Living on Long Island’s East End, Kevin McAllister says, is a little like living on an environmental edge. McAllister, a marine scientist and the founding president of the nonprofit organization Defend H2O, says data shows sea level rise has already happened and more is coming our way. He says citizens need to “activate” and advocate for smart solutions along the shoreline.
“I think the only way to realize sustainable management is if the greater community is well informed and participates,” Mr. McAllister said this week.
To inspire that response among East End residents, Mr. McAllister is teaming up with Alec Baldwin, an actor who is known for his environmental advocacy, for an event on Thursday, August 16, titled “Living on the Edge in the Face of Climate Change: An Engaging Conversation on Coastal Living.” A fundraiser for Defend H2O, it will be held at the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum from 6 to 8 p.m.
Mr. McAllister said he was inspired to reach out to Mr. Baldwin after the actor produced events at Guild Hall through the Hamptons Institute that Mr. McAllister said were indicative of Mr. Baldwin’s “strong environmental ethic.”
“I find Mr. Baldwin to be very smart,” Mr. McAllister said. “This is not just a cameo appearance. We’re going to get down into a discussion here about climate change locally and what it means to our coastal zone.”
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Sea Level Rise Task Force in 2010 completed a report that showed, by 2100, the shorelines of the lower Hudson Valley and Long Island will likely see at least 12 to 23 inches of sea level rise. A full report, including recommendations to “reduce vulnerability in coastal areas at risk from sea level rise and storms” and “support increased reliance on non-structural measures and natural protective features to reduce impacts from coastal hazards,” is available online at dec.ny.gov. According to Mr. McAllister, more recent data projects sea level rise at 16 to 30 inches over the next 40 years – all due to climate change.
Compounding the effects of climate change, he says, are shoreline-hardening practices that municipalities have begun to allow that stray from previously established policy guiding what is healthier for the local environment. For instance, he says, the construction of sea walls, geotextile structures and stone revetments in some places are actually doing more long-term harm than good, and practices of sand replenishment and dredging are examples of alternative management techniques. He said he believes coastal zones should be managed “as natural systems,” where public access and wildlife habitats are preserved as well.
“My hope is that through this exchange with Mr. Baldwin, we inform and inspire and activate people to really start to get more involved in the actions of state, county and local government and to push for response to sea level rise,” Mr. McAllister said. “Unless we start taking these actions now – I use the term ‘death by a thousand cuts’ – we’re going to see the resources slowly be adversely affected.”
“Living on the Edge in the Face of Climate Change,” planned for August 16 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum at 200 Main Street. Tickets are $150 and include cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a clam bar. Tickets are available at defendh2o.org. More information may be obtained by calling (631) 267-5644.