A Fortress in a Pirate’s Kingdom

There are two major approaches to dealing with global warming, mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation is the effort to reduce the effects of future climate change by reducing the drivers of climate change. It’s probably what most of you think of when you think of solutions to global warming.. Mitigation includes replacing high emission sources of energy with low or zero emissions sources, as well as reducing overall energy consumption through gains in efficiency. This strategy also includes climate engineering ranging from efforts such as capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, to downright scary plans for capturing carbon by attempting to alter the chemistry of the oceans.

Adaptation can be summarized as “Deal with it!” Some argue that the costs of adaptation will be lower than costs of mitigation. I disagree. I’m even one of those optimists who think that just a little investment and shifting of economic incentives would lead to a technological revolution that would spur economic growth and increase global standards of living at what would amount to zero cost. OK, I could be wrong here, but I really do wonder about the folks who make the adaptation only argument. I think they must live far inland in mountaintop abodes. Mitigation seems a lot more important if you live in a heavily populated low-lying area that has long struggled against the sea. We know that adaptation isn’t so simple.

Here’s an example of what adaptation looks like. It’s a fortress in the realm of Jean Lafitte the last of the Caribbean pirates. It’s not a military installation like the abandoned naval batteries of Fort Travis in the title image. It’s this:


That’s the Crenshaw School in Crystal Beach, Texas. It was planned for a long time, but delayed because it wasn’t cheap. In 2008 Hurricane Ike forced the issue by destroying the elementary and middle schools on Bolivar. Crenshaw, two schools in one building, is their armored replacement. It’s designed to survive this:

Click for devastation
Click for devastation

The Crenshaw School should last a few decades, but in the long run, Bolivar will be completely lost to the sea. Crenshaw will be abandoned and stick out of the abandoned remains of the peninsula and start falling apart like nearby Fort Travis. Or will it? Next week I will post about an ambitious plan to save Bolivar and protect the Port of Houston. We’ve got a serious Netherlands-style project underway. Adapting to global warming isn’t cheap.

But for now, music about pirates. It is Musical Monday, after all. Jean Lafitte spent the last years of his career on Galveston Island. He had been asked to leave Louisiana by the US government in 1917 even though he had saved Andrew Jackson from complete military disaster just a few years earlier during the Battle of New Orleans. Lafitte got permission from the Spanish government to settle in Galveston in exchange for military assistance. There were few opportunities for profit in this war which was soon over anyway, and Lafitte declared loyalty to the new government in Mexico, though they never officially recognized him. He turned to the illegal slave trade. His Campeche settlement on Galveston went into decline after a conflict with the Karankawa and an ultimatum from the US to stop the slave trade. He  burned down Campeche and relocated to Cuba. He had some success  there, but was driven out and eventually settled in Columbia He is believed to have died in 1823 in a raid off the coast of Honduras.

Here’s an odd little song about him:

These folks are from Chicago of all places.



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