The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World

Jeff Goodell

The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World
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The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World

Jeff Goodell

What if Atlantis wasn’t a myth, but an early precursor to a new age of great flooding? Across the globe, scientists and civilians alike are noticing rapidly rising sea levels, and higher and higher tides pushing more water directly into the places we live, from our most vibrant, historic cities to our last remaining traditional coastal villages. With each crack in the great ice sheets of the Arctic and Antarctica, and each tick upwards of Earth’s thermometer, we are moving closer to the brink of broad disaster.

By century’s end, hundreds of millions of people will be retreating from the world’s shores as our coasts become inundated and our landscapes transformed. From island nations to the world’s major cities, coastal regions will disappear. Engineering projects to hold back the water are bold and may buy some time. Yet despite international efforts and tireless research, there is no permanent solution - no barriers to erect or walls to build - that will protect us in the end from the drowning of the world as we know it.

The Water Will Come is the definitive account of the coming water, why and how this will happen, and what it will all mean. As he travels across twelve countries and reports from the front lines, acclaimed journalist Jeff Goodell employs fact, science, and first-person, on-the-ground journalism to show vivid scenes from what already is becoming a water world.

Review

After witnessing the devastation from Hurricane Sandy which wreaked havoc on the East Coast of the United States, Cuba and parts of the Caribbean in 2012, Rolling Stone journalist Jeff Goodell headed to Miami to investigate how rising sea levels are endangering this particularly low-lying city. The article he wrote appeared under the headline ‘Goodbye, Miami’ and the dire situation he stumbled into became the basis for this book about climate change, sea-level rise, sinking cities and the inability of human beings to adapt with enough speed.

Thankfully this isn’t just a story about the developed world; Goodell also travels to Nigeria and visits the water slums where tens of thousands of people have already been forced by sea-level rise to live and work in shacks on stilts. At the Paris climate talks Goodell interviewed Tony De Brum, the foreign minister of the Republic of the Marshall Islands where an entire culture is under threat from rising seas, soil salinisation and fresh water contamination and whose population has done almost nothing to contribute to the CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Even when he writes about wealthy cities like Miami and Venice, Goodell is very aware that it is the poorest residents that will suffer the most.

This book is a glimpse into the very near future and, worryingly, it is not necessarily a call to arms about drastically cutting fossil-fuel emissions because, even in the unlikely event this were to happen, when it comes to sea level rise, unfortunately most of the damage has been done and the wheels have been set in motion. Rather, this book is a fascinating and disturbing investigation into what engineering solutions are currently being employed, the corrupt politics behind them, and, tragically, their likely futility.


Kara Nicholson is part of the online Readings team.

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