Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Higher Ground

Last night we went out to dinner with a group of friends.  We all met each other through a variety of workplace constellations, which I won't go into here.  Even though we no longer work together, we still meet periodically for dinner.

And now, two of those friends are actively planning to move to higher ground.  They met each other through their work as actuaries, so they have more of an understanding of hazard and risk than most of us.  It was sobering to hear that they are actually likely to move.

Of course, there are other factors:  they'd like to be in a less populated place, close enough to a scenic downtown to walk.  They want to stay in Florida, in part because of the warm weather, in part because Florida has no state income tax.  They're looking at Mt. Dora; it's got all the pluses of a small town, but it's close to Orlando, which appeals because one of them needs to be near a major airport, and because his children and grandchildren love the theme parks.

We spent part of the night speculating about how long it will be before life in the southern tip of Florida becomes untenable--it will happen long before the ocean rises up to swallow the land.  One couple at our table had spent the month of December doing airport transport out of the Miami airport, and they used that opportunity to go over to South Beach.  They talked about the construction they had seen:  raising the roads and something that looked like a seawall.

That's all very well and good, but it will prove to be a temporary fix.  The ground in south Florida is very porous, so as the sea level rises, the water will rise up from the bottom.  We talked about the strains in infrastructure that we see coming, including how expensive it will become to get drinking water.

Long before that, I imagine that we won't be able to afford our property insurances.  Eventually, I predict that insurance won't be available at all.  But before that happens, middle class people like the educators we all are/were will be driven away.

It sounds like a gloomy dinner, doesn't it?  But it wasn't.  We were in a cozy Irish restaurant, with good food, good drinks, and good friends.  Our two friends are thinking of moving to a beautiful community.  We talked about the possibility of all of us moving.  They're thinking of buying land and building houses close to each other.

It's inspiring to be around people who have dreams about a better life and are making a map to get there.  And I'm intrigued by how they are creating community, albeit a small one, as they go along.

We left the restaurant to find that the evening had turned cool and rainy, almost like we had been transplanted to Ireland.  Part of me wanted to go back into the restaurant and enjoy one more nightcap while gazing at the rain.  I thought that it was interesting that I have disdain for theme parks that try to offer alternate realities, but I'm happy to pay for a restaurant that does the same thing.

We came home, changed into our jammies, and went straight to bed.  But I'm sure I'll be spending some time this morning thinking about how many people are actively planning to leave this  unstable shelf by a southern sea.

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