Just Because Sea-Level Rise Threatens Miami Doesn't Mean the City Should Give Up

Just Because Sea-Level Rise Threatens Miami Doesn't Mean the City Should Give Up
Photo by Carolina del Busto

Here's what the discussion around climate change desperately needs: serious international, national and state-level cooperation aimed at curbing man's contribution and planning for the possible effects. 

Here's what the discussion around climate change certainly doesn't need: another article that basically boils down to "Miami is a dumb city and it's going to be underwater soon! LOL!" 

Yet, that's exactly what science blog Inverse gave us this week. 

The blog sent New York-based writer Yasmin Tayag down to Miami earlier this month, and she came back with an article entitled, "Miami's Doomed Frost Museum of Science Is a Monument to Ignoring Science" (or, as it's shortened to on the site's front page, "Miami's Stupid Sinking Science Museum.")

Her general point is that Miami shouldn't even bother building a science museum because science tells us Miami is going to be underwater one day anyway.

In her words, "Sometimes science tells us that celebrating science is a bad idea." 

Which is sort of the equivalent of telling someone, "Eh, smoke cigarettes, do drugs, and eat tons of junk food. Science says you're going to die one day anyway." 

We know Miami (and, indeed, most of the southern half of Florida) is particularly vulnerable to climate change. We do not, however, know exactly when the effects will become untenable. There may be a scientific consensus on man-influenced climate change and sea-level rise, but there isn't scientific consensus on a timeline. 

In any event, it seems most likely that Miami will continue to be a functioning city that is home to millions of people for the next few immediate decades (which translates to a large chunk of human life, if not longer). 

To propose that any improvements to our city are "doomed" and "stupid" is just pessimistic. To suggest that the children of Miami-Dade don't deserve a brand new science museum simply because they live in a geographically unfortunate area just seems cruel. Sure, go ahead and throw some shade at the logic of building all the giant, luxury towers aimed at foreign investors going up around it, but the science museum? Really? 

Miami may be a major victim of climate change, but we certainly don't hold any special blame for the problem in the first place. Nor should Miami local politicians somehow be specially and solely tasked (or, frankly, trusted) with preparing for how to combat the effects alone. This is going to take global, national, and state-level cooperation. 

When you blame Miami for not doing enough, you need to at least acknowledge that the rest of the world isn't doing enough either.

Basically, the tone of Tayag's article is literally like laughing at someone who is drowning.

Besides, lots of science also tells us that humans living in constant state of panic and doom isn't particularly healthy either. 

And while we don't subscribe the Jeb Bush's view that some guy in his garage will come up with some magical scientific silver bullet to combat climate change, it also seems to be downplaying science and technology's ability to mitigate the effects of sea-level rise. 

All in all, probably the best way for Miami to deal with the impending threat is to prepare for the worst (which, Tayag does point out, we didn't do by building advanced drainage and water pumping systems into the museum), but hope for the best. 

But we shouldn't expect much from these types of articles anymore anyway. 

Miami is not the only place on the globe susceptible to climate change, but we do seem to star in the most national articles about it. We've long suspected that's because New York-based journalists like an excuse to come down to spend some time in Miami to escape their chilly weather. 

Indeed, Tayag's social media proves she snapped her way through a nice trip that involved photos in front Wynwood murals, eating at Cuban cafés, and sitting on the beach. 

She also tweeted this out during her visit: 

To be fair, she's a Toronto native

The actual journalism she seems to have done here includes talking to one scientist who repeats previously reported numbers, and painstakingly describing the state of the chainlink fence around the museum construction site. 

The problem we have with this is that the sum total of these articles tends to paint global warming as some local issue that's most devastating effects will only take hold in Miami. 

The danger of that is that the rest of the country doesn't exactly hold Florida in high esteem to begin with, and sometimes views Miami as some silly little party town novelty Will Smith wrote a song about once. We know, sadly, that on some level, the rest of America isn't going to be particularly moved by the idea of saving Miami. It doesn't help when these articles paint Miami in a negative light to begin with. 

Unfortunately, so many of these articles also don't clarify that so many other parts of America are at threat as well. 

But, much like New York magazine's Jessica Pressler before her, we do sincerely hope that Tayag enjoyed her stay in Miami. 


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