This segment originally aired Oct. 27, 2016, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.
Landscape architect Adriaan Geuze has spent his whole life thinking about rising water.
“I’m born below sea level, so for me this is in my DNA,” Geuze told VICE News correspondent Arielle Duhaime-Ross to explain how his career got started. “I see the world differently because I’m from the Netherlands, a culture obsessed with sea level.”
In 2007, Geuze began redesigning the southern half of Governors Island, south of Manhattan. “When we came here the first time, we saw the island flat as a pancake, not more than three and a half feet above sea level,” he said. “I thought, would you build a park here, the park would be lost in the first storm.”
Geuze proposed building a series of rolling hills on its southern tip, providing beautiful views of the New York City skyline while protecting the island from future storm surges. “The most simple, low-tech solution for climate change if you live on the shore is that you elevate the land,” he said.
Four years ago, Hurricane Sandy put Geuze’s design to the test. The storm laid waste to the East Coast, destroying more than 200,000 homes and inflicting $50 billion in damage. Governors Island survived unscathed thanks to its storm-resistant design.
The challenge of protecting the world’s coastlines will only get harder as climate change continues, Geuze said. “The American coast is very vulnerable for flooding in the future,” he warned. “Most of civilization is on the shore, and the world is facing tremendous problems due to climate change, so we have to reengineer civilization.”