Linda Poon is a staff writer at CityLab covering science and urban technology, including smart cities and climate change. She previously covered global health and development for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog.
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“Everything went down that river. ” It was like watching a disaster movie: A river of muddy water barrels down Main Street and bursts through the storefront windows, rising to eight-foot-high rapids at the bottom of the hill. Sirens blare as the water throws cars, dumpsters, and fences downstream. In a 911 call, a woman begs the dispatcher to save them. “Are we going to die?” she asks.
But the videos were real. They were of my hometown—Ellicott City, Maryland—being wrecked by flooding over Memorial Day weekend in 2018. This kind of storm is said to happen once every 1,000 years, but this was the second one in two years. Now, many of the antique stores and funky coffee shops I frequented as a teenager are boarded up and slated to be torn down. Main Street looks like a war zone today as the county grapples with its new climate reality. The next flood could come any day.
The thing is, Ellicott City may be unique in character—much of its buildings and architecture are rooted in its past—but its dilemma is all too familiar. Small towns and big cities around the globe face the same challenge as extreme weather becomes more frequent and the world becomes warmer and wetter. And that poses an existential question: Should the town be saved? When does retreating rather than rebuilding become the only rational choice? Read my story today on CityLab: In a Town Shaped by Water, the River Is Winning
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Hiking or camping? Take the bus to the trail this summer (Wired)
How high-end developments use sustainability as a selling point (Curbed)
In this town, you apply for a job and you get it (NPR)
Has Trump handed Democrats an opening in rural America? (New York Times)
The controversy over WeWork’s $47 billion valuation and impending IPO, explained (Vox)