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  • In 2012, Superstorm Sandy pummeled the east coast of America.

  • Winds blew in at 80 miles per hour and heavy rain pushed the ocean over 9 feet above average levels.

  • In New York, storm surges brought 30-foot waves ashore, flooding streets, subways, and homes.

  • 20 miles south of Manhattanseveral neighborhoods on the small borough of Staten Island sat in ruins.

  • Homes were completely leveled and 24 people were killed.

  • As global temperatures rise, research has shown that increasingly violent storms will

  • likely continue assaulting our coasts.

  • Paired with rising sea levels, that could mean higher risk of flooding and worsening

  • catastrophic damage

  • to areas like thisunless we learn to adapt.

  • And for Staten Island, that means building a wall.

  • Adaptation is this idea that we are physically remaking our cities to make sure that they

  • are going to be resilient in the climate disasters of the future.

  • And that will also include retrofitting our cities for the everyday effects of climate change,

  • which means things like extreme heat, heavy downpours, drought.

  • A sea wall is one of these adaptations.

  • It's erected parallel to the coast to create a “hard shoreline”.

  • It deflects daily tides to keep the shore from eroding away as it would under normal conditions.

  • If a natural disaster strikes, it's meant to stop incoming storm surges or a tsunami.

  • Now, if fortifying our cities with walls seems too simple and medieval, that's because

  • it kind of is.

  • Climate change isn't a single assault on a castle, it's an ongoing, worsening crisis.

  • And in order to evolve with that crisis, the adaptations we make need to include resilient infrastructure.

  • Resiliency is this idea that your city can respond to any type of threatit might

  • not just be a climate threat, but that you plan for disasters and emergencies in a way

  • that will enrich everyday life for your residents anyway.

  • In other words, building resilient infrastructure means we don't have to choose between feeling

  • safe and enjoying our cities. For example, in 2008 New York Harbor School

  • started the Billion Oyster Project, a resiliency plan that restores oyster reefs in New York Harbor.

  • The reefs help filter the water and slow down powerful waves,

  • preventing erosion and reducing flooding.

  • The project is even doubling as an educational program for students around the city.

  • When natural solutions like that aren't enough, cities may look for more intense options.

  • Like sea walls.

  • In hopes to prevent another Sandy-level disaster, Staten Island has recently received $615 million

  • in funding for its own sea wall.

  • The structure will span about 5 miles and sit 20 feet above sea level.

  • And it includes resilient design elements: The wall will double as a boardwalk, making

  • it far less imposing and allowing residents to enjoy the coastal views.

  • Plus, to keep Staten Island safe, the plan includes adaptations to the land surrounding

  • the seawall.

  • Globally, rainfall during major storms is expected to increase 20% by 2100.

  • Since much of Staten Island was initially built on wetlands, intense rainfall could easily flood

  • neighborhoodssomething a sea wall can't prevent.

  • So the resiliency plan includes returning several areas on the island to their natural

  • marshy state.

  • And that helps to mitigate that storm surge when you have that coastal flooding, when

  • you have heavy rain, and make sure that the water is not going to be trapped in where

  • the buildings are.

  • Several man-made ponds will also be excavated for drainage purposes.

  • These alterations required careful planning and analysis of the land they're trying

  • to defend.

  • And altogether, they make a pretty well-rounded protection plan.

  • But even with a multifaceted and resilient approach, these adaptations might not be enough.

  • In 2018, New Orleans finished an upgrade on seawalls and levees designed to protect the city.

  • But 14 billion dollars later, engineers are saying the walls will be inadequate in 4 years

  • due to sea level rise and sinking land.

  • And in Kerala, India, sea walls have actually led to worsening coastal erosion.

  • Climate change can be unpredictable, and we're being put in a position to predict it anyway.

  • Resilient infrastructure is one way to tackle that uncertainty, but it's not foolproof.

  • Any type of infrastructure we are building to save ourselves from the adverse impacts

  • of climate change is also going to introduce changes to our city that we are going to have

  • to learn to live with.

  • It's moving beyond just building this one piece of infrastructure that would stay there

  • for a century or two and really figuring out how you can innovate on the materials and

  • the design over time, to address different challenges that will surface.

  • The reality is, that even with resiliency in mind, walling off the ocean is a band-aid

  • solution on a growing wound.

  • Building a wall to protect our cities is one thing

  • Building our cities to protect themselves is another.

  • Hey, you probably realized this piece was a collaboration between Vox and Curbed.

  • And that's because while I love making videos on urbanism,

  • I really needed their expertise on resilient infrastructure to make it happen.

  • I actually link to some of their articles below that helped inspire this video,

  • but they give you a more in-depth analysis on sea walls

  • and how to build a resilient city in our changing world.

  • Curbed covers everything from urbanism, to transportation, to housing,

  • so definitely go check them out for more content.

  • And for more information and updates on the Staten Island sea wall, head over to Curbed New York.

In 2012, Superstorm Sandy pummeled the east coast of America.

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New York is building a wall to hold back the ocean

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/17
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