Choosing types of coastal protection

Text and drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt,

Communities can choose from many ways when designing coastal defenses to prepare for future sea rises, often they can be combined into a series of experiences if there is an eye for it

Coastal protection as experiences

The wildest protective walls I have seen in Denmark are on Ertholmene, a place so massively worthy of preservation that virtually no brick may be moved or a wall painted before it is approved.

The tiny islands are surrounded by long defensive walls, set centuries ago by Norwegian convicts who had to cut the giant granite blocks out of the islands’ rocks by hand. Many of the blocks are over a meter in length, and in several places the walls are over 4 meters high, massive and built with magical skill, completely without mortar or metal .

Sea levels will also reach the granite walls on Ertholmene, (link to my project: ) and securing them will be an almost insanely complex challenge.

Elsewhere, the challenges are different, dykes protecting lush fields and meadows, or summer cottage areas where each plot is an independent planet and where sea view is the ultimate privilege to gain… or lose.

As I listen to climate experts talk about protection against sea level rise, I come to think of all the places I pass on my walks along coastlines.

Hiking paths as defense against storm surge and rising seas

My experience is that paths along the coast can tie the places together and at the same time give a new value and community to places that might otherwise seem fragmented and isolated from each other. Suddenly, places go from being isolated small spaces to being stories that twist and turn in and out of bays, over bridges, through forests and along beaches.

One of the fine coastal path stories I often follow in Denmark is an approx. 70 km. long path on the north coast of Zealand, between the two towns of Hundested and Helsingør.

A path which was torn apart on 6 December 2013 by a violent winter storm. I watched in from the edge of the water and saw how the huge waves grabbed bite after bite of the shore. Several meters disappeared in a single night.

The next day I was back, but the trail was gone for large stretches, and it seemed like an impossible option to re-establish the coast path.

Yet here, almost 10 years later, the path has been recreated, something that has cost a large sum of millions, but for me it is the best example of how if you first have a coastal path that protects against storms and also binds the experiences in an area together, then the path also binds the locals together in a community, and that is perhaps the best and most robust coastal protection you can get.

Sketching up build and nature based coastal protections in combination

There are several ways to protect against sea level rise and one way to divide them are into build and nature based solutions.

The build solutions are walls in concrete or raised dykes with cores of water impermeable materials. The nature based solutions are can be soft wetlands, artificial islands or coastal forests among other solutions:

Drawing of how coastal protection can look very different. Sea level rise illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt.
Different kinds of coastal protection sketched up ( illustration ref: di01664 )

More drawn journalism climate change posts

Drawing of how coastal protection can look very different. Sea level rise illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt.
Different kinds of coastal protection sketched up ( illustration ref: di01664 texted)

Keywords: Rising seas, sea level rise, climate change, global warming, climate crises, drawnjournalism, visual journalism, illustration, drawing, news, tegnet journalistik, drawn journalism havstigning havstigning2023conf01, storm surge

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