The Geography of Risk: Epic Storms, Rising Seas, and the Cost of America’s Coasts

Gilbert M. Gaul. Sarah Crichton/FSG, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-90438-8
Investigative journalist Gaul (Billion-Dollar Ball) issues a punchy report on “unchecked” coastal development, with a focus on New Jersey, showing how local interests, backed by big money, have placed seashores at risk. In the clipped style of a beat reporter, he recounts the histories of early developers, such as of Lithuanian immigrant Morris Shapiro, who in 1926 bought 53 acres on Long Island Beach in New Jersey for $53,000—property reportedly now worth $400 million. Mixing breezy storytelling with the nitty-gritty details of inside-politicking, Gaul demonstrates how state and federal agencies have tried, but failed, to reign in developers and decelerate coastal development. He revisits the town meetings where, in the late 1970s and early ’80s, local mayors and property owners clashed with state and federal officials over New Jersey’s doomed Dune and Shorefront Protection Act, which aimed to protect fragile shorefronts and limit homeowners’ rights to rebuild after hurricanes. Tallying up the enormous national tax burden of protecting and rebuilding coastal towns and beaches after storms, Gaul captures the overall head-in-the-sand mentality of coastal investors and administrators. While some readers may wish he would have vented more ire, Gaul sticks to the facts in this close-up expose about land at risk. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 05/30/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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