocean as the land beneath them washes away.

That Wanda Thornton and her ilk think that a miracle awaits them against the forces of nature reminds me of the insightful joke about the man who refused to accept help from human sources as the flood water kept rising above the roof top he settled himself on.  Thinking God alone would save him, he fatefully discovered after his drowning and standing at the gate’s of heaven that God was trying to help him by sending the humans in boats to rescue  him.   The fact that the writing is on the wall for the townspeople of Chincoteague apparently doesn’t make them capable of interpreting its obvious message.

I can appreciate how hard it must be for these people to accept any thought that suggests they pack up and move away from a land that has been in their families for generations because all of they have come to know is slowly washing away.  Part of this  thinking likely comes from the belief that human ingenuity and modern technology will always find a solution to our problems.  But for every tale of where this has panned out there are equal or greater numbers of incidences where it hasn’t.  Clearly though we are not always willing to see the disparities between what we believe and what is real.

As larger amounts of CO2 from burning fossil fuels joins the levels nature has distributed  in the atmosphere millions of years ago, the green house affect this contributes to warms the earth, which not only melts the glacial and polar ice but warms the oceans, expanding the water and creating higher tides.  As the ice melts methane that has been trapped in the permafrost for thousands upon thousands of years gets released into the atmosphere.  Methane is a more lethal green house gas in that it traps heat 34 times stronger than CO2 over a 100-year time scale.

For the citizens of Chincoteague or any other coastal town or city to think that rising sea levels is a temporary condition and can be dealt with by taking a few steps back and rebuilding each time erosion robs them of more terra firma, is simply money poured down the rabbit hole.


11 responses to “Unable to See the Forest For the Trees

  1. Woody,
    Re ” Methane is a more lethal green house gas in that it traps heat 34 times stronger than CO2 over a 100-year time scale.” Just 34 times more heat, the time scale is irrelevant. FYI

    And while Einstein stated that the strongest force in the Universe was “compound interest,” I think “human denial” is a very close second.

  2. It’s odd, isn’t it, that people faced with changing circumstances, cannot adapt. In the short term it doesn’t matter what the reason is. The point, as you say, is that it’s happening. Saw a documentary a few months ago about how thousands of years ago there was dry land between Britain and Denmark, and as the seas started rising, people had to move. (There are fascinating archaeological remains of settlements on the sea bed). The earth is always changing. I’ve never forgotten that the rock on top of Everest is marine limestone. Poor old Wanda.

    • “It’s odd, isn’t it, that people faced with changing circumstances, cannot adapt.”

      Adapting of course is a legitimate option but Wanda et al have the problem of denial. Why not address what clearly seems to be the source of our problem and the need to adapt will diminish, albeit in their case it may be too late

      • I’m a bit more pessimistic than you. It’s not that I don’t think we should address the problem, it’s just that by the time we see any benefits, Wanda and her ilk will be under water. Silly sods. PS I read your word ‘denier’ wrong at first. I had a picture in my head of people tying tights round their heads. Very strange.

      • “PS I read your word ‘denier’ wrong at first. I had a picture in my head of people tying tights round their heads.”

        That might be a typical response for some of them.

      • That made me laugh a lot. But I’m off now, nearly noon and not a pot washed; the sea will be over the windowsill before I’ve done anything at this rate.

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