During my last trip to Miami before the recent peaks in COVID cases,  I took a flight on a seaplane with a couple of friends to explore the wonders of Miami’s spectacular coastline.  Emerald waters with sandy beaches and luxury high rises side by side offers the most captivating panorama landscape that could fill your eyes. The wow factor of taking off from the water into the sky where you can still smell the ocean as you are climbing up towards the clouds is indescribable.  My memories and photos will have me yearn to do this again and again and again.

It is almost impossible to describe the magnificence of this amazing body of water and coastline that offers so much to Florida’s economy( not even my photos can do that).  Yet, in the next 80 years, rising sea levels will swallow a significant portion of Miami and its sandy beaches.

Why No one Talks about Seaplanes Anymore

Before I go on about the swallowing of the Miami coastline, I do want to share a bit about seaplanes. These small planes that carry up to four passengers are able to take off, land, and float in the water, less noisy than helicopters and just as fun.   Large seaplanes were immensely popular during World War II  and thereafter until the building of airports caused their decline and are now mostly chartered for private trips and tours. They are great for island hopping, where airports may not be as accessible, offering a more personal touch.

 The Miami Seaplane Tour company is a family business that offers a variety of tours as far as Key West if you are looking for a uniquely wow experience. We took a one-hour unforgettable seaplane tour flying by Miami’s stunning skyline of mind-blowing architecture, modern glass skyscrapers that sparkle against the Biscayne Bay’s pristine body of aquamarine water even on a cloudy day. Viewing it from the sky leaves you both breathless and marveled at what man and Mother Nature can do together, even as rising sea levels will eventually and drastically change this unique coastline.

The Swallowing of the Miami Coastline

As a coastal city, Miami is considered one of the most vulnerable in the world as rising sea levels are now 6 inches higher and expected to escalate in the next two decades, affecting most of the Florida Coast. 

By 2040,  it is anticipated that rising sea levels will be a foot higher, making  “sunny day flooding” an everyday reality in many coastal communities in Miami.  Even though efforts are underway to raise roads, install pumps, build higher seawalls, it may not be enough unless the world courageously tackles climate change.  Rising sea levels increase the frequency and intensity of hurricanes that are becoming a familiar threat throughout the world and are now part of Florida’s vulnerability.

Simultaneously, the South Florida real estate market, especially in Miami, is “booming.”  Miami coast developers continue to build high rise luxury condos and waterfront homes that are being snapped up by high worth individuals seeking tax-free investments where they can park their money and enjoy their wealth now. Real estate developers are in total denial of the unlivable conditions caused by rising sea levels to the average resident and worker. They strive to build skyscrapers with little regard to what may happen 80 years from today.  Essential workers are crucial in the day-to-day running of a city yet are gradually being priced out, even in marginal neighborhoods.   In fact, Miami was ranked as the 11th least affordable city in the US.  Yet,  plans are already in the making by real estate developers seeking opportunities in communities of color as the next frontier… and so begins an increasing type of migration that over time will play a significant role in how generations decide where they can afford to live and work known as — “climate migrants.“.   As more islands and coastal areas disappear, taken over by rising sea levels throughout the world, migration will become one of the most political and divisive issues that all nations will need to come to terms with.

 As a community development practitioner, this deeply saddens me.  As someone who loves to travel, I am many times conflicted about the good and bad of tourism.    I recognize its power to change lives yet destroy the historical fabric of communities.  I don’t know what the answer is.  For now, raising awareness of these issues is the least I can do, although it is not enough.

My photos are of the Miami coastline taken from the sky in a seaplane (of course).  I encourage those who are not scared of heights to consider adding this to their bucket list. It is a worthy investment. 

Click the center of the photo to see the full view.

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