Julie Christine's Reviews > The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World

The Water Will Come by Jeff Goodell
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it was amazing
bookshelves: best-of-2018, read-2018, social-political-commentary

I read The Water Will Come under hazy yellow skies, with the scent of woodsmoke hanging heavy in hot air, my car dusted with a light coating of ash. It took effort to breathe, the air thick and sickly. Forest fires all around me: searing British Columbia to the north, racing through the Cascades Mountains to the east, Olympics to the west, Oregon to the south.

We endure damp and dreary winters for the glory that is summer in the Pacific Northwest; months of blue skies, gentle warmth and sunshine. But I fear this is the new norm for summers in this pristine place of sea and mountains. The world is on fire and at the same time, sinking fast into the sea. And we're not even close to being ready.
Sea-level rise is one of the central facts of our time, as real as gravity. It will reshape our world in ways most of us can only dimly imagine.

What do forest fires in the West have to do with melting ice sheets and rising oceans? I hadn't put the two together until reading this urgent, devastating, vital read.
A backpacker’s campfire (in the Western United States) throws out a spark, a tree ignites, and soon the mountainside is burning and the soot is drifting up, some of it lifted into the jet stream and settling into Greenland, darkening the snow and accelerating the transformation of ice into water, which runs down into the North Atlantic and eventually into Miami, Shanghai, New York, Venice, Mumbai, Lagos, and deeper still.

Goodell, a longtime editor for Rolling Stone, concentrates much of his narrative in Miami and Miami Beach, exposing the folly and corruption that built these sand castle communities, the naïvete and stupidity and ostrich-head-burying that will eventually wash them away. But Goodell also takes us to Manhattan and the Jersey Shore to view the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (2012), the heartbreaking plunge of Venice, the water ghettos of Lagos, and the immediate peril in the Marshall Islands, Alaska, and Greenland.

As intensively studied as global warming and climate change have been in recent years, not even the most dire predictions anticipated the rate at which the seas are rising. The 2015 Paris Agreement was predicated on studies that assumed the sea would rise, at the most three feet by 2100. Goodell introduces us to the current models that indicate the rise may be well over SIX feet. We're going down, quite literally.
For anyone living in Miami Beach or South Brooklyn or Boston’s Back Bay or any other low-lying coastal neighborhood the difference between three feet of sea level rise by 2100 and six feet is the difference between a wet but livable city and a submerged city.

What can we do? We have two choices: work immediately toward slowing the temperature rise of our air by ending our use of and reliance on fossil fuels, which we can replace with clean, renewable sources of energy: wind and solar. This is happening, of course, on a small scale, but hardly at the rate needed to slow the rise of temperatures and seas. And with a Congress and White House in denial about climate change, the United States is complicit in making this planet more unsustainable by the minute.

The other tact is to adapt. Goodell highlights several innovative and not a few harebrained ideas to live with or withstand rising seas or the flooding that accompanies hurricanes and typhoons. Of course, millions around the world live in communities perched on the edge of disaster, and not just the entitled who claim South Beach; from Bangladesh to Boston, poor communities are vulnerable to the inevitable. Climate change leads directly to conflict and war-Syria is the most immediate example. The International Organization for Migration estimates there will be 200 million climate refugees by 2050.

I couldn't put this down, as upsetting a read as it is. Goodell made the facts accessible and fascinating- he is as superb a storyteller as he is insightful a journalist. This is essential reading.

I'm grateful for today's rain, not the least for those battling these fires on the front line. But the rain can't wash away the truth. We're going down, quite literally.

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Reading Progress

August 18, 2018 – Started Reading
August 18, 2018 – Shelved
August 21, 2018 – Shelved as: best-of-2018
August 21, 2018 – Shelved as: read-2018
August 21, 2018 – Shelved as: social-political-commentary
August 21, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

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Lorna Julie, what a thoughtful review. This is going on my TBR list, as I too am looking out at another hazy day as a result of all the forest fires in the Rocky Mountains. It sounds like a must-read for all of us. Thank you.


message 2: by Toni (new) - added it

Toni Everyone should read this and everyone should vote this November. That’s all I’ll say, but we are at “critical mass.” Thanks for your excellent review!


message 3: by Jill (new) - added it

Jill Hutchinson An excellent review, Julie. I saw a picture from the Space Needle cam in Seattle, WA, a city which is also suffering from the smoke from the fires in BC and in California.. Stay safe.


message 4: by Numidica (new) - added it

Numidica Thanks for the review, Julie. I added this to Want to Read.


Julie Christine Jill wrote: "An excellent review, Julie. I saw a picture from the Space Needle cam in Seattle, WA, a city which is also suffering from the smoke from the fires in BC and in California.. Stay safe."

Hi Jill- thank you so much. I live about 50 miles as the crow flies from Seattle. Smoke from California wildfires do not reach us here; Oregon, yes, but mostly BC and right here in Washington State- we have many burning in the Washington Cascades, and even in the Olympics. It's a concern every year, but in the past two decades, it's become a sadness that begins earlier and last longer each summer. :-(


Julie Christine Lorna wrote: "Julie, what a thoughtful review. This is going on my TBR list, as I too am looking out at another hazy day as a result of all the forest fires in the Rocky Mountains. It sounds like a must-read for..."

Lorna, it's fascinating and devastating and yes, essential reading!


Julie Christine Toni wrote: "Everyone should read this and everyone should vote this November. That’s all I’ll say, but we are at “critical mass.” Thanks for your excellent review!"

I couldn't agree more, Toni. If we can't affect this change at the federal level, it's got to be done state by state.


Julie Christine Numidica wrote: "Thanks for the review, Julie. I added this to Want to Read."
Thank you Numidica!


message 9: by Canice (new)

Canice Apologies that this is tangential, but I cannot recommend highly enough Goodell's memoir, "Sunnyvale: The Rise and Fall of a Silicon Valley Family". I emailed him the wee hours, after having finished the book, tears streaming down my face. I still have his thoughtful response.


Julie Christine Canice wrote: "Apologies that this is tangential, but I cannot recommend highly enough Goodell's memoir, "Sunnyvale: The Rise and Fall of a Silicon Valley Family". I emailed him the wee hours, after having finish..."

I have this on order- thank you for the recommendation!


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