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Staying Afloat in a World of Rising Seas

The world's coastal citizens are remarkably resilient in the face of storms and climate change.

Dec 2, 2014 6:00 AMNov 12, 2019 6:38 AM


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Photo Credits: Paula Bronstein/Reportage by Getty Images

A man in Tacloban, Philippines, hammers away amidst the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Yolanda), which hit the islands of Leyte and Samar on Nov. 8, 2013.

Yolanda was considered the most powerful storm to make landfall in recorded history, and killed approximately 6,200 people as it rampaged over the Philippines.

Photo Credits: Stephen Wilkes

These homes in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans are part of the ongoing Holy Cross Project, which aims to build a sustainable neighborhood with affordable housing in the area hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina.

By using solar panels and energy-efficient materials, the buildings in the Holy Cross Project use at least 75 percent less energy than typical buildings. 

Photo Credits: Stephen Wilkes

These photos explore the human capacity for resilience in some of the richest and poorest of the world’s coastal communities.

The photos are part of an Annenberg Space for Photography collection called Sink or Swim: Designing for a Sea Change, which will be on display at their Los Angeles location from Dec. 13 through May 3.

Sink or Swim reveals the diverse responses to the challenge of sea level rise — a challenge shared by millions worldwide.

Here, the roller coaster from the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, is partially submerged in the ocean after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. This chilling photo was one of the most vivid images of Sandy's aftermath.

Photo Credits: Paula Bronstein

A woman makes her way down the seawall along the Kitakama and Ainokama coastline in Sendai, Japan. Since the tsunami in 2011, the Japanese government has spent billions of yen on the reconstruction of a 20-mile seawall along the Sendai coastline.

Before the tsunami, Japan's seawalls were flawed. The walls themselves should have been built higher, and the diesel generators that powered the walls shouldn't have been built in low places leaving them prone to flooding, the New York Times reported in 2011. Reports indicated that water simply washed over the walls.

Photo Credits: Iwan Baan

Ganvie, a village in the African country of Benin, is known as the "Venice of Africa." The village of about 20,000 people is built literally on top of the lake.

Homes in Ganvie, such as this one, are built on stilts. Residents, as you may guess, make a living catching fish and selling them in the city.

Photo Credits: Iwan Baan

An aerial view of the stilt houses in Ganvie, Benin. In the 17th century, residents built this village within Lake Nokoué to protect themselves from the influence of the Fon ethnic group. The Fon had made a deal with the Portuguese to capture and sell people from other tribes into slavery.

However, the Fon warriors were forbidden from attacking a water-bound settlement. So Ganvie was settled in the middle of the lake for protection. No wonder Ganvie translates to "We Survived."

Photo Credits: Iwan Baan

Dutch architects designed this curvy house boat which floats on the Amstel River in Amsterdam. The home has multiple levels, and is a far more contemporary design than your typical house boat.

The end-to-end windows offer a stunning view of the river, and often passers-by will knock on the windows and ask if they can have a look around.

Photo Credits: Jonas Bendiksen

Residents navigate the flooded streets of the area of Arambagh in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2009 after a night of heavy rain. Dhaka experienced widespread flooding around the city as a result.

In July of that year, Dhaka was slammed with the heaviest rain in 53 years, which left six people dead and thousands more stranded. 

Photo Credits: Stephen Wilkes

A television set rests far from its home in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, following Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005.

Winds from the storm reached 174 miles per hour, and it's considered one of the top five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history.

Photo Credits: Jonas Bendiksen

This school, seen in 2010, is one of more than 50 floating schools and libraries in Pabna, Bangladesh, run by the nongovernmental organization Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha. The schools are an innovation to allow for basic education in a severely flood-prone area.

Photo Credits: Paula Bronstein/Reportage by Getty Images

Flood victims in Bang Bua, Thailand, move through the water on a makeshift raft past a portrait of the King of Thailand. In October 2011, when this photo was taken, Thailand was experiencing its worst flooding in 50 years.

During that time, flood waters crept within six miles of the Thai capital of Bangkok.

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