The case of Atafona

Atafona is a Brazilian town of 6,000 people, 200 miles up the coast from the famed beaches of Rio’s Copacabana and Ipanema.

“The sea devoured [Atafona’s] historic lighthouse, bars, nightclubs, markets, a four-story hotel, a gas station for boats, a school, sumptuous summer mansions, two churches, and an island where 300 hundred fisher families lived. The Ilha da Convivência (Island of Coexistence), as it was known, was 650 feet from shore. Nenéu was born there in 1974, when islanders, fearing an ocean already on the rise, began moving from Convivência to the continent. Today, the only thing left is a narrow land strip with sad ruins. In all, researchers estimate that the erosion has created over 2,000 environmental refugees here since about 1960.”

“There is in Atafona, especially among the old residents, a mixture of mysticism, religion, and science. For them, the ocean is a living being, and the coastal erosion a punishment for errors committed by man, such as having built the old church on the shore with its back facing the ocean,” says civil engineer Gilberto Pessanha Ribeiro, coordinator of the Coastal Dynamics Observatory at the Federal University of São Paulo, which has been researching Atafona for 18 years.”

“The fisherman Nenéu spent $3,000 on the rocks that he hopes will save his house, though he knows that the solution is ephemeral.  “The sea isn’t wrong; it wants what belongs to him back,” says Nenéu. “It will swallow everything, but I’ll resist.”

source: National Geographic

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