REPORT: What if… the sea keeps rising?

In the C14th barn at the Museum of East Anglian Life, Stowmarket, the effects of climate change on our shorelines were discussed as part of the Festival of Transition. Andrew Simms from the New Economics Foundation gave an overview, highlighting that at the original Rio Earth Summit greenhouse gases needed to be reduced by 3% a year. Twenty years later it is now 7%, the earth’s temperature has risen, the polar ice cap is melting – and Shell has issued injunctions against every Greenpeace office in the world protesting against Arctic drilling.

He reminded us that if all the ice melts it is calculated that the seas would rise 80m (at 10m 25% of US Americans would be under water). Jenny Scofield from the Environment Agency then outlined 3 options for Shoreline Management over 100 years: 1. Hold the line. 2. Active intervention. 3. Managed realignment. She was concerned that to hold the line means we need to armour our coast too much. Tony Butler, the museum’s curator described how people have dealt with flooding in the past, from the inundation of  Zuiderzee in 1287 when 50,000 drowned, to the draining of the fens in 17th century. There are now 60 miles of coastal dykes and 90 miles of high river banks and the waterlands we live in have changed dramatically. In the 1950’s half the population was employed in agriculture, now it is 0.5%. He then invited us to re-imagine our future place in the landscape.

Text by Roger Wilfert

Image: Laurence Edward’s The Creek Men