Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lesson From Irene

The approach of Hurricane Irene, which is supposed to hit the New York area in less than 12 hours, has led to an unprecedented evacuation of New Yorkers from low-lying shore areas. If the storm causes the kind of damage that experts are predicting, it could cause more than 500 million dollars in damages to homes located in oceanfront communities.

Now all of us who live on Long Island knew that it was only a matter of time before the next big one hit our area. And yet in the past forty years the number of homes built on the South Shore has doubled. I’ll pass over the fact that these homes are being built on one of nature’s most fragile ecosystem, because quiet frankly this fact is obviously lost on the kind of people who feel compelled to live on the beach. I’ll also pass over the fact that, in many cases, the often opulent homes of selfish individuals who live on beaches or barrier islands only continue to exist at all because of the millions of dollars that taxpayers like myself are contributing for “beach front restoration” (aka, keeping rich idiot’s homes from washing away into the sea).

The question now is what becomes of the homes that are damaged or destroyed as a result of this hurricane? Perhaps it’s time to realize that the very idea that people can “own” a piece of the shoreline is foolish and na├»ve. Shore erosion—particularly on barrier islands—is a fact of nature, and can’t be stopped no matter how many tons of sand the Army Corps of Engineers plops down. If climatologists predictions are true—and there’s no reason for me to think they’re not—then global warming trends will probably lead to even more severe hurricanes in the future along the East Coast, and will further accelerate beach erosion. These beachfront homes, then, will inevitably be destroyed by nature no matter what we do or how much money we spend to protect them.

So why exactly are we protecting them? Perhaps it is time to heed the warnings of Mother Nature and allow the entire Atlantic shoreline to be returned to its natural state—or at least as much as is possible at this point. The worst thing we could do is to allow people to rebuild in costal areas after their homes have been destroyed. That’s just prolonging the inevitable.

I know that there are those who would argue that it is unfair to make people abandon the wonderful lives that they have created for themselves in beachfront communities. My argument would be that they shouldn’t have been living there in the first place. Anyone with the smallest shred of common sense knows that it is foolish to build a palace on shifting sand. If people choose to ignore this time-tested proverb, then that is entirely their problem. The rest of us certainly shouldn’t be forced to subsidize their foolishness.

I can imagine a time when, after all the ugly seaside mcmansions and mcbungalos have been torn down, we will be left with 2,069 miles of reclaimed coastline, running all the way from Maine to Florida. People will be able to swim, bask in the sun, play in the sand, but they won’t ever again be allowed to build on our beaches. And this, I believe, is a dream that is well worth fighting for.

1 comment:

  1. I think that the argument proposed has excellent points that are valid. Ocean front homes are ridiculous, especially the owners who are buying them! These people have to have some knowledge or sort that the ocean front homes that they are buying are eventually going to be destroyed by natural causes. However, in the favor of these owners who are buying these ocean front homes, these owners should have a right to buy ocean front homes and keep them. After all it is their home! I am almost positive that these owners know exactly what they are buying into meaning that in the future their homes could possibly be destroyed by natural causes.

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