At right: FIU Architecture and Arts Students created models of predicted sea level rise and flooding in the Miami, Orlando and Key West areas, featured in “Miami 2100: Envisioning a Resilient Second Century,” an ongoing exhibit at the Coral Gables Museum until March 1, 2015. Photo by Alex Blencowe
By Alex Blencowe, Little Gables Group
From hurricanes to heat-waves to finding affordable healthcare, South Florida has enough ecological, economic and social problems on its plate. Sea-level rise is soon to be South Florida’s most challenging issue, unless citizens create changes now for the future.
On Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, from 6 to 8 p.m., the Coral Gables Museum hosted a panel discussion on Socio-ecological Vulnerability and the effects that massive sea-level rise and flooding will have in the decades to come.
In partnership with the museum, students and professors of Florida International University created “Miami 2100: Envisioning a Resilient Second Century,” an ongoing exhibit that catalogs and visualizes sea-level rise in Miami, Orlando, the Keys and more.
Panelists Keren Bolter, Mitchell Chester and Phillip Stoddard were introduced by organizers Gail Hollander and Emily Eisenhauer. They discussed the studies of Miami Dade’s double exposure and the clear changes to economy and geography in the decades to come.
Dr. Emily Eisenhauer of the Office of City and Community Engagement, and research associate at FIU on Labor and Economic Justice, said members of the Climate March in New York City were not just environmental activists, but nurses from labor unions who treated survivors of Hurricane Sandy and represented a range of issues including public housing and residences that were affected.
“People are impacted economically and mentally. The cost of living would rise tremendously to keep up with flood-control,” Eisenhauer said.
The impacts of sea-level rise go deeper than flooding—no pun intended—but affect markets of trade, capital, health and community.
According to Gail Hollander of the Department of Global and Sociocultural Studies at FIU, Miami is not only a hub of economic and social growth, but also a hub of income inequality and economic displacement as well.
“These questions aren’t just about sea-level rise,” Hollander said. “They’re about people and their livelihood.”
Panelist and Florida lawyer, Mitchell Chester said an immediate change in the current legal system is not only imperative in preparing us for such a crisis, but important for the lawyers and judges in charge of building and zoning laws.
“What do we say to that person putting ink on paper on a 30-year mortgage, and they don’t know about sea-level rise? Should we be creating bank accounts for relocation savings?” questioned Chester, who is especially concerned with the effect on the real-estate market, the dangers of not adapting properties, and home-owner associations that don’t address sea-level rise as a serious problem with their investors.
Keren Bolter, a panelist, and an environmental studies research assistant who recently received her PhD in Geosciences at Florida Atlantic University, created maps and water-table models to expose the physical and socio-economic changes to Florida.
She argued the risks of disease and contamination are especially high in areas where drinking wells are in close proximity to septic tank systems and toxic waste dumps—a majority of which are built in low-income, primarily black and hispanic areas.
“There’s habitat loss, environmental justice, financial impacts, and our kids. These are our babies! Don’t they deserve better?” said Bolter, adding that an intrusion of salt-water could disrupt aquifers in Miami.
“There’s so much more research out there, but there’s just not enough being done,” Bolter said.
Experience “Miami 2100: Envisioning a Resilient Second Century,” ongoing at the Coral Gables Museum through March 1, 2015 in the Anthony R. Abraham Family Gallery.