We were, at that moment, speeding along a highway about 12 feet below sea level. Parts of Amsterdam - our embarkation point - lie another nine feet below that. More than a quarter of The Netherlands rests below sea level, and more than half is flood-prone. If places like Dewey Beach seem like Ground Zero for the issue of sea level rise, then the Netherlands might be considered Below Ground Zero.
I expected our driver to express concern, perhaps dread, about the future. Nope, not him. We'll handle it, he said in broken English (far better, of course, than my nonexistent Dutch). And that's the point. They're handling it. They're not arguing about the reality of sea level rise. They can't afford to. We can't either. Though not everybody's gotten the message yet.
One rather important organization that has gotten the message: the U.S. Navy. Our nation's largest naval base lies near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, in Norfolk, Va. Naval Station Norfolk, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, has played an outsized role in our nation's history. For the Cape Region, it also has much to tell us about our future.
. . .
Capt. Joe Bouchard, U.S. Navy (ret.): "Clearly, sea level rise is happening. The U.S. military, they see the problem ... The naysayers, by trying to pretend this is not a problem and is not worthy of funding to adapt to sea level rise, they are jeopardizing U.S. national security, and they are jeopardizing the U.S. economy."
Rear Admiral Kevin Slates, U.S. Navy: "When we look at the problems that the Navy faces down in the Tidewater area, the only way to solve a challenge like sea level rise is through a whole of government approach ... This is not an easy challenge, but it's also a challenge we have to overcome." ... "As an engineer, what I go by is facts, so down here in the Norfolk area, the facts are that the sea level is rising. The facts are that the land is subsiding. So it's a double whammy."
Pete Garner, Department of Public Works, City of Norfolk: "Hampton Boulevard is one of the main connectors to the Navy base.Paving the intersection every few years should do the trick. Once in a great while you might have to jack up the nearby buildings, when it's not convenient to raze them and build a new set.
"At normal high tides, this intersection will start to flood. [If] we get a little abnormal high, the intersection will be completely flooded and impassable ... basically stopping traffic going to the Navy base."
The military is not immune to following the fads of environmentalism. Once you get a job that depends on concern trolling, you have to keep at it.