Institutional barriers to coastal resilience
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Many US coastal communities have experienced decades of expanding population growth, in-volving the construction of private residences, businesses, and public infrastructures in near-coast areas. In the United States, counties directly on the shoreline account for more than 126 million people or 39 percent of the nation’s population. Coasts are marked by a concentration of not only population but also of wealth: the income per capita of US coastal counties is more than eight times that of inland counties. Coastal communities depend on coastal natural and human capital for businesses, livelihoods, and flows of market-based and nonmarket ecosystem services. In the face of these demographic trends, coastal communities and their citizens face increasingly urgent challenges concerning how they should respond to natural hazards. Residents and property owners immediately on the coast have become exposed increasingly to tidal flooding and other hazards arising from so-called “king tides” (perihelic-perigean spring tides), storm events, including surges, and shoreline change, especially erosion. These hazards are exacerbated further by rising sea levels due to climate change. Where manmade capital is perceived to be at risk from coastal hazards, humans have responded typically by replenishing beaches or by building hard structural protections, such as seawalls, to protect their communities and properties. Often, these solutions are only temporary or they may lead to external effects, such as accelerated erosion down-drift of structures, unexpected property damages when structures are overtopped or fail, or losses of environmental amenities due to unexpected and unintended shoreline changes. Citizens, coastal residents, businesses, environmentalists, and politicians alike point to factors contributing to “community resilience” as remedies to the problems of coastal hazards. The term has become a catchword, something that every person, thing, or system apparently needs to survive and flourish. Nevertheless, a lot of vagueness persists in both the extant literature and the vernacular about resilience and its related concept, vulnerability. NOAA’s National Ocean Service defines “coastal resilience” as the ability of a community to “bounce back” after experiencing a natural hazard. While the idea of “bouncing back” makes intuitive sense, nowhere in the NOS definition is there a description of how a community can be understood to have bounced back. The only general criterion is that a short-term hazard should not become a long-term, presumably more serious one. In other words, there is no explicit metric to which a community might refer in order to determine whether bouncing back has taken place. Further, the absence of such a metric begs the question of how one would know what factors contribute to resilience and to what degree. This presentation explores the issue of resilience in the context of shoreline change in coastal Massachusetts.
Presentation to Environmental Business Council of New England, Inc., EBC Climate Change Program Series, Part Four: Adaptation and Resiliency Programs at Institutions, Boston, MA, June 23, 2017.
Suggested CitationPresentation: Hoagland, Porter, "Institutional barriers to coastal resilience", Presentation to Environmental Business Council of New England, Inc., EBC Climate Change Program Series, Part Four: Adaptation and Resiliency Programs at Institutions, Boston, MA, June 23, 2017., https://hdl.handle.net/1912/9080
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