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Malia Politzer
Editor of International Investigative Journalist
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piqer: Malia Politzer
Friday, 07 September 2018

Podcast: Flood Thy Neighbor—Deciding Who Gets Protection From Climate Change, And Who Doesn't

This podcast from Reveal zooms in to a small a town alongside the Mississippi River in the US state of Missouri. Primarily populated by African Americans, the town's entire population lost their homes and land to a flood in 2011.

The investigative reporters revealed that the flooding was deliberate, rather than inevitable: In fact, a group of Army Corps engineers intentionally blew up a levee to keep it from flooding nearby farms, knowing that it would instead flood the small town. 

The podcast episode delves into the economic decision-making behind this choice, which was a catastrophe for the people affected by it. It's also a fascinating and disturbing look into the kinds of decisions that policymakers, urban planners, and governments will have to make as climate change affects more and more people.

In the US, the Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for reducing flood risks across rivers and coasts around the country, and to do so in a way that benefits the country economically. To achieve this, they rely on cost-benefit calculations.

The problem with these calculations is they often prioritize highly valued (read: wealthy) properties over less affluent ones—which means that already marginalized communities are the ones most affected, while wealthier communities are spared. 

In addition to the podcast, the Reveal series also includes an in-depth investigative article and a video that explains how levees work, how they are built, and how they can put surrounding communities at greater risk of flooding.

The entire series is very well done. But what gave me chills is how it foreshadows the sorts of difficult decisions that most countries will soon be forced to reckon with—and how already marginalized groups are likely to bear the brunt of climate distress.

Podcast: Flood Thy Neighbor—Deciding Who Gets Protection From Climate Change, And Who Doesn't
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