SWAMPUS: My Campus is Underwater
Global Warming is happening, and within the next 100 years or so, my tiny private college on the west coast of Florida could be submerged.
Global Warming is happening, and there's no more time to deny it.
Every spring, my small, private liberal arts school on the Gulf coast of Florida gets a wake-up call: tape on the buildings.
The marine science students, and probably some pranksters as well, go around our campus with lots of duct tape and put strips of tape along the walls of dorms, classrooms, and other buildings. It's meant to represent where the water line will be in 25-50 years. It's pretty funny to look at, but scary if I actually stop to understand what my fellow students are getting at: sea-level rise is a real thing, and it's happening right now.
The tape on the buildings is higher up than one might think, too. Sometimes the tape is higher than my 5'8" stance, and other times it's about halfway between my feet and my head. Eckerd College sits on a sea-wall, and during intense storms, when the sea rises, the campus is flooded. Students joke and call it "Swampus" because that's what my school looks like: a giant swamp. There's no where for the rain water to go except pool in the fields and roads, no where for the sea water to go except up and over our poorly-built seawall.
This could be the state of Florida within the next century:
According to a New York Times article, within the next century, if the sea keeps rising due to hotter air temperatures, then about 50% of the people effected in the United States by rising seas and tidal flooding will be in Florida alone. That's more than half of Florida.
If there is a three foot rise, 4.2 million will be effected in the US, and if there's a six foot rise, the number of people is more than doubled to 13.1 million.
That's a lot of people being displaced. It's also incredibly costly. With so many displaced throughout the United States alone, we could be facing trillions of dollars in debt.
In a report published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, states that most of Florida's 18 million residents "live less than 60 miles from the Atlantic coast or the Gulf coast" and that the entire state "lies on within the Atlantic Coastal Plain, with a maximum elevation of 400 feet above sea-level." In fact, the highest elevation in Florida is a hotel in Miami.
And it's not just Florida that is being effected by global warming. Most of the southern states and parts of the Northeast are slowly sinking, and even coastal zones on the West Coast might run into trouble if we don't take action to stop carbon emissions. It's already starting too: remember the flooding in Louisiana?
It might not seem like it can happen to you, but it in the next half-century, it will. Even if the water-level rises only centimeters, it will effect how your homes. That beautiful beach will be shrinking, and that big, wide, dark and scary ocean will start moving in. It's a slow process, but it's happening at an alarmingly faster rate than we'd like it to.
Eckerd sits on the Gulf Coast, right in Tampa Bay, outside of downtown St. Pete. My school is about 1800 students, all under-grad. We're liberal. We're allowed pets on campus (they're even allowed to graduate when you do). We have the most species of birds on any college campus. We have yellow bikes to ride around on campus. We're a wet campus. We have our own beach and a waterfront.
As I prepare to leave my beautiful, four-year home in May, I hope that when I return for alumni weekend and other gatherings, Eckerd will still be here, thriving. If we all cut our carbon emissions by just a little, even once a week, then we'd be helping the environment. I'd like to be able to return to Florida to see my friends 15 years down the line, and I'm sure a lot of people would like to go to Florida to sunbathe and drink on the beach, too. We can all help stop or slow the sea-level rise, and it's time to start acting now.