Do Good Seawalls Make Bad Neighbors?


This case is a dilemma or decision case focused on how coastal residents make decisions and balance trade-offs on whether to maintain or modify their shoreline, illustrating the value, vulnerability, and challenges of managing coastal shoreline ecosystems. Our case begins by introducing students to the Caldwell family from Mobile Bay, Alabama, and their dilemma of deciding among five options for dealing with erosion along their shoreline. The second section of our case provides small groups of students with a fact sheet on one of five criteria (Economic, Environmental, Hazards, Legal, Sociocultural) that the Caldwell’s should consider when making their decision. This task asks students to rank each option for the specific criteria they’ve been assigned and provide a summary of how they made their decision during a brief discussion. Next, each group of students is assigned different criteria to consider, and the same activities are repeated. Finally, after all groups have rotated through all criteria, students are asked to use any approach they desire (quantitative or qualitative) to provide an overall ranking and ultimately form an argument for which shoreline option the Caldwell’s should select. During the closing activity, an interactive discussion is used to consider the costs, benefits, and trades-offs of the Caldwell’s decision, as well as reinforce concepts of ecosystem management, ecosystem services, and social-environmental synthesis.

Steven B. Scyphers
Rachel K. Gittman
Jonathan H. Grabowski