Beacon Press: The Drowning of Money Island
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The Drowning of Money Island

A Forgotten Community’s Fight Against the Rising Seas Threatening Coastal America

Author: Andrew S. Lewis

The story of the Bayshore, a community ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, where lack of recovery, sea level rise, and a state effort to buy out and demolish neighborhoods has fractured the community and foreshadowed coastal America’s sinking future.

Andrew Lewis grew up on the Bayshore, a 40-mile stretch of desolate Delaware Bay beaches, marshland, and fishing hamlets at the southern end of New Jersey. In The Drowning of Money Island, he reveals its rich history while amplifying its working-class community’s fight to retain their place in a country that has left them behind. The Bayshore, like so many rural places in this country, is under immense pressure from a combination of severe economic decline, industry loss, and regulation. But it is also, uniquely, contending with one of the fastest rates of sea level rise on the planet and the after effects of one of the most destructive storms in American history.

Cumberland, the poor, rural county where the Bayshore is located, had been left out of the bulk of the initial federal disaster relief package post-Sandy. Instead of money to rebuild, the Bayshore got the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Superstorm Sandy Blue Acres Program, which identified and purchased flood-prone neighborhoods, then demolished them to be converted to open space.

In truth, the Bayshore began disappearing long before Sandy. As soon as the first European settlers arrived in the early 1600s, they wrote of the bay’s ravaging storms and relentless tides. In the two centuries after the Revolution, the bay’s plentiful oyster beds made local watermen some of the richest people in America, but overfishing, pollution, and, ultimately, globalization have left the Bayshore in severe decline. And now, there is this: the Bayshore is sinking beneath the bay, thanks to a confluence of subsiding land and rising seas.

The Drowning of Money Island is an intimate yet unbiased, lyrical yet investigative rediscovery of a rural hometown ravaged by sea level rise and economic hardship, and the increasingly divisive politics those factors have helped spawn. In the end, the book offers a glimpse of the future of coastal retreat in America—a future in which the wealthy will be able to remain while the poor will be forced to leave.
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“Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction revealed the unnatural history of life’s struggle across Earth’s ice ages and water worlds. Andrew Lewis’s The Drowning of Money Island tells that story as it is happening, now, to the Delaware Bay neighbors of his rural hometown, where entire communities have been forced to abandon their homes and their American dreams. Lewis limns the region’s history to explain how, unlike other twists of fate—such as a sanction against the horseshoe-crab blood trade—rising waters threaten the watermen’s homes, their jobs, their children’s future, and their way of life. The Drowning of Money Island is no scientist’s theory; it is plain evidence of a clear and present danger. Ignore it at your peril.”
—Craig Nelson, bestselling author of Rocket Men and The Age of Radiance

“What is lost runs deep and is even more difficult to forecast than the trajectory of today’s massive hurricanes. Katrina embattled my hometown in 2005, and here, Andrew Lewis walks the reader through a similar aftermath, that of Hurricane Sandy: the years of uncertainty, displacement, and suffering. A deeply insightful narrative of both cultural and ecological migrations, The Drowning of Money Island shows us that while government agencies use cost-benefit equations to decide which neighborhoods should stay or go, the true cost of displacing people, disrupting cultural identity, is largely unrealized and undervalued. If this book were in the hands of our leadership today, they would understand the true cost of climate change and the moral obligation to move quickly to prevent harm to future generations.”
—Marcus Eriksen, author of Junk Raft and cofounder of the 5 Gyres Institute

“A must-read for anyone interested in how climate change is already deepening preexisting inequality. Meticulously and empathetically reported, The Drowning of Money Island invites readers to confront the difficult decisions that come with storm recovery in our era of higher tides and supercharged hurricanes. Stay or go, rebuild or retreat? The way we answer these questions will define who we become.”
—Elizabeth Rush, author of Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore

The Drowning of Money Island

ISBN: 978-080708358-1
Publication Date: 10/1/2019
Size:6 x 9 Inches (US)
Price:  $26.95
Format: Cloth
Not Yet Published
Will Ship On: October 2019
(Backorder policy)