Playing a Role in Climate Adaptation
(Published in The EarthSphere Blog. Cover Image: Floating Above the Crisis (by WM House; ArcheanArt)
When I lived in Surrey, on the southwest side of London, I relished my morning exercise along the canal towpaths. Originally built as avenues of commercial transport, these canals now support small communities of boat dwellers. Longboats, permanently docked along the edge of the canals, were a common sight on my morning runs. Boat homes are not new, and they form well-established “neighborhoods” in the Pacific Northwest cities of Seattle and Portland. But now, the concept of floating homes has been taken to a new level as countries adapt to the reality of rising seas.
The saying “necessity is the mother of invention” takes on new meaning in those places most affected by Anthropocene climate change. Climate change affects regional ecosystems in many different ways. But since about three billion people live in coastal environments and over 400 million will be significantly affected by rising oceans over the next 80 years, sea-level rise is one of the high-profile results of our climate crisis.
The choices for those affected by sea-level rise will be to migrate or adapt. But without funding or preparation for adaptation, the only choice will be to flee. While no one wants rapid climate change, it is no longer a matter of choice. And with these changes will come rising oceans and increased coastal flooding. Humans are, and always have been, great adaptors. It is part of our success as a species, but it is also the root cause of our current crisis. Starting with the industrial revolution, we adapted by utilizing cheap energy from burning fossil fuels.
Now, as we reap the results of those past decisions, we must adapt again, and one of the emerging solutions is to float above the crisis.
Welcome to the neighborhood of Schoonschip in Amsterdam. The term “boat people” does not adequately describe what this community is about. Boats can be homes, but they also easily navigate across the water from one location to another. There is no navigating your home in Schoonschip unless it is simply moving up or down.
The new floating homes of the Netherlands are locked in place, often with steel poles sunk deep into the ground, sometimes to over 200 feet. The homes themselves are often three-story townhome-looking abodes floating on a concrete hull. The weight of the hull acts as a counterbalance keeping the home stabilized. The structure is held in place by the steel poles and only moves up or down with the local water level. The design works to accommodate either rising seas or rising floodwaters.
Each home is equipped with a heat pump and devotes its roof to green gardens and solar panels. Excess energy is shared by the community on a microgrid or sold back to the national utility company.
The technology is advanced enough for use in commercial developments, but it is still developing and holds the promise of solving larger issues related to rising sea levels and human migration. In Rotterdam, nearby to Amsterdam, is the world’s largest floating office, a fine adaptation for a city that is 90 percent below sea level.
The concept of floating communities has attracted attention, and more ambitious projects are underway. Blue 21, a Dutch company, is exploring the idea of floating islands in the Baltic Sea. The project envisions a community of 50,000 people linked to mainland areas by an undersea rail tunnel.
Another project in the Maldives is seeking to develop affordable floating housing for 20,000 people in the country’s capital, Male. With 80 percent of the country less than one meter above sea level, the Maldives is experiencing an existential crisis as sea levels continue to rise. Migration means the country would disappear, but adaptation offers a path into the future.
The visions are bold, and the technology is challenging, but the same can be said for the obstacles overcome during the industrial revolution. People are resilient, and human ingenuity is capable of transforming the world around us.
The nations signing the Paris Climate Agreement are dragging their feet, further increasing the chances of more than a 2 degree C rise in global temperatures. We need to push world governments to mitigate global warming, but we also need to prepare to meet the challenges of a warmer climate.
The EarthSphere Blog: Exploring life and the planet supporting it.
More from ArcheanWeb:
ArcheanWeb: Exploring the environment, art, science, and more
ArcheanArt: Innovative digital art
ArcheanWeb On Medium:
EarthSphere Publication — Science and the environment
Dropstone Publication — Stories, life observations, art, and more
Reflections on life’s journey and thoughts on the Tao Te Ching — In Search of a Path
A fictional adventure about the origins of life — The Strings of Life
Stories in progress on WattPad
Global LiDAR land elevation data reveal greatest sea-level rise vulnerability in the tropics (by A. Hooijer & R. Vernimmen; Nature Communications)
How many people will migrate due to rising sea levels? Why our best guesses aren’t good enough (Source: The Conversation)
Embracing a wetter future, the Dutch turn to floating homes (Source: Grist)