Charleston: Race, Water, and the Coming Storm

Pegasus. Apr. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9781639363575. $28.95. HIST
Crawford’s (John A. Reilly Clinical Prof. of Law, Harvard Law Sch.; Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution and Why America Might Miss It) book about Charleston’s imminent coastal climate crisis, intertwined with the city’s racial issues, is truly an eye-opener. Crawford’s writing style is clear and engaging, and she deftly involves the reader in the problems she addresses. The book outlines federal, South Carolina, and local officials’ inability to manage the prospect of sinking land and a rapidly rising sea level. Charleston flooded 89 times in 2019, 68 in 2020, and 46 in 2021, but real-estate values are booming. The author also carefully examines the racial history of Charleston. The Civil War began in its harbor of Fort Sumter, and it has a long history of gaining wealth due to its trading of enslaved people. This book depicts that history, from the period of Reconstruction through the city’s modern-day government. Crawford predicts that Black and lower-income communities will be the most unlikely groups to receive assistance to move to safer ground, and that the wealthy will still rush to cash in and build on the coast.
VERDICT An engaging book on the important national intersection of racism and the natural environment. Ideal for book discussion groups or citywide reading.
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