At the end of the hurricane season of October 2012, a storm hit the coast of New Jersey, USA that is now known as one of the most devastating storms in the history: ‘Frankenstorm’ Sandy. With an estimated 65 billion dollar in damage, Sandy turned out to be the second costliest hurricane in US history, after hurricane Katrina.
When hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of the US in 2012, I knew that I wanted to use the time in my master thesis to contribute to rebuilding the coastal landscape. After a year, Anouk joined the project. Together, we are now creating At The Edge: A research and film about the climate adaptation of the coastline of New Jersey after hurricane Sandy.
Creating At The Edge
During the research, we found that on many places along the shore, the rebuilding process was focussing more on recovery and building back what was, instead of taking the situation as a starting point to rethink and rebuild the landscape. We saw many parties, that could have chosen for climate adaptation measures, rather implemented short-term solutions that provided no other functions, benefits or spatial quality.
There are many reasons why these choices were made, but one of them is the current short-term attitude towards climate adaptation: People want a quick fix, and that is very understandable.
The Rebuild by Design organization has a completely different attitude towards climate adaptation. This is an organization created by the national government that held a design competition where many experts from all over the world competed. In the results, the designers looked for strategies on a long-term and regional scale for flood protective interventions that also creates opportunities for recreation, nature development, local economy and other, to help the whole area instead of only the individuals who can afford it. Unfortunately, the plans are now struggling at the link to the local governments and communities that have to implement them. In At The Edge, we take these local communities as a starting point and together try to find ways to work our way up to shared view on resilient coastal management.
The goal of At The Edge is to contribute to the change towards a more large scale and long-term vision after Sandy. We try to do this by stimulating the conversations and discussions needed to reflect on the current attitudes and move towards rethinking the future of the shore. We think that questions and discussions are better techniques to try to get people on board of a more sustainable worldview than enforcing it from a govermental perspective. This way, people can interpret themselves and make the idea their own, instead of being told what to do by the government, foreign experts, or in this case two Dutch students.
If you share our view, or believe in a totally different one, please see our project as an invitation to reflect and discuss what you see as the best way to move the New Jersey shore forward.