July 10, 2009 By Blake Harris
A recent workshop organized by LOICZ (Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone), a core project of the International Geosphere-Bioshphere Programme and the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change, has highlighted the increasing challenges of popolation mirgration.
40 international experts from 6 continents and from wide ranging disciplines including economics, social sciences and natural sciences met intensively for the 5 day workshop near Oslo, Norway. The conclusions they reached offer insights on the development of coastal zones worldwide.
Expansion of coastal cities is often accompanied by a decline in the quality of life of the people, a workshop news release notes. This, concluded the participants, was usually the reason they moved to the coastal zone in the first place. Many Megacities such as Tokyo (pop. 36.000.000), New York (22.000.000) and London (12.000.000) are found in the coastal zone. However, coastal protection measures give a sense of false security and require increasingly expensive infrastructure.
The treatment and cure of these coastal syndromes includes renewable energy, recycled water and solid waste, sourcing locally grown foods and attention to social equity issues, especially in education and healthcare. We also need innovation in "soft" engineering for coastal defense, spatial planning and managed realignment. There are successful show cases for all these areas.
Up to now, governments at all levels, from local to international, have largely failed to seriously implement integrated management in coastal zones, the workshop noted. This has placed people at risk of disasters such as hurricane Katrina and the Banda Aceh tsunami. The interconnection of coastal processes with upstream management in river catchment has widely been ignored, causing coastal erosion, lack of runoff, nutrient shortage and subsiding deltas.
The pace of change in general is increasing and regionally we are already seeing both economic and climate-change refugees. In parallel, we see climate entrepreneurs eager to exploit Arctic resources. Climate change is exposing the fragile Arctic coasts and ecosystems as well as their vulnerable inhabitants, who subsist on traditional lifestyles, to increasing risks.
Innovation is needed to solve the widespread problems, if we are to turn the tide of losses. We must enable governance at all scales from intergovernmental engagement to the individual, personal choices that may counteract the tyranny of "small and short sighted decisions."