The people of Warade are being displaced. In fact, almost every inch of land in Warade is owned by or leased to a European company or oil company. Their beaches are also being polluted, the human waste has made its way into a nearby creek, and rains can drive the water over the limit and into people’s houses. The fishermen who used to live there now have to pay to get rid of their catch when they catch it. It’s an ecosystem that has been steadily collapsing over the years, and it’s not surprising that the people in Warade don’t know what to do. They’re hoping the big men of Lagos will come and save them.
This city, which used to be an island, has been sinking due to rising sea levels as the world warms. That sinking, in turn, is making it increasingly hard for thousands of Lagos residents — from those on the southern, inner shore to the northern, middle shore — to get around.
The city is consistently ranked as the world’s most polluted. One hundred thousand people are forced to walk longer distances every day because they can’t get to the city’s exit gates. They had previously been able to get there because of the safety of Lagos’ bridges, until the Brazilian engineers who built them began to fall down. One of these bridges was named, “El Wafu,” after the 21st-century sculptureist Alberto Giacometti, who once called himself “a rich soul of a black man in Brazil.”
On Christmas Day, that bridge sank a little. Just one day after it had been built, it collapsed. Millions of people are without access to vital emergency supplies.
Eighty percent of the world’s population lives in cities, according to the United Nations. It is moving to more crowded, ill-airlined cities, and growing quickly. The U.N. says cities should be expected to house more than three-quarters of humanity by 2050.
Indeed, our world has been exposed to more extreme weather events. In the U.S., the southern U.S. — particularly in the south and south-west, while the north still bears the brunt of flooding in tropical-storm-prone coastal regions — is likely to be hit with many more frequent and more destructive tornadoes. Drought has become endemic in some regions of the U.S. and Europe, although it’s now becoming less common in much of the west. More and more, the country is in the grips of devastating wildfires.
In California, areas scarred by wildfires need to make sure that they’re on track to protect themselves from flooding as the sea levels rise. San Diego County’s 1998 wildfire that hit the town of La Jolla put a lot of the county in a worse state than they would otherwise have been in. There is a massive plan to construct a huge seawall to protect the city from flooding, and a lower-income community in La Jolla, said “we love the ocean,” has raised its own money and is also raising money to save its homes from the seawall.
And then there’s the climate change. Hurricanes are expected to become much more common, so that means that the frequency of smaller storms will increase. Places will be hit harder than they are now, with their unfortunate displacement of millions of people.
Between sea level rise, more intense storms, and longer droughts, the seas in the world will also rise. Though the population is growing, experts warn that the number of people killed in hurricanes — and floods — will likely increase as well.