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Take the 'Six Second Clip Challenge' to Grow Awareness on Water Pollution
You can be a part of a national effort to build awareness about how we need to save our bays, rivers and lakes. The main threat to them in general is excess nitrogen, whether from antiquated septic tanks and cesspools, or from industrial and commercial fertilizer. Many thousands of ponds, lakes, rivers and bays are affected. Long Island, though, by many measures has the biggest problems.
There are 500,000 septic tanks/cesspools on Long Island—140,000 in Nassau County and 360,000 in Suffolk County. It's been only in the last 10 years that scientists have found the link between the nitrogen seeping from these tanks into the groundwater and the massive algal blooms in The Great South Bay, Peconic Bay, Moriches Bay and Shinnecock Bay that is destroying marine habitats. The first brown tide was in 1984. It promptly wiped out 6,000 clamming jobs and the brown tide has been back most years since.
Blue-green algae blooms in Lake Ronkonoma, Mill Pond and on Georgica Pond in East Hampton. These waters are toxic to dogs and dangerous to humans in the summer months. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation lists all Long Island waters as impaired.
On top of that, Long Island is a sole source aquifer—we live on top of our drinking water. Nitrogen from septic tanks, lawn and agricultural fertilizer, pesticides and pharmaceuticals we all flush away and hazardous household waste we improperly dispose of, makes its way inevitably to our groundwater.
In describing Long Island's situation, you may be hearing echoes about what is happening in your community. Blue-green algae blooms on ponds, spurred by septics and agricultural and lawn fertilizer, is epidemic. One needs to look no further than Toledo, Ohio and what is happening in Lake Erie or at Florida's Indian River, where fertilizer-triggered algal blooms have killed more than 100 Manatees or to the septic tank issue on Cape Cod or to agricultural runoff along the Chesapeake.
Now we get to the good part—what is happening on Long Island and how you can help spread the message both on Long Island and nationally. When Suffolk County presented its Comprehensive Water Management Plan Jan. 24, it fully embraced the report's grim conclusion that Long Island, given how polluted its ground water had become, was in a race against time. They realized that if the water stands any chance of being saved, the community must act now. New York State looked at its own data, and came to the same conclusion, as did the Environmental Protection Agency. All the environmental non-profits on Long Island, large and small, banded together to create The Long Island Clean Water Partnership.
To help save the water, Suffolk County is holding a contest called CrapSHOOT. Contestants are asked to submit a 30-60 second PSA and/or a one to three minute video by the Sept. 15 deadline. Save The Great South Bay has been soliciting its membership to participate in "The Six Second Clip Challenge." Shoot a clip with your smart phone about water pollution issues, especially those pertaining to Long Island, which are degrading marine habitat, or mention what you value about Long Island and why it's worth saving. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sept 12 (we know that's tight, but its just a clip). You can also post them at Save The Great South Bay's Facebook Page.
Here's a video from Suffolk County about the water issues faced by Long Island, with county executive Steven Bellone pointing out the gravity of the situation while promoting crapSHOOT:
If you're interested in submitting your CrapSHOOT video, here are the full details on the contest and rules.
With local, state and federal officials, environmental nonprofits, scientists, media and the public coming aboard, something remarkable is indeed happening on Long Island. The threat we face to our way of life, as islanders, as people who love the sea, is enormous. We are rallying to build, at great cost, a sustainable Long Island, starting with healing our waters. Your clip contributions will help us build awareness and create a model for other communities that are trying to address similar issues.
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The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
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