A Green New Deal For The South Shore and The Great South Bay

Suddenly the phrase “Green New Deal” is on everyone’s lips.    As our youth peers ahead at our near future, what they see is quite bleak.   Sea level rise, ocean acidification, plastics pollution, rising CO2 levels, collapsing ecosystems on one hand, political inertia, further unsustainable use of planetary resources, and outright denials that there’s any problem on the other — a massive global crisis that requires a massive and comprehensive response that seems hardly forthcoming.   Climate scientists, the UN, and a host of NGOs are warning us that we have but a dozen years to act to stem Co2 levels and halt global warming.   We must act, and quickly and at a scale commensurate with the scale of the problem.

Meanwhile, manifestoes are being written, aspersions cast, pundits rail, politicians posture, and the air once again grows thick with fruitless conflict.   The righteous and the outraged declaim back and forth, with the former petitioning our leadership to do something, and the latter warning against such alarmists and extremists.

Here, however back home on The South Shore everyone can well attest to the fact that the world we knew growing up is vanishing before our eyes, that each year is bringing us closer to the point of no return.   The algal blooms keep hitting us with increasing intensity.   Ever fewer fish and shellfish.   Shrinking marshes.  Where we once swam is now murk.  Ponds dying, the bay, all our bays dying.   This is our reality. How can we begin to even think about saving the planet when our little world, where we grew up and where we now live, is dissolving before our eyes?

What can we, as South Shore residents, do to act our part and assure our future?   How can Amityville, or Babylon, or Sayville, or Patchogue “take arms against this sea of troubles”?   Save The Great South Bay takes the approach that we must “Start where we stand.”  We start with the premise that “we all care about where we are from” whatever levers we pull on Election Day.   Given the urgency of the local environmental problems we face, we cannot afford to wait until there’s enough political will at the Town, County, State or Federal level to take action.   It must all begin with us at the local level.   No one cares more for The South Shore than those who live here.   No one can be better stewards of the local environment.   It is incumbent upon us all to act, to work first to save ourselves.   Only then will we find the help we need from our elected officials.   If we lead, they will certainly follow.

It is with this spirit that Save The Great South Bay has proceeded.   By building local awareness of the problems we face and by creating a spirit of local stewardship, we seek to empower communities, encouraging them to take their fate into their own hands.   We can debate climate accords and carbon taxes.   In the meantime, much closer to home, there is work to be done, things we can all do together that will make a difference.   To revise an old phrase, “Act locally.  Only then will you be able to think globally.”

Our Creek Defender Program is built upon this principle of localism, of galvanizing local communities to take action.   There are 36 creeks flowing into The Great South Bay from 16 South Shore communities.   The health of the bay is heavily dependent on the health of these creeks.   We’ve seen them filled up with silt and muck, built on, dumped into, and otherwise abused to the point where they’ve become a major source of pollution in the bay.   Road runoff, runoff from yards heavily treated with fertilizers and pesticides, make every rain event a bad day for the bay.   Many will point out that up to 70% of the excess nitrogen in the bay is from cesspools and septic tanks.   Not often noted though is that it is through our creeks that this nitrogen is flowing into the bay.

[Further, no one really takes the time to say that very often, people don’t service their cesspools and septics regularly (or at all).   Homeowners aren’t bearing the cost of regular maintenance, and there is no enforcement of policy.  Just having the existing systems regularly maintained would make an enormous difference in water quality.   If sewering is too expensive or disruptive, a grant to finance regular pump outs ought to be contemplated, but I digress].

“The GSB’s issues are symptoms, it’s the Mainland that’s sick.”

On Creek Defender Day, April 13th, 12-4, we will have clean ups in every South Shore town, all 16.  Massapequa, Copaigue, Amityville, Lindenhurst, Babylon, Islip, Brightwaters, West Bayshore, Bayshore, Islip, Great River / Oakdale, West Sayville / Sayville, Bayport, Blue Point, Patchogue, Bellport, and Brookhaven.   Each community will have its own Creek Defender.   We will involve schools, the PTA, the Girl Scouts, The Boy Scouts, local civic groups like The Lions Club, The Rotary Club, The Chamber of Commerce, The Kiwanis Club, local associations, local businesses dependent on a healthy bay.

Interested in pitching in April 13th?   Email us at [email protected] and we will connect you with those in your community!

In addition to the clean ups themselves, we will also be working to restore ‘the uplands,’ the native trees, bushes, and grasses that grow along these creeks.    We believe that by restoring the native habitat along these creeks, we will help to filter the groundwater before it reaches the creek and the bay.   We can heal the bay only to the extent that the creek and its environs are healthy.

Our “Bay Friendly Yards” initiative runs in parallel (Click on the image above to download our eBook from our homepage).   Plant native plantings in your yard.   Help build habitat right on your property!   Filter the groundwater, soak up the runoff!   Make your yard safe for all creatures great and small — the microbes in your soil, the bugs, the birds, all that makes for a vibrant, living yard, as opposed to the sterile, lifeless suburban lawn that we invented in America after World War II as the ideal.    Help our bay with that.   Help bring back our fish, eel grass, shellfish!   Build coastal resiliency with that, sequester the carbon, fight ocean acidification locally with a healthy bay!   Grant as your legacy, your forever gift, to your children and grandchildren the way of life you knew.

The New Deal brought us the WPA (Works Progress Administration) and The CCC (The Civilian Conservation Corps).  The former agency implemented massive public infrastructure projects — bridges, roads, public buildings, public parks and airports, employing 3 million people.   The latter, also employing 3 million, planted 3 BILLION trees, among other things.  In this day and age, we can hardly expect such large scale top-down efforts to be undertaken, much as they are desperately needed.   Today, it is up to us, people in every community everywhere, to do what they can by their own hands.

Save The Great South Bay welcomes, therefore, all local entities, as well as those advocating for a Green New Deal, to join our efforts.   Help your communities.  Get your hands dirty.  Help plant a “swamp forest’ along a creek.  We welcome groups like Tree Sisters, a global organization that raises funds for reforestation, or organizations like The Sierra Club of Long Island, with its 8000 members.   We look as well to our sponsors, such as Coldwell Banker of Queens and Long Island, and York Lab, a regional leader in environmental testing with local roots, to all those of The South Shore who live and work here.

Change always comes from below, in “the doing.”   Petitioning those how stand above us, absent grassroots engagement, is a fool’s errand.   Seek with your neighbors to heal what is right in front of you, in your own communities, right in your own front yard.     If every community on The South Shore was so galvanized and organized, change would come and those elsewhere would have no choice but to notice it, support it, and emulate it.

Great South Bay Baymen

2 comments

  1. Howard Ryan says:

    Great Post Marshall. The goal can be realized with a removal of the ‘hot wind’. Not the bays hot winds, but the windless nature of remediation through big government. The word about “Bay Friendly Yards” is snowballing….starting to get out. We can savage our lagoon!

  2. Howard Ryan says:

    Great Post Marshall. The goal can be realized with a removal of the ‘hot wind’. Not the bays hot winds, but the windless nature of remediation through big government. The word about “Bay Friendly Yards” is snowballing….starting to get out. We can salvage our lagoon!

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