At one time, climate change could be thought of as a distant threat that could be diffused through prompt collective action. That time is past. Greenhouse gas emissions will not be reduced quickly enough to prevent significant changes to the composition of our atmosphere. Even as we hope for the best, we must prepare for the unpleasant eventualities that scientists expect will arise.
Rising Currents brings home the abstract notion of “global change” by vividly depicting the impacts of sea level rise on the New York Harbor Estuary, including Lower Manhattan, New Jersey, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. But the exhibit presents this admittedly undesirable outcome as both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge of rising sea levels calls not only for preservation but for transformation. To meet our needs, human beings have always reshaped the landscape, and we can and will continue to do so. The question is whether we will continue to work against the natural environment, or whether we will begin to better appreciate and utilize natural capital in a more sustainable manner.
At the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), our mission is to protect human health and the environment, and taking action on climate change is a top priority. But the task of mitigating and adapting to climate change is far bigger than any one agency. As Rising Currents illustrates, this undertaking will cross jurisdictional boundaries throughout the New York Harbor and involve contributions from across our society in ways that transcend conventional thinking. We welcome creative solutions to this far-reaching problem and look forward to working together with all those who strive to create a better future.