If you live in Norfolk, there is no doubt you have experienced the emergence of flood waters in one way or another – especially only a short while back. Along with the tide, a conversation has begun to rise around what we as citizens, and our local and national government, can do about this situation.
If your only source of access to this information has been Facebook – there’s a chance you’ve been shortchanged on the availability of actionable appointments. And – it’s possibly a direct result of internet habits we’ve drifted into more recently in history. It’s a lack of truly using the tools at our fingertips that we’ve been granted in the Information Age.
I’m a more recent denizen of the community, only moving to downtown Norfolk in June of 2015. I lived in Richmond, Va for 6 years – familiar with what I believed to be a ‘waterside’ community. I had even lived along the James River for a month, completing a course called Footprints On The James that I believed prepared me for any aquatic activity. I was quickly corrected in September of that same year when my beloved Chevy Cobalt took to fins at the intersection of Tidewater and Boulevard – blessings to all whose vehicles have faced the same fate at this notorious crossing.
I abandoned my car and trudged through knee-high water to a nearby business with the few items in my trunk I could salvage. I was quite abruptly informed by an employee that “there was a sign” and nothing else could be done. Two hours later I was towed back to my apartment at The Hague – the parking lot there not much better than the streets. The following day my car was declared totaled. Precious ‘Coby’ was lost to the rising tide and unrelenting rainfall – and I had no idea this was even a possibility.
Now having been here for a bit more time, I have learned more about my truly waterside home. High tide can render a 7-eleven parking lot unusable, 20 minutes of rain can start to shut down major roadways, and local underpasses can turn to swimming pools in the right conditions. In living at both Hague Towers and Pembroke Towers – I’ve witnessed the lots fill and recede time and time again in the right season – to the absolute delight of the flourishing goose community.
Being close-by to the Arts district, I’ve also been lucky enough to see much of the art and creative focus into this matter – true evidence of a community aware of itself, and the things it needs to change to in order to improve. All this awareness in both creative ends and real physical evidence – but what I failed to see for more than a year was real information.
I checked Facebook, scanning local groups and events, even becoming a member of specific apps catered to the local community. While there were image shares, banter or aggravation over the matter, or attention brought to creative projects whose focus was the matter – there was no go-to ‘what are we doing about this’ group or event invite for ‘what’s next for the next tide’. Call me a millennial with as poison on your tongue as you’d like, but I have admittedly become privy to Facebook and other like social channels as my main source of local news and information. And yes – I read the paper – even receiving updates to my email on recent stories – but even these are narrow channels of information. And no – I don’t believe I’m the only one guilty of this habit, or I wouldn’t bother sharing my thoughts here. Due to the rapid growth of new media channels, and the failure for a set of ethics or understanding to develop and catch up alongside, we’re often burying ourselves in the wrong information that is available in The Information Age.
I was lucky enough to have friends like Local Artist and Grow Senior Creative Jason Levesque, who is a notorious river and swamp romper. I began to see more of the public parks, back road destinations and glorious sunsets that made me fall more in love with the waterways of Hampton Roads. At that point, I was inspired to dig a bit further than just my newsfeed. Eventually, another great mind, Janice Pang, Grow Designer and local visionary in just about all ends, would share with me an article by Jesse Scaccia on Pilotonline.com about an initiative called Vision 2100. I decided to attend a meeting. I would just ‘dip my feet’, respectively, and see what could come of witnessing what might really be the undertow in action in the community. I invited others and prepared a notebook to take down whatever I could.
Upon arrival, I was given a vision I was not expecting. Instead of the people I had scrolled by discussing flooding on Facebook, its effects, or even those sharing articles about working to fix the matter – I saw a room full of a different generation and standing. Not to shake any appreciation for any community member who attended, but I was admittedly shocked to see a group of older people who might not as directly affect, reap the benefits or see the consequence of the year 2100. I failed to find more than two or so people my own age. It was a shame.
For all the power we have inherited having been born into being ‘digitally native’, and for every tap of keys or link shared, there were few voices that could, into the future, use modern technology to make a major difference in awareness for this issue that were present at all.
Just showing up would have been enough.
Vision 2100, as you can read more on your own about, is asking Norfolk Residents to input their voice into proposals for delegation, funding, and next big moves for as to what we’re going to do about rising waters.
Thorough research showed that many of our historical districts are bound to be drowned, and interestingly enough, lower income housing areas are higher in altitude. It highlighted the fact that we have a unique opportunity here to bar developers from overtaking or taking advantage of individuals with the promise of investment, new developments or cash. People don’t have to be bought out of their neighborhoods and end up waist-deep in the coming years, or be swindled into purchasing property that is doomed. Research also showed the rare opportunity within our heavy Naval presence. The great ideas we can devise will be supported by big money and influence. The actions we take and technology we develop now will be shared with other communities who will look to us as an example, as they might end up under the water-table in the future as well. There were a million other compelling insights that this one simple meeting had brought to light – but not enough were there to share in them.
During the meeting, it was discussed that the initiative’s proposed document would be interactive. A community member only needed to log online to share his contribution, to which one audience member responded “Well, what if we don’t have access to a computer?”, and many nods were shared around the room. Because the people there were not engaged in the technology many of us so actively are – this information wasn’t reaching those channels we look to, and it wasn’t going to if anybody that uses those channels never showed up.
Leaving the meeting I felt inspired and I still continue to be. I have since scoured different local events and local gov’t or community sites, attempting to reach out to the avenues that are underway in trying to make a difference. I’ve started to volunteer more and more frequently – most recently led to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation by my Mother, Environmental Management Specialist and advocate, Dr. Maureen Zaino. After a few hours on a blustery and inspiring day at Riverfest, sharing stories and gathering signatures to encourage continued funding for stormwater cleanup, I felt especially led to not only invite my friends or dear Facebook acquaintances to voice their opinion from outside a screen but to engage a larger audience. This is not a talking down to, but a leveling with. I get it, there’s barely enough time in a day to even pull up both socks, but investing the second to search outside your Facebook feed is worth it. And if it’s not flooding – if it’s Women’s Health, Animal Rights, Bike Lanes, Uplifting Local Restaurant Fare, NEON, Pokemon Go – whatever it is, I encourage you to bring your voice to a room that may otherwise go without one like to it.
But back to flooding – here are a few solid resources for amazing information and listings of meetings and proposed policies. Though they may not send you Tweets about their next meeting, or share a discussion log in an instant message, they’re incredibly important. I challenge you to add to this list your own sources you might happen upon.