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The Sinking of Our Shores

Lillian Simons, Staff Writer

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Climate change.

We have all heard the term. We have all heard the debates on whether it is fact or fiction; consequential or hoax. It may not be of importance to most people, yet there is a name that may be.

Long Island.

When thought of, it is home. From the sand we sink our feet into on the southern shores, to the northern farming fields, all of it on the Island has kept us aching for the ocean wherever we go.

The constant interaction between our environment and our actions is not one of symbiotic relations. In fact, it is almost as if we, as one species on this Earth, have become parasites. We thrive on Long Island’s resources day to day and we benefit off of the wealth and satisfaction that we receive, yet, how long the benefits will last is a considerable question to be asked.

In February of 2013 research was conducted through 16 global climate models which were crafted by scientists and researchers from the NASA Goddard Institute, Columbia University, MIT, Rutgers, New York State University and many others. The climate models were to depict temperature and precipitation predictions, along with sea level rise. Among their findings, they had determined that by the 2020s New York could see a 1-5 inch sea level rise, and by the 50s, a 5-12 inch rise.
Just imagine, by the time it takes to graduate, own a home, and account for your first child, the sea level will rise from your ankles to your knees.
The amount added onto those statistics all depends on how much greenhouse gas emissions are limited in the meantime. By the end of the century, places such as Freeport and Mastic would be underwater. In a larger turn of events, if there is a significant phenomenon created by melting of the polar ice sheets, the predictions will change to 10 inches by the 2020s and 29 inches by the 50s.
Currently, scientists believe that Long Island’s future lies with shorter, wetter winters and oppressively hot summers. Our Island would have rising seas and storm surges so powerful that they will threaten the existence of beaches, marshes, and infrastructure. According to one ClimAID report, “Children born in this century will see and feel a significant shift in the region during their lifetime.”
The warnings in our region have always been familiar. We have always known about the drastic weather changes and gusting winds brought along with the months that pass, but Superstorm Sandy was believed to be the tipping point for Long Island. After the storm, policy-makers seem to have their ears directed towards the matter. Expert scientists’ opinions are helping define what needs to be done, but one current drawback is standing in the way.
In recent months, our country’s concern with the environment has developed from a laid-back response to a complete abandonment of most projects. Our school’s Marine Science and Environment teacher, Mr. Kommer said, “The bigger problem…is the fact that we tend to be reactive and not necessarily proactive in terms of…solutions that we take. A good example is water quality and how we are currently starting to react to the fact that there are problems with septic discharge in local bays, and so we are just now starting to talk about modifying septic systems.”
With these long-term necessities being ignored in our community, it is hard for one to believe they can make a change, however it is unacceptable to let the cause go to waste. Today, we see organizations such as the EPA being told to go “back to the basics.”
What is the point of losing the amount of achievement prevailed and the amount of information earned? On May 7th of this year, The New Republic reported that the EPA’s Office of Science and Technology had removed the term “science” from its mission statement. Not only does this downplay the respect for knowledge in terms of fact, but it strips the accountability we, as humans, should be responsible for.
Science is not a form of religion or belief. Science is the systematic outline that organizes knowledge in the form of testable clarifications and predictions.
According to Mr. Kommer, the principal understandings between fact and belief is critically important in terms of today. “When the president or a spokesperson say, ‘I believe this to be otherwise’ that actually doesn’t have any bearing. It’s not a fact- based thing. You could believe whatever you want.”
The other evident problem with the “belief” in science lies between most of the country’s phone or computer screens. Anything on the Internet is automatically assumed to be true, yet the majority of people don’t look to evidence that it is or is not. Looking at Google for the complete answer is nothing short of an un-educated guess. “Students are not even 20 years old and in the next 30 years between your age and my age, well what’s going to happen? What’s going to happen in the environment; the economy? … A lot is going to change, and the only way to keep up with that stuff is to stay interested in it. And I don’t just mean blogs or any random source, I mean scientific information and good credible news sources,” Mr. Kommer said.
The era of technology has strongly swayed people’s ideals of what fact and opinion are really like. In this age, the best thing we can do is to educate ourselves on our surroundings.

So, what can we do? Well most of us have already taken the first steps: finding a reason. The vast beaches that we have grown up on, carefully picking shells off the sand and running away from the cold touch of the waves- it has left a mark. It has shown us the pure influence of nature, and without it, there will always be something missing from our hearts. Without the Pine Barrens and Montauk cliffs, the warm colored sunsets and extravagant views. To prevent our home from being washed away, to keep our memories here on Long Island from drowning, we must realize how essential it is.
The hardest part about making a change, is changing your own routine. To get up every day and go through the same endeavors will never make you a stronger, or smarter person. In past years, our school has organized groups and community service projects, yet lately it has been taken lightly. The reality of rewarding students with mandatory community service hours treats the cause as if it were not critical. “It’s ironic that we have requirements for gym but not a requirement to study the environment,” Kommer said.
Helping the environment is something they should not only strive to be a part of, but take in part as an honor. “The East End’s summer development is based on recreation- and second, or third houses that people own. It’s excessive. It’s problematic and I think consumption turns out to be one of the bigger problems that we have as humans.” Kommer’s point lies within the idea that we, as residence on Long Island, always strive to obtain more. Although it isn’t just Long Island, we have been raised in a community where many things are given to us. The one thing that won’t be handed out for free is the guaranteed future of our Island.
It may be true students have incredibly busy lives. In fact, they are constantly expected to accomplish their ideal responsibilities while running on an over booked schedule. Yet, with all respect to students who run that type of life, the smallest things may help. There are numerous opportunities for who can help, and how. One example may be to continue asking for a marine biology lab, such as the one our school had obtained in the past. Although it seems as if our Island is in utter jeopardy, we can attempt to slow down the process of damage to our ecosystem. Kommer said “There are plenty of reasons for hope, like the use of mollusks and eel grass…to help restore some aquatic systems”.
There will always be a time where our environment can use our assistance, and there will never be a moment where it is too late.

Although there are many places where we can sink our efforts into, when it comes to government policy, and removing funds for certain environmental projects and research, the main advice Kommer would give would be patience. “I think it’s a pendulum swing…so it swings far to the right, toward conservatism, and people get fed up with it because things are going wrong, so then it swings to the left. Maybe it swings too far, but it almost never stays in the center.”
And with patience, comes the responsibility to keep what we can conserved. As many people choose to deliberately ignore the importance of the changing tides, it is up to others to make sure the pendulum doesn’t cause too much damage. It is our job as residents, to give back what we have taken from Long Island.

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