Should we stop rebuilding coastal areas destroyed by natural disasters? | The Tylt

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Should we stop rebuilding coastal areas destroyed by natural disasters?
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Hurricane Matthew is gearing up to be a monster Category 4 storm that could do billions of dollars in damage when it makes landfall in the United States. As climate change increases the likelihood of weather events like this one, do we need to face facts and stop rebuilding in coastal areas?

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The federal government spends tens of billions of dollars rebuilding coastal areas every time a natural disaster hits, only to do it again in a couple of years. Isn't doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result the textbook definition of crazy? From The New York Times:

Tax money will go toward putting things back as they were, essentially duplicating the vulnerability that existed before the hurricane.
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But the vast majority of Americans support the federal government spending tax money on rebuilding efforts in a post-Katrina world. Nearly 63 percent of the country supported tax dollars going to New York and New Jersey after Sandy hit, and most Americans feel that neighborhoods are close-knit and worth keeping together. Abandoning the coast lines would mean disrupting entire communities and ripping families apart. And if the taxpayers are okay with it, perhaps we should keep doing it.

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Some say this is a terrible precedent that strains our government's finances. By signing a blank check to at-risk coastal areas, it has only emboldened developers and citizens to be recklessso the costs of these rebuilding efforts only increase! Think about the money that could be better spent on tuition assistance, housing for the homeless, infrastructure, and so forth. We can't just keep spending money on your ocean view!

We can try to reduce climate change and we can try to build physical protections for established coastal population centers. But the best way to ensure that the next Sandy does less damage is simply to keep people out of harm’s way — or at least make it more expensive to stay there.
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What a load of hogwash. Earth is man's domain. We are no longer settlers from across the pond, totally at the mercy of weather. Let's not get carried away. As "This Old Host" host Kevin D. O'Connor writes in The Huffington Post:

Each year in this country we move trillions of gallons of water from rivers, reservoirs and aquifers to supply arid lands, irrigate farms and even water our lawns. We manipulate rivers, converting flood plains into farmland and neighborhoods. We push snow, capture wind, collect sunlight, and fight fires. And with human ingenuity and determination we will continue to press Mother Nature into service to meet our needs.

We have the technology:

But we have the technology to build better and stronger homes that can withstand the next storm. Homes in New Jersey will go up higher, foundations will be replaced by piles and breakaway walls, and building codes will change to account for new flood maps and new realities.

And retreating from the coasts means displacing millions of working-class Americans and major parts of our economy:

And when we talk about rebuilding the Jersey Shore, we’re not just talking about summer homes for the wealthy. We’re talking about modest homes occupied by middle-class year-rounders and businesses that support local families. We’re talking about reinforcing dunes and seawalls that protect not just private property but billions of dollars in public infrastructure — highways, railroads and power stations. And we’re talking about rebuilding the tourism industry — the $65 billion a year engine that drives a significant segment of New Jersey’s economy.
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If coastal areas are vital to the economy, why do you need my money to rebuild? Why should someone who lives responsibly outside of a flood zone or coastline pay for your lifestyle?

The argument for the spending is that the coastal economy is worth the money. But [Program Director for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University] Rob Young asks, "If the coastal economy is that strong and vibrant, why can't they pay for the risk of being here themselves?"
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Not everyone lives in the Hamptons! A huge chunk of US population lives along the coast, and we've spent hundreds of years and billions of dollars on infrastructure in these areas. It's unrealistic to expect millions of people to relocate and to abandon hundreds of years of investment:

Take New York after Sandy, says [Steven Cohen, executive director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University]. "Is everybody in Manhattan going to move to the Catskills? I don't think so," he says. "I mean, we have trillions of dollars of investment in infrastructure in the places that exist now."
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Should we stop rebuilding coastal areas destroyed by natural disasters?
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