“SHINNECOCK NATION, Southampton, N.Y. — A maritime people who once spanned a large swath of the eastern Long Island shore, the Shinnecock Indians have been hemmed into a 1.5-square-mile patch of land on the edge of a brackish bay. Now, because of climate change, they’re battling to hold on to what they have left.
Rising seas are threatening to eat away at the Shinnecock lands. But the tribe is using everything at its disposal to calm the waves and restore a long, slim beach at the edge of Shinnecock Bay: dredged sand, sea grasses, beach grasses, boulders, oyster shells.
It’s a forever battle. Climate change is swelling and heating the world’s oceans at an accelerating pace. Inevitably, the Shinnecock will have to bring more sand to replenish what the rising tide keeps washing away. More grass will have to be planted. This spring, Shavonne Smith, director of the tribe’s environmental department, wants to expand the oyster reef designed to dissipate the energy of the waves.
“We have an inherent responsibility to protect the homeland,” Ms. Smith said on a recent Monday morning walk along the shore. “It’s not the type of thing where you can work against nature. You work with it.” “
Thank you Somini Sengupta and Shola Lawal for a lovely article. The Shinnecock Indians are using nature to fight the rising sea in eastern Long Island, which is important. However, overpopulation and pollution caused by humans are root causes of global warming and the rising sea, according to about 99% of credentialed climatologists. Edward O Wilson of Harvard has written that some scientists think that the right population for the planet is perhaps 4 billion, or approximately half of the 7.6 billion we are at now.
I am currently reading “A Distant Mirror,” by Barbara Tuchman, about Europe in the 14th century, and how it dealt with the Bubonic Plagues that wiped out roughly half of Europe’s population. The doctors then said it was caused by the position of the planets. Most common people were sure it was God’s punishment for unpardonable sins—like Noah’s flood. No one suspected it was a tiny thing called a virus, carried by the rats and fleas which were part of every day life.
The coronavirus COVID-19 is a reminder that God, or nature, works in mysterious ways. It is a tragic irony, that such modern plagues might help mitigate the onset of global warming and the sixth great extinction of species. We have only decades, not centuries, to reduce our carbon dioxide and green house gas footprint to zero, or see the wrath of God again, as in 1348.
If you are a Franciscan Christian, or an environmentalist of any persuasion, that believes in the sanctity of all forms of life, and values non-human species, you have to be torn, when the plague comes knocking at your door. As you and some of your loved ones die a wretched death, you can temper your despair. The silver lining is that it might, possibly be for a greater good.