The yellow warning signs say, “Attention Rockfall.”
But rockslides have always threatened Brienz, a small village tucked into the Swiss Alps. Because of land that subsides downward, their church spire leans and their buildings have cracks. But now, geologists observed new movement in nearby soil. The 85 villagers were told to evacuate because the mountain could collapse. No one is sure though if tumbling debris or an entire mountain will bury or byppass Brienz,
They are also not sure if global warming is the reason.
Meanwhile, thouands of miles to the south, a small island comunity will soon move. The 30,000 Guna live on 39 of the 365 islands that compose an archipelgo near Panama. Since the 1960s they have experienced an accelerated rising water level. Tripling, the rate rose to 3.5 milliliters a year from one. Funded by the Inter-Amican Bank and Panama, prefab houses are being built for them to move to on the mainland.
A Guna island:
Somewhat similarly, governments in Fiji and the Marshall Islands are dealing with relocating communities. In the U.S., people that live in Louisiana’s Isle de Jean Charles also expect to leave home because of rising water levels. The Louisiana move will cost approximately $48 million. During November, 2022, the Biden administation allocated $75 million to indigenous groups in Alaska and Washington state to move key buildings threatened by climate change.
Our Bottom Line: Tradeoffs
Considering relocation, the tradeoffs list is daunting. We are deciding when to allocate money and time, now, soon, or later. We have to decide who gets what, a dilemma faced currently by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for money with which it is funding tribes. Then, the groups that are immediately impacted will make decisions that affect their homes and their culture. As economists, knowing that every decision has a tradeoff–a cost that requires a sacrificed alternative–climate change presents us with a slew of choices.
At this point I recall preparations for Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. After, it made so much sense to wonder why the government had not built levees that would withstand a Category 5 storm. However, knowing they had no crystal ball, we can see why policy planners allocated the money and time and labor they would have spent on levees to what then appeared to be a better destination.
But more broadly, it leaves us in the heart of behavioral economics and a paper that econlife will consider during the next several days.
My sources and more: As trending news, the NY Times article on Brienz grabbed my attention. But it was just a beginning as I moved, fascinated, from one dislocated community to another. So, I returned to a story about islanders’ dislocationg that I read months ago, a more recent version, and then moved onward to how the U.S. was paying people to move. Most crucially, connecting behavioral economics and climate change, this 2023 academic paper will soon be an econlife focus.
Our featured image is from Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone, via Associated Press via the NY Times.