I had a good day today. The rest of my job hunting was completely unsuccessful , but that’s not surprising given the state of the local economy. And the national economy, and the global economy. I enjoyed my day though because I got to explore the town. I still don’t want to live here permanently, but it’s a nice little spot to spend a couple of months with hanging out with mi prima and saving up a little cash. Even in the summer, there are plays, live music, outdoor concerts, all types of things to do. It’s so hot and humid here though! I thought it would be more like Chicago. I guess it’s 300 miles south, so why should it be like Chicago?
I said I’d talk about Miami today. I’m not sure what there is to say, but I’ll try.
Miami is still underwater. When the storm surge receded, the water levels went down, and there are actually a few more spots above water than there used to be. But now it’s holding steady at a few feet in most places. And it’s not going to change anytime soon.
Sea level has risen much faster than they originally expected. I haven’t done any academic research to confirm this, but just by reading the articles from the past few decades, it seems like the scientists kept being conservative at first and then revising their projections up, up, up. First it was 2°C by 2100 and maybe a foot of sea level rise. Then it was 3°C and maybe two feet. Now we’re on track for 6°C by 2050 and maybe a foot each decade on top of the several feet we’ve already had. The world is changing, and anyone who denies it isn’t taken seriously anymore.
I remember when I was in high school and they announced the start of the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet. That was one of the major turning points. Most of the adults didn’t pay much attention at the time, but a lot of us who were in our teens and twenties were really thinking about how it might change our future. What will the world be like when I get out of college? When I get a job? When I buy a house? Will any of that ever happen if the economy keeps getting worse? Should I even have kids in such a world?
Anyway, back to Miami.
There’s enough water on the ground that they can’t reasonably expect to remove it in the foreseeable future. South Florida sits on a bunch of porous limestone. You can’t keep the water out with a storm wall like they’re doing in New York. It seeps in the ground and finds a way to bubble up everywhere. It has a mind of its own. The beaches have been mostly ruined by this for years. And now the beaches are just underwater, along with most of the city.
It’s not an absurd, cartoonish, disaster movie type of flooding. You can still see all the buildings. Almost all of them are still standing. You can even walk around in most places if you don’t mind walking in floodwater. But it’s enough to shut down the city. You can’t drive around in it. It gets in all the wells and pipes and electrical conduits and walls. It ruins everything.
Miami is starting to take on a new form. Most of the people who used to live there have become refugees. All of the cities further north like Orlando that didn’t get flooded as much by the ocean are just flooded with refugees. Those who didn’t have money for bus tickets or a place to stay have ended up in the camps. From the pictures and videos, Miami looks like a ghost town. It’s the middle of the day and you don’t see much happening at all downtown. It’s very strange.
The boats are even stranger. Instead of cars now, they use boats to go everywhere. I guess it’s not too strange since I grew up in Miami and I’m used to seeing boats all the time. But it’s so strange to see them get out of the harbor and just go for a ride through the city. It’s mostly just smaller motorboats, and mostly just police, National Guard, and Bastion. But still, it’s strange to see.
One exciting thing that I saw was this long green boat called the Green Boatbus. It’s run by a nonprofit and it’s so slick and professional that they must have put it together before Florence. It’s this long green boat that’s about as long and wide as a large passenger bus. It has an electric motor, charging for phones and tablets, ample seating, wheelchair accessible, and a solar panel roof. It’s almost as cheap as a bus too, but they’re making big money by going all around the city and acting like a taxi for the people with more money. If you have money, you get to travel point to point like a taxi. If you’re broke, you just have to wait a while to get to your destination. It’s not ideal, but it’s one of the few forms of travel left for people who don’t own a boat and don’t want to risk the waters.
There are a lot of problems and questions in Miami. I’ve heard about some of it from the news and some of it from friends who stayed behind. There are food shortages because people are running out of the food they had in their homes and grocery stores aren’t open. Most of the police stayed, but they don’t have enough boats. There aren’t enough National Guard around because so much of the state has been affected in one way or another and so many are deployed overseas. Bastion is picking up the slack, but God help us if that’s who’s going to be in charge of Miami now. There are rumors of them shooting looters and taking the supplies for themselves. A few weeks ago, I would have been skeptical, but then look at what they did with my raft.
So that’s the situation. A lot of places from around the country and the world are talking about how to send aid to Miami, but no one is really sure of the details yet. Some nonprofits are starting to work on it, but they have to be sure not to make the situation worse by getting the food to the wrong place, or getting looted, or other problems.
The bigger question that not enough people are asking — even now, with the city underwater — is what the new Miami will be like. So many are thinking in terms of temporary fixes: get some food to survivors, find homes for the refugees, and so on. That’s important, but we also need to think about permanent changes.
What will the new Miami be like? The boats will have to become permanent. That’s a given. They will have to distribute food and supplies by boats instead of trucks. They will have to find ways to get water and power to people without fixing the old systems. Because you can’t fix those anymore. They’re underwater now.
I wonder what the new Miami will be like. Only time will tell. In the meantime, all that we can do is watch it all unfold and send along our prayers and whatever help we can offer.