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Is our coast going, going, gone?

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POSTED: July 21, 2010 11:00 a.m.

I met Ian Adleman when he, as a reporter for the Waterside News, was covering one of The Dolphin Project surveys. Being an old codger I am totally distrustful of anyone under the age of 40. Ian is one of those exceptions you run across every now and then that gives you hope. Now that is saying a lot for a displaced snow bird bumming a ride on my boat!
The following is a re-print of an article written by Ian. Ian’s article first appeared in the monthly publication Waterside News where he was a regular contributor. Amy Reynolds the Publisher/Editor of Waterside and Jeff Whitten, Editor of the Bryan County News both agreed that the message in the article was one that could stand being repeated. Read on!------

Going, Going, But Not Gone
“As I write my column, sitting on the floor of my now furniture-less apartment, it is starting to hit me that my stay in Savannah is coming to an end. My wife and I are heading back to Boston so I can pursue a degree in Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy. My time with the paper may not be quite over, but now is my chance to offer my thanks to a great place and great people. Thank you, Waterside News, and especially Amy, for giving me a reason to discover the Georgia coast. Thank you to all of the scientists, boat captains, outfitters, fishermen, and other waterside residents for sharing this beautiful place with me and answering my ceaseless questions. And, of course, thank you to all who have spent the time to read my columns.
“The second part of saying goodbye to a place I called home is a bit of parting advice. After two years in Savannah, no one was confusing me for a local—more like a tourist overstaying his vacation—but I did get to know the Georgia coast well enough to offer the following: This is a special place. Learn about it, experience it, and protect it. Don’t take the salt marsh, the barrier islands, the beaches, the creeks, the fish and the oysters for granted. Be curious about where you live. Act like a tourist (minus the ankle high socks and the map) and go to the Marine Science Center or the Aquarium or out with a guide and ask questions. Figure out why your favorite fishing spot is so productive "For now you have the coast to yourself, but the rest of the world is on its way and there are not enough sand gnats to stop them from settling. The Northeast is too cold, California is too expensive, and the Gulf Coast may be covered in oil. Retirees, military families, college students and graduates are all finding that the mild winters and warm waters of Georgia are hard to find elsewhere. Before it is too late, you need to figure out what it is about your coast that makes you want to call it home and then get ready to fight for it.
"When I drive north along the Eastern Seaboard, I will pass Baltimore, New York City and the western shore of Long Island Sound. Between the bridges and the industrial parks, there are remnants of once-vast salt marshes that remind one that these places used to look like the Georgia coast. I will continue on to Boston, wondering if I will recognize the Lowcountry when I return to visit.
"Barrel by barrel, we are watching the future of the Gulf Coast drown because of a lack of urgency to protect our environment. Gulf residents counted on the good intentions of big business and the oversight of federal regulators to maintain their way of life. Obviously that did not work out for them. Georgia may not be threatened by an oil slick for now, but recognize the perilous position you are in. As the economy recovers, the developers will regain their financial backing and they will descend upon your marsh and your beach and your waters, promising jobs and income. Smart growth is possible. You can protect the environment and prosper, but only if you get involved. Go to public hearings. Talk to your local representatives. Join an organization that is aligned with your interests. Take a stake in the future of your coast because there is no other place like it."

Ian Adleman

I hope this will help to stir the pot of indifference and inspire more people to push the envelope of their routine lives a little; start asking questions and demanding answers. We all have to act now to defend our quality of life over a very critical period of the next five years.
Parts of Ian’s article referred to other places and events. When you think about it, those actions and events match our own dilemma very closely. In the gulf: “Oversight of regulators” a disappointment? Ian was kind in his choice of words. We also have the indifference of government. I give you the infamous permitting of the waste water treatment plant in Liberty County.
Along the Northeastern shoreline: “Remnants of vast salt marshes”? We have the same insidious piecemeal destruction. There has been a disappearance of hundreds of acres of marshlands over the years attributed to ongoing piece by piece physical encroachment.  We don’t have overflowing oil wells but we have overflowing waste water treatment systems here and upstream in our fresh water rivers. Not that often mind you...Just every time it rains!
Midland, Georgia dumped a million gallons of untreated sewage into the Ogeechee River last month. It was a “minor spill” they said. The state defines 10,000 gallons as a major spill. How did Midland’s million gallon spill get to be “minor’?  Been fishing in the Ogeechee lately?
There is the continued destruction of wetlands supported by the absolutely insane Washington-blessed program that allows trading God-given wetlands, under construction for a few million years, for manufactured (imaginary) wetlands produced by a back hoe in a week’s work! Nonsense!
 Don’t believe a word of it when a developer or a politician tells you they have your best interests at heart. I’ll not bother with my usual disclaimer exempting this one and that one. It’s far more efficient to just put the whole bunch on one list and separate the good from the bad by their actions.


Hubbard is an environmentalist and guest columnist who lives in Richmond Hill.

 

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