The Water Will Come by Jeff Goodell

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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The Water Will Come

The Water Will Come

Jeff Goodell

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