#158 – Managed Retreat

This short fantasy takes place a few years into the future:

Billy Bob Jones rolled out of bed put on his slippers and looked out the window. Another sunny, blue-sky morning. “I love Miami,” he said to himself. He headed downstairs to get the mail which he always read while eating breakfast. Walking out his front door toward the street, he saw a car driving uncharacteristically slow past his mailbox and was shocked to see a wave of water wash over his curb and two feet up onto his driveway.

He ran back into the house and shouted up the stairs to his wife, Greta. She replied, “I know, I know dear, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! That’s the new level of the ocean. Saltwater is seeping through the limestone. We’re screwed love, sorry about that.”

Greta Thunberg was too in touch with reality to move to Miami let alone marry a guy named Billy Bob but she did see how the people living in Florida were “screwed.” “The clarity of Greta’s voice gave validation to the raw terror so many of us have been suppressing and compartmentalizing about what it means to be alive amid the sixth great extinction.” (1)

Sources vary but at least 6 million Floridians will need to move inland by century’s end to avoid inundation. About 3-5 million people will be flooded in South Florida’s Miami-Dade and Broward counties with America’s biggest exposed populations. “Florida accounts for 40% of the riskiest coastal land in the U.S., according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, but it’s done little so far to pull people back from the coasts and lags behind states such as New Jersey, North Carolina and Texas. Across the country, the effort is still more theory than practice, even as a consensus among planners grows that ‘managed retreat’ may be the best of bad options.” (2)

Our species has been making war on Mother Nature for some time now. A good general in a more conventional war might under similar circumstances call for a “strategic retreat.” We were foolish to start that war in the first place because we did not think it through. Anyway, it’s too late now and the best we can hope for now is a “managed retreat.”   Or is it?

Maybe our focus needs to shift from what’s going on “out there” to our intuitive connection with nature, what’s happening “within.” Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) wanted us to have a heartfelt experience of nature, the Oneness of reality, with which we all have a connection. “How can you rescue the planet when all we do is fret about the acidity of oceans but forget the beauty of the wild dance of waves? Or what about the dawn chorus of urban birds? Or the delicious smell of a forest after a sudden rain shower on a summer day? Why does no one dare to talk about the awe of nature anymore? In my book Views of Nature I wrote that nature is in some kind of mysterious communication with our feelings. Isn’t that still important?” (3)  Critically important, we think!

Insight # 158:

The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.
lbert Einstein



  1. Goodell, Jeff. “The Problem of Our Planet,” The New York Times Book Review, September 29, 2019, page 18.
  2. Gopal, Preshant. September 20, 2019. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/finance-real-estate/americas-great -climate-exodus-is-starting-in-the-florida-keys/ar-AAHA61
  3. Wulf, Andrea and Lillian Melcher “Sketchbook,” The New York Times Book Review, July 7, 2019, page 27.

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