Module 6: Impacts on the Societies and Economics of Coastal Regions

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Introduction

As you discovered in Module 1 and the previous modules in this unit, there is a wide diversity of populated regions located in coastal areas. Communities are built on low-lying geologic features such as such as river deltas and barrier islands; while some, including many island nations, are of volcanic origin (e.g., volcanic island chains like Hawaii); others, like the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, sit on low lying, exposed coral reefs. Prone to numerous coastal processes, these islands and their populations are among the most at risk today, because they don’t have high ground to which residents can relocate as their island nations become ever more flooded.

In this module, we will explore several case studies of coastal communities around the world that are particularly exposed to the coastal hazards of sea level rise, tropical cyclones, tsunamis, and shoreline change. We will consider the impacts of the hazards and ways in which communities have responded to catastrophes. We will also consider the complex questions related to how a community, whether it is a small city on an island in the Philippines, or a large city such as New York, can address the risks associated with these hazards. Questions such as: Is it better to rebuild in the same location after a devastating typhoon wipes out your neighborhood, or should you pick up and move? What does moving entail? What does the future hold, and how do coastal communities plan ahead and increase their resilience to increasing coastal hazard risks?

In the following case studies, you will explore the experiences of a selection of coastal areas that are experiencing the effects of coastal hazards. You will then use the information gained to develop ideas for how coastal communities should respond.