As climate change politics abound, Dr. Rick Van Noy’s Sudden Spring: Stories of Adaptation in a Climate-Changed South (University of Georgia Press, 2019) cuts through it all to get to the core. What matters? People’s experiences with climate forces and how they are managing them now and planning to do so in the future. In his newest book, Van Noy decided not to follow the well-trodden path of trying to prove climate change science, nor did he bark about an irreversible tipping point. Instead, he provides us with a much-needed focus on communities and their responses, even if those communities dare not utter the words “climate change.” Van Noy treks across the beautiful southern landscape encountering unique culture and ecosystems, even coming face-to-face with an alligator. The best part, we get to go along with him.
Throughout the book, we hear people talk about technology in different ways. For example, Van Noy discovers that creating oyster reefs off the Outer Banks of North Carolina may be more effective in slowing the rate of shoreline erosion than traditional technologies like dredging and installing hard structures like bulkheads, jetties, and groins. It’s hearing these experiences and stories that will help to shape the solutions of the future. Just as Van Noy ends with his son taking the wheel, soon another generation will come face-to-face with their own treacherous monsters. Thankfully, Van Noy makes a compelling case for learning and adapting. We can all find beauty—and perhaps new hope—in this wonderfully documented journey of adaptation to a changing climate.
Chris Gambino works at the intersection of science and policy in hopes of creating more informed decision-making.
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