- Documents and publications
Relocation, repopulation, and rising seas
To what extent do long-term risks associated with climate change, specifically sea level rise, contribute to repopulation or relocation decisions of people displaced by disasters in coastal communities? This research focuses on this question, which has received little attention in disaster literature. It is based on a case study of Monroe County, Florida, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Its data collection methods include interviews (n=24), participant observation, and review of secondary sources (e.g., local plans, newspaper articles). The study suggests that, as displaced populations get back to their “new normal” in the aftermath of the hurricane, their focus is on short-term, immediate needs: pre-disaster challenges that were exacerbated after the hurricane—specifically a lack of affordable housing and low paying jobs—and the risks associated with potential storms. Long-term environmental risks associated with sea level rise have little to no direct influence on their relocation or repopulation decisions. The study suggests that policymakers need to find the optimum period to act on sea level rise adaptation and mitigation in the aftermath of a disaster, after affected populations’ immediate needs are addressed and before the populations’ collective memory of the disaster is forgotten.