On the latest season of Broken Ground, which launched this week, podcast host Claudine Ebeid McElwain takes listeners to two Southern coastal cities among the most threatened by rising tides: Norfolk, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina.
Through the compelling stories of real people in real places, the senior communications manager and former journalist shines a light on how folks are navigating the problem and prepare for the inevitable.
We caught up with Claudine to ask a few questions ahead of the latest season’s launch. Read on to learn what’s at stake, who’s affected, and the biggest surprises she found.
Q: This season of Broken Ground is different from the first because it focuses solely on one major environmental issue: sea level rise. Why is sea level rise so important to the Southeast that you wanted to focus an entire season of a podcast on it?
A: Our climate crisis is no longer a threat, but a reality. Sea level rise is a direct result of climate change that is happening now and changing the way people are living in coastal cities all along the Southeastern seaboard, and beyond. I think it’s important that we tell their stories so we can start moving on solutions immediately.
What is sea level rise and who does it affect?
Sea level rise is a direct result of global warming, which is increasing the level of our oceans across the globe. In the South, like other parts of the world, the consequences of sea level rise are more intense storm surges and flooding, including on days when there’s no rain. So not only are our coastal cities dealing with a slow deterioration of their coastlines but they are also constantly under threat of a massive storm that could cause severe and permanent damage to the places they live.
Part of your goal this season was to find out how people and cities are working to protect themselves from the immediate threat of rising tides. How well do you think the Southeast is prepared?
The two cities we visited, Norfolk, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina, are moving rapidly to deal with flooding and storms but there is still work to do. I’m not sure this is something for which any city in America is prepared but there is now an active understanding that it’s something we have to take seriously. Both cities have Coastal Resiliency Offices and are working through how to deal with funding and slow moving bureaucracy when they are in a race against the clock.