Monday, 13 October 2008

Sacrificial Coast

I guess I originally thought that I would go back to Kaliningrad for my Borders story, being and enclave and cut off from the rest of Russia, border issues are a constant issue there. But I feel that I need a story I can revisit regularly and therefore it needs to be in Britain for the moment.

Land and people's relationship to the land interests me and is a theme that I keep returning to.
I came a cross an recently published book Vanishing landscapes which deals with the fact that landscapes will soon no longer exist the way we know them. John Bergers writing appears and work by photographers such as Edward Burtynsky , Joel Sternfield, and Robert Adams are featured.Photographer An - My Le has written some very thought provoking words in this book:

'While landmasses are carved up into jigsaw puzzles of nations, territories, and green zones, oceans define borders but defy politics. Against the backdrop of an ocean, any enterprise, military, commercial or scientific, appears fragile and barley tolerated.'

I really like this: 'oceans define borders but defy politics' This makes me think about Britain's eroding coastline. Certain parts of the coast especially in Norfolk is eroding faster than ever before. There are communities such as Happisburgh, Walcott, Mundesley that in the not so distant future might be completely swallowed up by the sea and wiped of the map. The U.K government says it is to costly to protect the whole of the coastline. 'Managed retreat' is the term scientists has given this approach, meaning that governments around the world are making decisions about what it can afford to save and what has to be sacrificed. A big part of the Norfolk coast seem to be out of luck, the sea defences are considered unsustainable and new ones will not be built. This mean that many people stand to loose their homes to the sea, farmers will loose their livelihood, historic sites and nature reserves will disappear. Unlike in countries like The Netherlands where compensation is given for loss of land to erosion, in the U.K there is no compensation. The effect the sea has on the land has become a political issue. How to decide what is protected and what is to be sacrificed? And there is talk of what could be Britain's first climate change refugees.
I want to visit these areas, photograph the landscapes and the people who belong to these places, not just Norfolk, though I think this might be a very good starting point but also other areas. At this stage I am quite open minded about what will be included. I could just focus on what I want to call 'Sacrificial Coast' or it could be extended to look at what is done to preserve and defend ourselves from the sea.
I would like to use statistics with these images and get quotes from people. My hope is that I can make some good connection with people living in these areas. In terms of making it in to a multimedia presentation I could perhaps use voice over from people talking about the situation or perhaps record the sound of the sea hitting the cliffs and use it as 'background music'. But right know I really need to delve deeper in to the research and check some places out.
Some very useful articles:

Waves of destruction The Guardian April 17 2008

Living on the edge The Guardian October 9 2006

As the climate changes, bits of England's coast crumble International Herald Tribune May 4 2007

Should we abandon Britain's crumbling coast? The Guardian August 18 2008

Living on the edge: The owners whose homes are going over a cliff Daily Mail 12 July 2008

Players at England's oldest golf course told to let it crumble into the sea The Guardian May 20 2008

Erosion plea from sea victims BBC News player

Wale's coastal erosion threat BBC News player

CCAG Coastal Concern Action Group


Sco said...

This could be really good, and I believe it's topical at the moment (I mean the Norfolk crisis, not climate change in general). You mention that the coastline is eroding faster than ever before. I'm very skeptical about what are clearly political motives behind such statements. I don't mean to be rude, I just wonder where you got the fact from. Are you going into this with a subjective or objective approach? The thing that really interests me about the saving land issue is that saving lasnd is completely against nature. it's possible that climate change is our doing, but I'm not sure if this justifies getting involved again and playing God. Blabbering aside, I suspect there are some great stories to be told from real people living there. That's exciting. Good luck!

Anna said...

Hi Sco,
Thanks for your thoughts, very valid!
I might have expressed myself a bit unclear about what I mean of being a'political issue' What I mean is that the government has to make some very tough descisions of what is to be saved. This is usually cities and towns, the cost to save smaller villages and farm land is sometimes to high. I want it to be as objective as possible. I understand both sides (the government and the people who live there). There is no clear right and wrong and there is a lot of debate with different viewpoints.This is partly why I think the issue is such a valid topic, I want to raise questions, rather than answer them. Information that erosion is happening faster is statistic from U.K climate impacts programme and the Environment Agency (EA)and seem to be the findings of many scientists.

Sco said...

Henry of Huntingdon, the 12th century chronicler, tells how [king] Canute set his throne by the sea shore and commanded the tide to halt and not wet his feet and robes; but the tide failed to stop. According to Henry, Canute leapt backwards and said 'Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws'. He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again.