National Geographic : 2011 May
of water, much of it brackish, and most local farmers have begun raising shrimps or crabs in the brine. Deep wells in the village have gone salty too, he says, forcing people to collect rain- water and apply to NGOs for a water ration, which is delivered by truck to a tank in the vil- lage and carried home in aluminum jugs, usually balanced on the heads of young women. "You should take a picture of this place and show it to people driving big cars in your country," says Uddin's neighbor Samir Ranjan Gayen, a short, bearded man who runs a local NGO. "Tell them it's a preview of what South Florida will look like in 40 years." As the people of Munshiganj can attest, there's no arguing with the sea, which is coming for this land sooner or later. And yet it's hard to imagine millions of Bangladeshis packing up and eeing en masse to India, no matter how bad things become. ey'll likely adapt until the bitter end, and then, when things become impossible, adapt a little more. It's a matter of national mentality--- a erce instinct for survival combined with a willingness to put up with conditions the rest of us might not. Abdullah Abu Sayeed, a literacy advocate, ex- plains it this way: "One day I was driving on one of the busiest streets in Dhaka---thousands of ve- hicles, all of them in a hurry---and I almost ran over a little boy, no more than ve or six years old, who was fast asleep on the road divider in the middle of traffic. Cars were whizzing by, passing just inches from his head. But he was at peace, taking a nap in some of the craziest tra c in the world. at's Bangladesh. We are used to precarious circumstances, and our expectations are very, very low. It's why we can adapt to just about anything." j INSET: JIM RICHARDSON SEVEN BILLION IN JULY What it will take to feed nine billion people in 2045. The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and PBS NewsHour join us in reporting on population issues throughout the year. The magazine thanks the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Wallace Global Fund, and National Geographic Society members for their generous support.