Swallowed by the Sea
by Kathy Schmidt
Slide 1

Recently I was reading an article entitled "Swallowed by the Sea" by Carolyn Beeler and Molly Peterson. It addressed the issue of rising sea levels and climate change happening right here in the US. This topic can be overwhelming, controversial and complex.

Genesis 2:15 " The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." Our challenge to keep the Garden of Eden flourishing,we need to lower our carbon footprint. A carbon footprint is defined as the total amount of carbon dioxide produced to directly or indirectly support human activities. One example of how we generate CO2 is the heating of our homes with oil, gas or coal. It is important for us to be informed and be prepared to take action to save the earth for the coming generations. It is at a critical stage right now.

Let's start by looking at a hotspotSlide 2the Solomon Islands; this place is a window to the future and a warning of the impact of global rising sea levels. The Solomon Islands is an island nation made up of hundreds of small islands in the Pacific near Australia. This is a hotspot because sea levels are rising here at a rate almost three times higher than the global average, giving us a preview of what is to come to coastal areas. Eleven islands have either totally disappeared over the recent decadesor are experiencing severe erosion due to wave action. Researchers believe this is happening due to a combination of rising seas and coastal erosion. Dr. Simon Albert, a senior researcher at University of Queensland, wrote about climate change and quotes 94 year old chief of the Paurata tribe in the Solomon Islands. The chief said, "The sea has started to come inland, it forced us to move up to the hilltop and rebuild our village there away from the sea." The sea is swallowing some of the Solomon Islands.

Next stop is West Africa -- Ghana Slide 3 . There is a small fishing village on a peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and the Volta River estuary called Fuvemeh. Twenty years ago this was a community of 2,500 people that was supported by fishing and coconut plantations. Climate change and industrial activity has accelerated coastal erosion swallowing up hundreds of feet of coastline, drowning coconut plantations and sweeping away houses. Slide 4 A 32 year old Ghana fisherman said, "When the big waves come, they can easily kill you. Last week, the ocean took away part of my house while my family was sleeping inside." The peninsula is now less than 1000 feet across and high tides cover it completely. This is just one of the thousands of communities on the western coast of Africa from Mauritania to Cameroon that is in risk of being washed away. In this region 31 percent of the population lives along the coastline. Homes, businesses, livelihoods and cultural heritage are being lost. The sea is swallowing the African coastline.





Closer to home, let's look at the Chesapeake Bay area. Slide 5, The city of Norfolk is in the Tidewater region of coastal Virginia and not very high above sea level.The land has been slowly sinking for years and now the sea water level is rising due to climate change. In a heavy rain, the water surges in from the river, backs up storm sewers and the streets can't drain. Most residents have stories of trying to get in or out of the city during a storm. The sea is swallowing neighborhoods in Norfolk.

Not far from here, northeast about 70 miles, is an island: Tangiers Island. Slide 6 It is about half way between Washington and Norfolk, reachable only by boat. About 450 people live on the island and many of them make a living catching crabs and oysters in the bay. But the bay is now threatening the island as it is being slowly washed away; it is only about 3 ½ feet above sea level. Slide 7 This is James Eskridge, a waterman and mayor of Tangier Island. He can point out where the town used to be and that is 100 yards off shore; that town was evacuated in the early 1900s. The island is a third of the size it was in the 1850s. Climate change is raising the sea level around the world but here in this part of eastern North America, it is rising faster than the global average due to changes in the Gulf Stream. Added to that, the land in the southern bay has been sinking for a thousand years. The Tangiers Island is being swallowed by the sea.

Next, let's look at Isle de Jean Charles along the Louisiana coast. Slide 8 It is a Native American community of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe. When they settled it 200 years ago, it was a peninsula but is now a narrow strip of land with oneroad connecting it to the Terrebonne Parish. Homes in the Isle de Jean Charles are raised more than a dozen feet to protect them from frequent flooding. Slide 9 and the one road onto and off the island is often flooded. The Isle de Jean Charles had been affected by climate change, sea level rise and subsidence as well as the dams on the Mississippi River that have kept the silt from replenishing the land. In addition, the oil and gas canals have cut up the marshes leading to erosion of the area. It looks like the sea is winning and is swallowing the island.

Why is the sea swallowing land around the globe? Here's a quote from NASA: " Throughout its long history, Earth has warmed and cooled time and again. Climate has changed when the planet received more or less sunlight due to subtle shifts in its orbit, as the atmosphere or surface changed, or when the Sun's energy varied. But in the past century, another force has started to influence Earth's climate: humanity." Emissions, primarily from burning of fossil fuels, is causing global temperatures to increase about 1.8 degrees since the 1800s and the ocean to rise at an accelerating rate of more than foot per century. You can see these changes with the climate time machine interactive models from NASA. ( link ) This color-coded map shows a progression of changing global surface temperatures from 1884 to 2016. Dark blue indicates areas cooler than average. Dark red indicates areas warmer than average, Watch as I slide it through the years to present time.

So, what are the people of the Solomon Islands, Ghana, Norfolk, Tangiers Island and Isle de Jean Charles going to do as the sea swallows their land? It's too late forprevention now, they need to act. The communities' relationship with the land and water is complex and not easily solved. The Solomon Islanders are adapting to the changing conditions and have already relocated villages. In Ghana, the environment director says that Ghana is struggling to find a balance between its insatiable appetite for modernity and allowing nature to replenish itself. At the rate of erosion occurring in Ghana, the homes on the peninsula have probably disappeared by now. The city of Norfolk is using a Dutch approach called "living with water" and accepting the fact that you can't build your infrastructure high enough or strong enough in a cost efficient way. The Dutch methods utilize nature based solutions of sponges and barriers. The residents of Tangiers Island are resolved to stay on the island; hoping to be find monies to use engineering to extend their residency another 25 to 50 years. The Isle de Jean Charles residents are relocating and will be receiving money from the federal government for moving inland as their island can't be saved. It's the first time federal tax money has been earmarked specifically to move a whole community due to climate change..

What does this all mean for us, as stewards of the garden of Eden? First, we have to recognize that there is a problem. Then we have to take action, each one of us. To slow down climate change, we need to reduce our carbon footprint. In order to change policy on climate change, we need speak up.

I challenge you to take ownership of your personal contribution to climate change and to reduce your carbon footprint by changing your lifestyle with the following options. Slide 10) There is more information about reducing your carbon footprint online. Sources for portionsof this presentation are listed in the bulletin for your reference as well.

By Kathy Schmidt
April 23, 2017 Earth Care Sunday