RISE: Climate Change and Coastal Communities Program Three: Chuey’s Story

(Rochester, New York) – Rising sea levels are bringing high tides and tall waves to our nation’s shores. It is no longer possible to halt all the impacts of climate change. It is time to start adapting to those changes that are now inevitable. RISE: Climate Change and Coastal Communities, a radio series on AM1370/FM-HD 91.5-2 that airs select Sundays at 9 p.m., looks to the San Francisco Bay Area for answers. Chuey’s Story, airing Sunday, August 5 at 9 p.m. on AM 1370/FM-HD91.5, takes place in the tiny hamlet of Alviso, where Chuey Cazares’ large Chicano family faces the risk of flooding from both the creeks above and the Bay below. Restoring the shoreline to wetlands could save this town, but the solution may be bittersweet for Chuey’s family.

Part of a close, extended Chicano family, with hundreds of relatives living in town, Chuey works as a deck hand on a shrimp boat off Alviso's shores. His town's history — and its future — are defined by water. In the 1800's, farmers drained the aquifer, and the land sank thirteen feet below sea level. Then, the conversion of wetlands to salt ponds made the rivers back up during heavy rains and flooded Alviso. Now sea level rise from the Bay and more rain swelling the rivers threaten more frequent flooding. Chuey's family was traumatized by the last big flood in 1983, and although they fear the next one, they don't want to move anywhere else.

Meanwhile, Mendel Stuart of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working to save Alviso by restoring wetlands. But who is Alviso being saved for? As the flood risk lessens, property values are increasing, making housing in Alviso unaffordable for Chuey and his relatives. And the wetlands conversion has driven his boss's lucrative shrimping business out of the salt ponds.

While we must adapt to the impacts of climate change that we can no longer halt, Chuey's story dramatizes that climate change will create both winners and losers in the short term.

Photo: Chuey Cazares
Credit: PRX

 


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