The Underwater City
Author: Anonymous, Op-Ed
When I came to the College of Charleston, I was excited to live in such a beautiful city so close to the water. Getting to walk down the battery on the weekends or drive fifteen minutes to go to the beach was always such a relief from the stress of classes. Unfortunately, wading through knee-deep water to get to my front door has become a part of my stressful life, and king-tides are an all too regular disruption. This isn’t simply a result of living near the ocean, it is a result of intentional decisions to ignore the needs of the community, such as building on marshlands, mismanaged drainage, and overall, the business model of profit over the planet.
Our city is drowning and, more importantly, we are letting it.
Sea level rise due to climate change continues to accelerate, faster than projections have predicted. According to NASA Earth Observatory, the seas have risen an average of 10 inches since 1950 and are continuing to rise 1 inch per year since 2010 (1). This does not take into account the potentially catastrophic hurricanes we could receive, which are only increasing in frequency and intensity and could further erode our shorelines and eradicate our vulnerable housing. Essentially, if we do not make ambitious changes to how we operate on a global scale, the peninsula will be partially submerged by the end of our lifetimes (see reference #2 for an interactive map on sea level rise).
We should see this as our call to action, to acknowledge climate change and try to change our own behaviors to help save the city and our world. If climate change is not addressed, we are jeopardizing our current quality of life, the lives of generations to come, and the existence of the college on the peninsula. When students can no longer walk the battery, shop and dine on King Street, find non-flood-prone housing downtown, or get to class safely, they won’t come to school here. The allure of the College of Charleston is the city in which it sits. If that’s gone, so is the school.
Fortunately, the College still has time to set an example as a leader in efforts to prevent climate catastrophe. It’s in the midst of moving in that direction by doing things like partnering with Siemens, an organization who helps large institutions become more sustainable. Siemens has given the Center for Sustainable Development a grant of $30,000 to conduct a study on waste production at the College to find important areas of concern. They will be actively working to get more sustainable energy on campus, with LED lights, water conservation, and fixing leaks that cost a lot of resources. This is a great step for the College, and it needs to continue in that direction to ensure the well-being and safety of our beautiful campus and surrounding community we share the city with. When we look back on this years from now, will we be ashamed or proud of the actions we took? Let’s make ourselves proud.
If you’d like to get involved in local climate activism, check out Charleston Climate Coalition or opportunities here at the Center for Sustainable Development. Thank you for reading!
Feature photo from Charleston Magazine