An EarthQuest adventure might begin like this…
It is early morning August 5, and it has been 24 hours since Hurricane Ursula touched down in the Middle Hudson River Ecoregion (known regionally as the “MidHudson Ecoregion” or often just “MidHudson”). This has been the third hurricane to hit in five years, and this time it happened during one of the region’s now frequent heat waves. The MidHudson Ecoregion (based on the natural watershed boundaries) includes the highly urbanized cities of Albany and Watervliet along the low-lying Hudson River coastal zone, extensive rural agriculture and forest lands in the higher elevations to the west, and a band of smaller villages, hamlets and other settlements sandwiched between these rural and urban zones. While the ecoregional politics are dominated by the Blue-Green Party and strongly-held sustainability attitudes, the community has shown limited ability and political will to actually implement most sustainable transition policies and best practices, except as limited knee-jerk policies to deal with crises as they happen. A major struggle is between reliance on complicated technological innovation solutions that require no lifestyle changes, and the transition to social innovations that will require simpler lifestyle and narrative changes.
With recent Climate Change-induced storm activity producing torrential rains and flooding, the channels of the Hudson River and several of the creek tributaries have shifted, and are no longer where they once were on the maps. Since Albany’s development and Watervliet’s development have not been relocated out of the flood zones along the shores of the Hudson River, there are hundreds of flooded and partially submerged buildings all along the shorelines. Along the flooded shorelines can be seen natural gas leaks bubbling up from within the floodwaters, hundreds of spouts and pillars of flaming gas, and occasional fiery explosions. The smell of leaked natural gas is heavy at times. There is an oily sheen on the surface of much of the flood water, and occasional blasts of sewage smells and other chemical smells are strong.
Many of the road and highway transportation routes, including evacuation routes, are located in vulnerable flood zones, and as a result, cargo train tracks, trolley tracks, and the heavily used freeway 787 are now completely flooded. Many road sections, train track segments, and bridges are obliterated by floodwaters. All bridges crossing the Hudson River are no longer accessible by regular cars, because of flooded ramps. However, the region’s high speed solar electric passenger train (the SOLAIR) runs on tracks installed on high ground, so it is fully operational despite the flooding. The MidHudson Ecoregion has a functional high elevation river port in Albany that accommodates cargo ships, passenger ships (ferries), and recreational boats, including sailboats and tall ship sailboats, and leads south to the open ocean. The restored Erie Canal system, which connects north to Lake Champlain and west to the Great Lakes, is flooded but operational for emergency water-borne transportation, although there are problems from floating debris from the flooding. What will your team of Guardians do?
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