And then there are all the smaller tragedies, all around the world. I took this picture a couple years ago, standing on top of a breakwater in Saco, Maine. The breakwater dates from the Civil War, but it was made dramatically taller and longer by the Army Corps of Engineers back in the 1950s. It extends over a mile out to sea, where it directs the energy of storms into the beach to the north. Here in the middle of the picture there used to be three full blocks of houses, on land that has washed away. And there, half a mile up the beach, right in the middle of the visible shoreline, is Ferry Beach, a Unitarian Universalist church camp that my family has been attending for four generations. For me, it’s one of the most sacred places on Earth, and it’s going to wash out to sea. There are plans to build a new breakwater to slow down the erosion (the Army Corps never dismantles anything; they just build new stuff), but even so, I don’t know of any climate expert now predicting less than a meter of sea level rise over the next 100 years—possibly tens of meters if we lose the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. And Ferry Beach won’t survive even a meter.
Of course that’s nothing compared to the Maldives, where the entire country will be wiped off the map, or Bangladesh, where a meter of sea rise will displace some 15–20 million people.
[photo: Saco Bay, ME, © 2008 Michael L. Scott]