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Boston: The Venice Of New England?

With sea levels predicted to rise seven feet in the next century, Boston needs to adapt or drown.

Although many people will migrate as sea levels rise due to climate change, cities can’t. Instead, they’ll have to adapt as best they can. In Boston, plans are already being made to deal with rising sea levels the way the Venetians do, by replacing some of Boston’s busiest streets with canals.

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In a new report issued by the Urban Land Institute, over 70 engineers, architects, and development specialists gave their recommendations about how to deal with climate change in Boston, where the tideline is expected to rise more than seven feet by 2100. That wouldn’t just submerge neighborhoods like Boston’s Back Bay, which is was mostly wetlands before city officials added landfill in the 19th century; it would completely alter the landscape of some Boston’s most iconic areas, like Cambridge (home of MIT and Harvard), as well as Revere Beach and Boston’s Innovation District.

Arrowstreet and Halvorson Design

“This is a change that’s coming whether we want it or not,” said Dennis Carlberg, director of sustainability at Boston University, who helped compile the report. “Instead of being afraid of the problem, we need to embrace it and think about opportunities it offers us.”

One possible solution to the problem could see gondoliers plying their trade up Storrow Drive. The report suggests that Boston could adapt to rising sea levels by turning some roads and public alleys into narrow waterways, which would allow neighborhoods to absorb their rising sea levels while also giving Boston some of the romance of Venice, Amsterdam (pictured up top), and other canaled cities.

“We’re not going to start digging the canals tomorrow,” Brian Swett, Boston’s chief of energy, environment, and open space, told the Boston Globe. “But the report makes the important point that you can’t solve six feet of sea level rise simply by building a bigger dam on the Charles River.” A dam, incidentally, which was designed in the 1970s under the now-laughable assumption that water levels would rise at a rate of only six inches per century.

Canals aren’t the only option open to Boston. Other suggestions in the report include building a higher boardwalks on Revere Beach, and surrounding many of the more vulnerable areas of the city with marsh grass and inlets to absorb and divert water. But one things for sure: Boston’s got to change, or it’ll drown.

[h/t the Boston Globe]

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