This story is not new nor is it unique to the New York area. Development impacts the environment. Chapter 6 of Betsy McCully’s City At The Water’s Edge, entitled “Muddied Waters,” discusses how the earliest colonization changed the fish population along the local shore and how despite several environmental acts (1888’s NY Harbor Act; 1899’s River and Harbor Act), the sewage plants and toxic dumping of PBCs still create harmful sludge and reduce the amount of oxygen in the water. She also recalls the oils spills of the 80’s.
The Exxon Valdez in Alaska and now the current leakage situation of the coast of Louisianna present the same ecosystem threats. Pollution is bad. People who drill for oil or throw away toxic garbage do not realize the impact they have on the environment. City-dwellers do what’s convenient, which is not always what’s best for all. Again, this idea is nothing new.
Chapter 10, “Weathering,” warns of beach erosion. That guy from Jaws, Roy Scheider, used to have a house way out on Long Island, and he would occasionally show up on the local news at a press conference to state how his house was about to fall into the ocean. Weathering happens. It’s a natural occurence. However, human impact can speed it up.
I’ll say it again. These ideas are nothing new. A large population has a large impact on the ecosystem. The Go Green campaign and the mantra Reduce! Reuse! Recycle! has yet to create a great enough push towards becoming overall environmentally friendly. While I fret over how many paper towels I use when I clean my bathroom, I am fully aware that the people next door or around the block use plastic bags to bring their sandwiches to work and then throw them out after one use. McCully paints a grim portrait, but doesn’t offer much by way of solutions other than guilt.
McCully, Betsy. City At The Water’s Edge: A Natural History Of New York. Rutgers UP, 2006.