Owning the Problem

Sep 18, 2019

To the Editor:

In the Aug. 28 issue Jay Mann called out the doomsday advocates who suggest that those living on the coast should retreat. Like Jay, I say: “Hell no, we will not go.” But I believe that major changes are necessary and every one of us must adjust his or her lifestyle. And it may cost some money because we got by cheap when we did not build the appropriate infrastructures.

In the Sept. 11 story about his new book The Geography of Risk, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gilbert M. Gaul presented this view: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” – author unknown. The insanity in question is rebuilding in flood-prone areas after hurricanes hit.

In the same SandPaper issue, Rutgers coastal expert Lisa Auermuller, assistant manager at the Jacques Cousteau National Estuary Research Reserve, discussed “Capture the King Tide,” an effort on Facebook (with photos from Barnegat Light, Tuckerton, Manasquan and other coastal communities) that enlists residents to document the higher-than-normal tide heights and flooding during this king tide period, illustrating what coastal locations will increasingly experience as sea levels rise.

Lisa made the point that today’s high tides are tomorrow’s everyday tides. The difference is that a king tide comes and goes, but in the future with sea level rise, the new water level heights will represent permanent inundation.

So, we really have a new normal. Our neighbor, the North Atlantic Ocean (which was here first), is really big, powerful, relentless, changing and uncaring. The news headlines and crowdsourcing activities tell us that change is real and we must change to meet new challenges. We have had manmade environmental disasters for a long, long time. We need to stop the blame game: nature, the other political party or whoever is in office. Everyone has had a hand in screwing this up.

We need to stop saying the problem is too big to solve. We must stop acting as though one political party has the solution or is the problem. We have got to stop believing that some level of government is going to solve this problem for us.

We have to own the problem because we have to fix it. We live here because we love a “coastal way of life” with its beauty and proximity to nature. Now we have to start paying for what we love. Yes, in some cases with dollars, but much more difficult will be necessary changes to our behavior. We can’t expect any government to repeal the laws of physics that control our neighbor, the North Atlantic Ocean. And we must realize that ignorance of those laws is not a valid excuse to ignore them.

Rick Bushnell

Surf City

The writer is the current president of ReClam the Bay and a past president of the LBI Foundation of the Arts and Sciences.







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