Coastal Living and Climate Change


Scientists predict that by 2100, sea levels along the east coast of the United States will rise more than 39 inches, thus drowning large parts of counties along the coast. Interestingly, however, in recent years more people than ever have been moving to the coast of the United States. In Dare County, a coastal county located in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the population has risen from barely 7000 people in 1970 to now 34,000 residents and in the summer the population rises to between 225,000 and 300,00 people. The impending sea level rise would drastically affect the Dare County. The daunting rise of sea levels made scientists compose plans for the coastline of North Carolina, however, interestingly county managers and economic advisors halted the recommendations for the new safety codes and regulations. This halt inspired a team of five anthropologists to question 208 local residents in the Outer Banks about climate change and what they are noticing in their back yard. They found that during their conversations that “only 20% of the participants mentioned sea level rising without being prompted for it”, however, “almost everyone talks about the shifting shoreline”. They also found that “economic costs are the overriding feature that most people consider in their suggestions for best practices to ensure the natural and economic sustainability of the Outer Banks, as the economic future is more real than uncertainties about the future storm surges”. Thus the anthropologists found that people are more concerned with maintaining economic stability and prospering, than they are concerned about the Outer Banks possibly drowning in the future.

The anthropologists’ work in Dare County has showed many of the residents, as well as others, the eye-opening results about the future of their back backyard. They are not only creating awareness in the Outer Banks, but also in the entire United States as the country as a whole is affected by climate change.