Letter to the editor, Dec. 12, 2019
There has been concern expressed lately about what we, as individuals, would like to pass on to our children and grandchildren. I would like to offer another perspective for us to consider:
As a trained geologist, I can tell you that if a wetland is filled in and paved over or covered up, it will cause flooding in adjacent areas and worsen the flooding in the main river. This is basic geology- not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when.’ Developing in wetlands has a permanent and cumulative effect – once developed they will never protect us from flooding again – only exacerbate it here and in communities further downstream. What happens when Pierrefonds sues Hudson for worsening their flooding?
As a climate science educator, I can assure you that by cutting down forests and developing in natural areas, no matter their size or perceived value, we are permanently removing the most effective and least expensive means that we have to extract CO2 from the atmosphere1. At the same time, we are adding more cars for more suburban houses, which means more CO2 emissions. Science tells us that we need to plateau greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020 and reduce to zero by 2030 in order to have a chance of avoiding a cascade of unstoppable climate breakdown in the next few decades2,3. Is this what we want to leave our children and grandchildren?
Natural areas such as wetlands are also habitat for insects, which are the bottom of the land-based food web. They are going extinct at a rate eight times that of other species. At this rate, we will have no insects within 80 years, causing what these scientists call “the collapse of nature4.” To avoid this, we need to preserve the natural areas that we have left1,4. All of them.
The consequences of prioritizing personal property rights today, over the needs of the community, will be felt for generations to come. What we will pass on to your children and grandchildren are collapsing climate and natural life-support systems. The rate and scale of this change is unprecedented in human and geologic history – it is difficult to overstate the urgent need to take our minds and our actions out of business-as-usual.
Your children and grandchildren are not able to call upon a team of lawyers to sue the town for denying them a livable future. As a community, we need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and carefully consider what it is that we are leaving for our old age and the younger generations.
Question: Will the town commit to placing a moratorium on the development of natural areas ASAP (as 661 citizens have asked for), so that we don’t lose them forever, and have the time to examine all of the implications for present and future residents in a collaborative, open manner?
Dr. Heather Short,
Hudson District 6 resident
1. Griscom et al., (2017) Natural Climate Solutions, PNAS, 114 (44) 11645-11650
2. IPCC, (2018): Summary for Policymakers. In: Global warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [V. Masson-Delmotte, et al., (eds.)].
3. Lenton et al., (2019) Climate tipping points: too risky to bet against; The growing threat of irreversible climate changes must compel political and economic action on emissions. Nature 575, 592-595
4. Sanchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys, (2019). Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers. Biological Conservation, volume 232, pp 8-27.