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September 16, 2019


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"Retreat" is a fine and responsible concept, one that attempts to look at realities in both the natural and artificially altered realms of life on earth. But for our overpopulated, "full" planet, one question that arises is "Retreat to where?" Already we have diminished the vital renewable resources we can depend on--freshwater, soil, etc.--by converting natural areas to simplified agricultural areas and then converting many of the best agricultural areas to ecologically parasitic landscapes (also known as "urban" areas). Yet more terrestrial areas and natural, self-sustaining terrestrial systems have been lost to the one-time economic exploitation of non-renewable resources through mining; and the most readily available (and, thus, the cheapest) artificially useful non-renewable materials were already extracted decades ago.

Soooooo, retreat of urban areas from low-lying coastal areas, flood plains, the fire-prone urban-wildland interface, areas becoming too hot for human habitation, etc., means further development onto now-domesticated agricultural areas or even some natural areas near cities. As has been seen the world over, with a prime example being the San Joaquin Valley of California, this process forces the growing of food and fiber onto land more marginal for agriculture. Marginal agricultural land, much of which is domesticated from more natural areas, is less productive per unit area and, thus, requires more area for the same amount of production and almost always involves large inputs of water from elsewhere (or the rapid depletion of groundwater), more energy for the farming methods employed, inputs of deadly herbicides and pesticides, greater transportation distances to get inputs to farms and produce from farmer to market, and on and on as much as one cares to follow the consequences from converting rich farmland to urban wasteland. Oh yeah, growth. All of the negative processes and consequences of new urbanization caused by urban retreat from inevitable natural disasters are multiplied by population growth.

It makes the concerns of the real estate industry involving retreat seem rather trivial, doesn't it?


"The challenge is to prepare for long-term retreat by limiting development in at-risk areas, identifying timelines and tipping points for retreat, and analyzing path dependencies—things that need to happen now to enable retreat in the future. This will require long-term plans with thresholds that trigger specific responses, accompanied by a monitoring program to evaluate conditions and modify plans over time."

The case for strategic and managed climate retreat.

"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat. To the extent that retreat is already happening, it is typically ad hoc and focused on risk reduction in isolation from broader societal goals. It is also frequently inequitable and often ignores the communities left behind or those receiving people who retreat. Retreat has been seen largely as a last resort, a failure to adapt, or a one-time emergency action; thus, little research has focused on retreat, leaving practitioners with little guidance. Such a narrow conception of retreat has limited decision-makers' perception of the tools available and stilted innovation. We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed. Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when. Management addresses how retreat is executed. By reconceptualizing retreat as a set of tools used to achieve societal goals, communities and nations gain additional adaptation options and a better chance of choosing the actions most likely to help their communities thrive."

"The challenge is to prepare for long-term retreat by limiting development in at-risk areas, identifying timelines and tipping points for retreat, and analyzing path dependencies—things that need to happen now to enable retreat in the future. This will require long-term plans with thresholds that trigger specific responses, accompanied by a monitoring program to evaluate conditions and modify plans over time."


"In a recent paper in the journal Science, researchers from universities across the country made the case for managed retreat. There’s no longer any question that some communities will have to move, they write, 'but why, where, when, and how.' Although it’s usually treated as a last resort, the researchers conclude that in some cases, relocating neighborhoods away from flood zones can open up new opportunities for those in harm’s way.

But there are many obstacles. Among the biggest: Managed retreat has a reputation problem. In California, where more than 30 cities and counties are mired in difficult discussions about how to protect their coastlines, few things have managed to get people more riled up than the idea of abandoning America’s prime real estate. When officials in the town of Pacifica said that moving inland instead of fighting the ocean was the most cost-effective option, outraged homeowners mounted a campaign against the city officials, flooding town meetings, putting up signs all over town, and, eventually, voting the mayor out of office."


"It is clear, and now being reported more regularly, that people living in coastal areas will have to leave. Homes, businesses and entire major cities will all have to be abandoned or relocated entirely. Indonesia is already in the process of relocating the capital city of Jakarta, a major city with millions of people. This could well be the model for other major coastal cities around the planet, assuming there is time to carry out such relocations.

In fact, a group of scientists, in a paper published in the journal Science, have urged people living on coasts to move away from them while they still can, so as to avoid the panic and chaos that are looming on the very near horizon as sea level rise accelerates and storms and their flooding events intensify in both frequency and power. Retreating from coastal areas now, rather than waiting, is the obvious and prudent thing to do."


Hope those deer in the photo made it out.

This image of a fire illustrates what is now an extreme event that scientists say may happen any day -- tomorrow or within a decade.

Three horrifying extreme weather scenarios that pretty much no one even realizes are now a possible reality: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/9/13/20860604/climate-change-jonathan-franzen-hurricane-wildfire-heat-wave

"... Southern California could see a wildfire that burns a total of 1.5 million acres. Smoke from the blazes could carry at least 100 miles west into Los Angeles and 100 miles south to San Diego, leading to hazardous air quality throughout the region and thousands of hospitalizations. Well over 100,000 structures would likely be destroyed and hundreds could die in the flames. 'The damage would likely be massive, potentially dwarfing what we have seen recently,' [said] David Sapsis, a scientist with Cal Fire who reviewed the simulated fire... ."

Another photo somewhat off topic -- this time a famous picture from the Yellowstone fires with quite different circumstances from the California fires.

The op-ed is not wrong in emphasizing the problems inherent in favoring private profits and investor returns over public prudence when dealing with natural phenomena --
especially natural resources -- but it reads like a grossly oversimplified, urban-mindset conclusion about how to get better in dealing with such matters. Huge areas of demographic, ecological, historic, and common-sense environmental concerns are not even mentioned. Blindly believing what the author calls "natural monopolies" must necessarily end up in the hands of government is to ignore the profound failures of highly political, wealth-influenced government agencies in somewhat different ways but in the same arenas as the failures of the private monopolies, especially where so-called "disasters" like massive wildfires are concerned.

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