Stan Riggs, a coastal and marine geologist who has been doing research on modern coastal systems since 1964, surveys the coastal bluffs, marshes, and swamp forests at Goose Creek State Park in Washington, NC, where climate change, rising seas, and shoreline erosion have taken a dramatic toll in the past two decades. Riggs lives 30 miles from the park in Greenville, NC.
This is a story about rising seas and erosion, the future of a community that relies on its coastal real estate for much of its economy, and one man, a scientist, standing in the middle of an imminent environmental threat with a vision.
Stan Riggs ’60 is a coastal geologist and a national expert on rising seas who has been studying the NC barrier islands since 1967 (taught geology at Eastern Carolina University-Greenville since 1967/has a decorated/distinguished teaching career). He and a group of scientists predicted that by the year 2100, the seas will have risen along the NC shoreline somewhere between 39 to 55 inches. Seas rising like this would drown not only the barrier islands but also some of the shoreline behind them that they now protect. The state of NC has pushed back on that prediction and apparently Stan resigned from a commission charged with addressing the problem when he saw that officials were more interested in short term fixes, like trying to build and bring in more sand as a way to stop the rising sea, instead of allowing the islands to move and reshape, the way they were meant to do.
He’s started a non profit called NC-LOW (N. Carolina Land of Water) that’s trying to implement a long term, sustainable vision for the barrier islands, which came out of a groundbreaking book he wrote in 2011.