Where is the Climate Safe Land?

This week’s Hudson Valley floods may cause a rethink

Paul Greenberg

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Recently I spent some time in the Adirondacks of Northern New York State, not visiting my new land. My land is just a couple miles up a hill from the cottage I’ve been renting for the past two years. I’ve run up that hill again and again to the roundabout near my land on my morning jog. I circle the sign with the name of the road that now appears on my tax bill but never head down the road to my actual address.

There are many things I could have done on my land. I brought four grape plants up from New York City that I took the time to cut from their mother vine and root during the spring, with the purpose of planting them on my land and taking the first steps toward making my land into the climate-safe homestead I’ve imagined. I started a compost bucket at my rental cottage that, when full, I could have conceivably carried to my land to start building up the humus. At the very least I could have bought some “No Trespassing” signs and post them on the four corners of my acre. But to have done that would have be to have acknowledged actual commitment to a relocation project. The grapevines stayed in their pots, the compost in its can, the No Trespassing signs on a rack at the hardware store, unbought, and I stayed inside, cowering at the idea of laying claim to the land on which I’ve already spent time and treasure.

Every home feels like it’s climate safe until it doesn’t.

This makes no sense at all because this single acre, in a part of the Adirondacks that locals call “the Acres,” is exactly the climate haven I’ve been talking about acquiring for the better part of a decade. I’ve spent years thinking about the properties I’d want in such a property — a place ideally positioned to escape the floods and fires that have swept over the nation in recent years. I’ve consulted with a range of “climate-adaptation specialists” who advise in the growing field of “managed retreat” from vulnerable coastal cities — the kind of city where I’ve lived my whole life.

And yet I’ve done nothing. Just like the people who think the phrase “climate change” is absurd, I am in a kind of denial. But mine is even worse. I am in a total, all-knowing paralysis.

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Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World paulgreenberg.org