New Kru Town, Bushrod Island, Monrovia

NewKru_1104_dkortephotoJUMP! Kids tumble from a sand bank on Florida Beach in New Kru Town, a borough of estimated 75,000 on the northwest corner of Bushrod Island, Monrovia, Liberia.

NewKru_1146_dkortephotoSchool’s out for summer break in New Kru Town. The summer rains leave limited time for outdoor activities. Between storms, kids gather for pick-up games of football on the basketball court of D. Tweh Memorial High School, one of few locations in the community where kids can run and play.

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D. Tweh Memorial High School sits perilously close to the Atlantic surf. As a public property, the school is receiving aid to protect the grounds from erosion by sea. A high tide will engulf the first line of rockpile defense. A high tide with storm surge spells trouble for the school. The houses in New Kru Town bordering the Atlantic are in similar peril, but have few resources available to reduce the impact of the rising sea.

NewKru_1137_dkortephoto“The sea is coming for my house” laments a woman facing imminent destruction of her home as storm surge and tides wash away the beach and nearby homes built on the sands of Popo Beach. “Where will I go? What can I do?”  No answer is easy.

NewKru_1169_dkortephotoA fisherman wraps towlines to a new net in anticipation of another day at sea in the Popo Beach community of New Kru Town. The coastal community faces the Atlantic Ocean with no elevation to spare. It is now and will continue to be gravely impacted by rising sea levels and severe storm surges.

NewKru_1170_dkortephotoA woman packages pounded and dried cassava powder at her home in New Kru Town.  She will likely be selling her products, called gari, at the nearby Duala Market, one of Liberia’s largest outdoor markets, on Bushrod Island.

NewKru_1185_dkortephotoTwo girls wait for fishermen to return from a day fishing off the coast of Monrovia. New Kru Town’s Popo Beach is a fishing community, bringing fresh and smoked fish to markets across Liberia.

buildingCollapse_dkortephotoHouses undermined by a disappearing beach, some barely habitable before the next storm sweeps them into the sea. They face an encroaching surf along Popo Beach offering no hope of a truce with Mother Nature.

buildingShell_dkortephotoHouses in the path of destruction are stripped of reusable materials to be carried inland and reconstructed in an already overcrowded and desperate community.

New Kru Town community has been meeting with the Liberian government in search of a solution to mitigate the rising sea level destruction. Like most business in the government, the address of these problems moves slowly. With presidential elections now in the spotlight, action on this unfolding disaster is not likely until after the October election. It is doubtful that Liberia has the time and resources to avert this looming environmental catastrophe.

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West Point, Monrovia, Liberia

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Kru Beach, West Point, Monrovia.

This peninsula community in the heart of Monrovia lies between Mamba Point and the Mesurado River on the inland side, and the Atlantic Ocean. The sand peninsula encompasses approximately 4 square kilometers and is home to 75,000 people. Many parts of West Point lie less than a meter above the water table. Rising sea levels and storm surges are carving into the coastline, sweeping away sections of access roads, homes and businesses along the oceanfront.

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Fishermen heading to sea, West Point.

Sanitation is a constant problem for West Point. The challenge of providing a flushable sewer system and fresh potable water for 75,000 residents creates a serious health risk. Every day is a struggle for this community living at the mercy of the sea.

Trash and open defecation has turned the Mesurado River into an open sewer. West Point’s strategic location at the mouth of this river suffers especially during high tide when trash and sewage accumulate along the beaches.

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Fante Beach, West Point.

An economy based on fishing supplies Monrovia with fresh fish. Smoked fish finds its way to markets throughout Liberia.

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Fante Beach. Families wait for fishing boats returning from the sea, to help process the catch.

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Butter pear woman, West Point.

Many residents of West Point work in neighboring Waterside Market, Liberia’s largest market, leaving West Point unusually calm during market days. This “waiter market” woman sells avocados, called butter pears in Liberia, on the main street through West Point.

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A quiet afternoon in West Point, Monrovia.

The main street is eroded, in some places washed away completely, making access to the peninsula challenging for all but kek-keks and motorbikes. Larger delivery trucks often block the narrow lanes, creating congestion and frustration among taxis, private cars, and pedestrians.

Plans to relocate the residents of West Point to a stable, healthier environment have stalled in the government. With elections coming in October 2017, it appears nothing will happen until after, and then will likely need fresh negotiation. Meanwhile, the rising sea is deciding the fate of residents on the edge, one day at a time.

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Johnson Street, Monrovia

“We choose hope over fear ” Relic from a better time. Johnson Street, Monrovia, Liberia.

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rubber recycling

Recycling old truck tires, Mr. David carves spacers to adapt car suspensions for high-clearance backroad driving. Bungee cords from inner tubes, washers for plumbing, soles for your shoes, there is little that can’t be cut from an old piece of rubber. Monrovia, Liberia.

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manicure on Benson

Ma Jessica sits in front of her home on Benson Street in downtown Monrovia, attended by two manicurists painting her nails.

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downpour on Mechlin Street

A sudden downpour in Monrovia stops pedestrians on Mechlin Street. Monrovia, the capitol city with most rainfall, can exceed five meters in a year, with heaviest rainfalls of nearly a meter accumulating in June and again in July. Reduced sunshine keeps temperatures on the mild side, with temperatures in the mid 20C’s (mid 70F’s). Rain clears the air of haze and smoke, making those days between storms sun-filled and fresh. Humidity is usually high, and feels especially so magnified under a bright sun.

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street art, Monrovia

Liberian mask painting formerly on a wall of Kamara Arts and Crafts Center in Monrovia, allegedly painted by the father (from Lofa County, I believe) of family members managing the Art Center. Unfortunately painted over with an advertisement for Orange cellular service. It saddens me to see these cultural expressions replaced by commercial advertising.

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fish market, Monrovia, Liberia

Just off Benson Street, along Mechlin, a little fresh air market deals in fish, shrimp, and lobsters. They are brought to market in the late afternoon on days that fishermen have had luck with their nets off the coast of Monrovia. Success is limited now in the rainy season, as the rain and restless seas impact the number of fishermen able to get out on the water.

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Red colobus monkeys

Red colobus monkeys, a mother and her infant, not sure whether to hide or flee, sit quietly in the canopy of Gola Rainforest National Park in Sierra Leone. Logging and farming, including oil palm cultivation, has reduced their habitat outside of the National Park.

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the crow and the coucal

A Senegal coucal sits at the peak of my neighbor’s roof, drawing the sun as daylight struggles past an early morning rain. Unusual to be so exposed, coucals prefer to clamber through the undergrowth of vegetation on a hunt for bugs and lizards.

A Pied crow spies the unsuspecting coucal and pulls an ambush raid, swooping up from behind, sending the coucal into the safety of a nearby bean-tree.

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