When protecting nature isn’t enough

© CI/photo by Tim Noviello

In the Philippines, nature and tech form an unlikely alliance to protect islands from storms.

During a recent visit to a coastal village on the Philippine island of Iloilo, Conservation International marine scientist Emily Pidgeon asked residents how high the storm surge had been during Typhoon Haiyan, the massive storm that devastated the country in November 2013. Their answer: higher than the coconut tree she was standing under.

“Storms like Haiyan are coming again; it’s a matter of ‘when,’ not ‘if,’” said Pidgeon. “And honestly, there is no number of mangroves that can protect that village from that level of storm surge. Protecting nature is often the cheapest, easiest answer, but it’s only one part of the overall solution — and figuring out how to adequately adapt to climate change requires every tool in the box.”

Pidgeon is part of a global team working to combine these tools to help Philippine communities adapt to stormier seas. In this special report, she explains the tough choices inherent in this process.

Molly Bergen is the senior managing editor of Human Nature.