Going With the Flow

A disagreement over how to handle climate change on the Outer Banks is putting the islands' future at risk.

March 13, 2015

“Everyone on the Outer Banks knows that the islands shift with the waves. It’s a geological process that erodes sand off their front and redeposits it on their backside. People used to routinely move houses, and even the highway, with it. They’ve moved the landmark lighthouse on Hatteras Island. But the modern, permanent infrastructure on the islands has interrupted that process. Add that to rising sea levels, and you’ve got an emergency on your hands. ‘This used to be a culture of survival. Now people make decisions based on a culture of greed,’ O’Neal says. ‘The island’s supposed to move; now it can’t move. All the troubles are self-caused.’ She is frustrated with her neighbors who don’t accept that they can’t keep interrupting the natural roll of the island without consequence. ‘I’m like,’ she says, agitated, ‘We gotta roll, bitches.’”

From “Slip Sliding Away,” Mac McClelland's Audubon piece on sea level rise and the Outer Banks.

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