Every morning, Janet Ellis, 68, checks how much of her garden is still there. She lives in the town of Skipsea on the coast of East Riding of Yorkshire, UK, which has been eroding at the rate of 1.53 meters a year for the past decade. When Ellis first moved to the town 28 years ago, there were 49 meters of land between her front door and the North Sea, spanning her garden, a road, and a lawn. Now, only 18 meters of garden are left.
Humans usually run from changes in the size, shape and temperature of the land around them: from 2 BC, when Mongolian tribes migrated northwards to escape desertification, to today, when Haitians search for alternatives to their hurricane-ravaged island and West Africans flee drought in the Sahel. At least 30 villages on the Yorkshire coast have fallen into the sea since the Middle Ages, and climate change may even be accelerating the disappearance of Ellis’ garden. “The last high tide, waves were hitting the sun-lounge windows,” Ellis told local newspaper Hull Daily Mail after a particularly dramatic loss in February 2013. In December, Ellis and her neighbors had to be evacuated to the village hall due to fears of further coastal erosion during a tidal surge. The town council has warned her that she will soon have to move for good, but Ellis isn’t interested. “I have put everything I have into this house,” she says. “I will be here forever and ever.”