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Project May 21, 2021

Tide and Time: Sea Level Rise and Erosion on North Carolina's Outer Banks

Author:

Tide and Time is a photojournalism and reporting project by Justin Cook in collaboration with the Coastal Review that documents the accelerating effects of climate change and erosion on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The work focuses on a tiny historic cemetery that is slowly washing into the Pamlico Sound.

Through portraits, landscapes, aerial images, and interviews, the work documents the locals trying to preserve the cemetery, the eroding marsh ecosystem around it, and Jean Hooper, 85, for whom the cemetery is sacred ground, and who still wants to be buried there beside her husband and grandparents even if the sea eventually takes her bones. Cook also has a possible family connection to this story: His late grandfather was from the Outer Banks and the preservationists discovered that they share a distant ancestor who was once buried there, but years ago a storm sucked her casket into the Pamlico Sound.

A decades-long erosion study and other research by prominent North Carolina sea-level-rise scientists inform the science in this project, which visually illustrates this science through the slow creep of climate change in the lives of ordinary people, and translates the science into a visual and emotional language to which the average person can relate. Tide and Time investigates the psychological impacts of climate change, particularly "solastalgia," or a sense of homesickness and loss that some Outer Banks locals feel while still at home as climate change renders their home unfamiliar.

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