The second Keeping History Above Water conference began on October 29, on a rainy day in Annapolis, with high tides already overtopping the historic City Dock. Following a series of tours of some of the region’s historic cultural resources, the conference’s speaking schedule began in the evening with introductory remarks by Annapolis’ chief of Historic Preservation Lisa Craig, alderman Joe Budge, and US/ICOMOS executive director Bill Pencek. These comments emphasized that, while sea level rise is a long-term, global problem, its impacts are being felt right now in Annapolis. This was opening followed by two talks, attempting to address the scope of the problem, and the range of possible adaptations in coastal environments.
Phil Dyke, coastal and marine advisor for the National Trust in England, spoke first, describing the unique role the Trust plays in managing 10% of the shoreline of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Dyke described how the National Trust is trying to embrace dynamic and adaptive responses to climate change, rather than digging in and building protective structures. This included moving buildings backwards as cliffs erode, restoring natural shorelines where possible, and in some cases accepting the loss of historic structures along the coast. Dyke also emphasized how adaptation to climate change is part of a longer history of coastal changes, which is going to continue well into the future.
The next speaker was Jeff Goodell, an investigative journalist and author of The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Reshaping of the Civilized World. Goodell described how his own interest in sea level rise began with Hurricane Sandy, and was strengthened while reporting his story Goodbye Miami for Rolling Stone Magazine. As that title would suggest, his talk emphasized climate change’s potential to massively reshape cities around the world, perhaps much sooner than we think. However, Goodell added, “opportunity often comes disguised as catastrophe,” and he took time to point out different adaptation strategies from around the globe.