managed retreat

some built levees
others enforced land zones and building regulations
we did not
the district invested in shoreline development
everybody knew the stupidity, nobody acted against
and we built those houses, beautiful they once were

when do you accept that your district
your street, your house is not worth fighting for anymore?
when does that moment come?
and how to tell
those who already rot in this place?

it started with that perigean flood on that sunny autumn day
soon every spring tide washed our pavements
we undertook minor interventions
short of budget, a strategy was missing
friends started moving, left their homes to perish

the trapped, for those we plan this retreat
a last bbq and parade
shared memories of community during storms
or the first time you rode your bike in a sewer pit
we close this district


In 2020, science writer John Carey published an explainer on managed retreat taking the concept from historic retreat, moving to higher grounds, to the strategic adaptation option it has become to decision makers. Idowu Ajibade, a professor from Portland State University, published a perspective to disentangle the climate migration from managed retreat in the overarching set of climate-induced mobilities (Ajibade, 2020). This poem explores these ideas of planned retreat as an adaptation strategy for coastal communities under threat of sea level rise.