Last week, the Globe published “At the edge of a warming world,” a story that explores the visible and tangible impact of climate change on Cape Cod. Reporter Nestor Ramos spent months examining how the Cape’s geographic perch and geologic makeup have left it particularly exposed to global warming, and speaking to people for whom inaction has already led to loss.
We asked readers who live, work, or vacation on the Cape to share with us their own accounts of what they’ve done to deal with climate change’s effects. Here are some of their responses.
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“What we’re doing is losing a lot of sleep. The changes are by no means slow and subtle. We own a summer home in Wellfleet overlooking Wellfleet Harbor. The property has been in the family since 1960, and the house was built in 1965. At the time, there was at least a half-acre of marshland between the bluff, where the house was built, and the bay.
Several years ago, we had to get emergency permission to build a seawall. Our septic system was less than a foot away from the edge of the bluff. If it had succumbed to the erosion, it would have polluted the famous Wellfleet shellfish beds just offshore. That seawall is now failing after just a few years, and our house is once again being threatened.
The options for protecting the house are very limited due to all sorts of complications caused by Mother Nature and various rules and regulations. Retreat is not an option. When the emergency wall was built, we had to relocate the septic system to the back of the property and move the well. There’s no place left to move the house, even if we could afford to do so. And of course, it’s not possible to sell a property that’s in this condition. We’re searching for solutions, but if none materialize, with very heavy hearts, we may just have to watch it fall into the sea.”
— Nicole Mordecai, Wellfleet
“We have a second home in Dennis, one mile from the beach. We had a fire five years ago and the entire house had to be rebuilt. We moved all the infrastructure up as high as possible. We put the furnace in the attic, raised the A/C three feet off of the ground and put the electrical box five feet off of the ground. We have owned the home since 2003 and have never had any flooding. We are on the edge of the 100-year floodplain but we choose to pay for flood insurance ($1,000 a year), just in case. I expect that, as climate change continues, the wealthy will leave the Cape and move inland, leaving behind those who do not want to move or cannot move.”
— Gail Stafford, Dennis
“We’ve put solar panels on a garage built at least as much to house the panels as to house the car. We’ve also added a generator so that we have electricity when the power goes out. The summers have gotten noticeably hotter since I’ve been here. When I came to the Cape in 1978, you could open the windows at night and be comfortably cool. After several years, we bought an air conditioner for the bedroom. And then for the guest bedroom. Then, ceiling fans for the bedrooms and the living room. At least we have the solar panels to generate electricity for the A/C.”
— Betsy Smith
“I’ve owned a three-season cottage on the Cape in Eastham since 1991. Erosion on the ocean side seems to have accelerated a lot in the last five years. There used to be many walks you could do on the cliff edges looking out over the ocean. On the land side, the undergrowth was too dense to walk in, but these paths had been kept open for years by hikers and fishermen. Now they’re gone. I miss the connection you got from the ocean by being up high as you walk along it.
I am an avid body surfer. All through the ‘90s, wave riding at Coast Guard beach was great. For body surfing you need an even, gently sloping downwards sea bottom. Now, winds and currents have changed the ocean bottom close to shore. It drops off much faster, so body surfing is only possible close to low tide. The bottom has become very uneven, with big pits dug into it. This unevenness seems to be depriving the waves of their power a lot of days. In the past, most beaches were consistently good for body surfing most of the day. Now, I have to time my beach trips by the tides, gambling on which beach will be good today.”
— Terence Gaffney, Eastham
“My family bought our property in 1955 on Cable Rd. by Nauset Light Beach in Eastham. My parents built our cottage back from the beach because they were concerned about the stability of the coast. You couldn’t see the beach from the end of our driveway. Today you can.
Growing up as kids, we visited Bob’s Dog House ... now long gone over the cliff. Nauset Light has been moved in my lifetime to a safer location and it will probably need to move again. We have lost approximately 200 feet of parking lot at the beach. And now the seals have moved in, with their predators closely behind them.
We need to support National Park efforts to educate people about the real effects of climate change and the work of the Center for Coastal Studies and others. We need to work together to solve this problem and get our legislators on board.”
— Katherine Macdonald, Eastham