Hakai Magazine


One Great Shot: A Liquid Carpet

Climate change and other changes to coastal environments are forcing Javanese residents to build higher—if they can afford it.

Authored by

by Giacomo d’Orlando

Article body copy

people in a flooded home on Indonesia

On the northern coast of Java, Indonesia, climate change and anthropological stressors are resulting in coastal erosion and sea level rise, severely affecting coastal communities.

In Demak Regency, the coastline has eroded especially quickly in the past years. Mangroves that protected the shore have been cut down and replaced by aquaculture ponds. At the same time, groundwater extraction for domestic and industrial uses has caused the soil to subside. This combination leaves the coastline and community exposed to the daily tides and extreme weather events that are occurring more frequently due to climate change.

With this photograph, I want to tell the story of 62-year-old Abdul Latief, shown here with his young nephew, who has worked as a fisherman in Demak for 37 years. Abdul’s house flooded for the first time in 2008, and since then he has elevated it twice, in 2009 and 2019.

Today, floods are even higher, but due to the scarcity of fish—another problem related to ecosystem change—Abdul hasn’t enough money to elevate his home for a third time. His family wants to move inland, but for Abdul fishing is his life and moving away from the seaside is too painful.