The Local Science Guy’s Santa’s List

No one suffers from the war on Christmas more than Santa.

In the past 40 years, Santa has watched his home in the North Pole slowly melt away. Last February, temperatures at the North Pole reached 36 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s warmer than most February days in Montauk.

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the 2017 Arctic ice maximum occurred on March 7 and measured 5.57 million square miles. That was eight percent, or 471,000 square miles, below the 1981-2010 average, which according to Business Insider is “enough ice to cover Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and all but the very tip of Florida.”

More ice than Tiffany’s ever sold.

That disappearing ice is kinda like the oceanfront homeowners on the East End watching their beaches vanish into the sea. That’s because the main reason our beaches are disappearing is that Santa’s ice-front property is melting, and sea levels are rising all over the globe.

The climate change deniers all need a copy of Environmental Science for Dummies for Christmas.

Which got me to thinking about an East End scientist named Kevin McAllister, an expert in issues of ecology, who warned in this space recently about the severe problem with poop- and bacteria-infected waters on the East End, where you and your kids swim, fish, and water ski.

I asked McAllister — who has undergraduate degrees in natural resources conservation and marine biology, a master of science in coastal zone management, and is the founder of the not-for-profit organization Defend H20 — to give me his short list for Santa, who might soon be swapping his red suit and sleigh for a Speedo and a cigarette boat.

“Number one, admitting that it’s not science deniers that are the problem, but a lack of political courage,” says McAllister, who receives no public money. “Topping my Santa list is the serious Downtown Montauk issue, which had public hearings last week. I have been very vocal echoing a simple slogan: THE FRONT ROW MUST GO! East Hampton Town needs the political courage to tell the homeowners with beachfront property that they must move inland. The rising seas and severe storms like Sandy tell us that sand replenishment will never be a long-term solution. To begin with, it’s very expensive. A feasibility study alone costs $200,000. Then add as much as $15-20 million a mile, but the effects will only last three or four years.

The sea levels have risen four inches in the past 40 years and are expected to rise 11 to 30 inches in the next 40 years. The Army Corps of Engineers built their sandbag wall. They will not do any more. Beach nourishment is what I call Folly Beach. The only rational thing to do is have people move away from the shore. We need the political courage to tell homeowners they can no longer live that close to the sea. . . ‘Dear Santa, the front row must go.’

McAllister says number two on his Santa List is a Suffolk County ban on methoprene spraying. “This larvicide is really just for pest control so that people don’t have to swat mosquitoes,” he says. “The county has dropped the pretense that methoprene spraying is about West Nile prevention. But methoprene kills more than mosquitoes. It also retards the reproduction of other arthropods — our crustaceans, our blue crabs, fiddler crabs, lobsters, shrimp, and other vital insects in the ecosystem like dragonflies that feed on mosquitoes. Methoprene is sprayed from helicopters across our wetlands but has been restricted in Rhode Island, and New York City and banned in Connecticut. Some local politicians claim that Connecticut did not ban it, but Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut wrote to Gov. Andrew Cuomo back in 2015, urging him to have New York join his state’s ban on methoprene.

There was a New York bill banning methoprene that passed the Democratic-controlled Assembly last year that never got out of committee in the then Republican-controlled State Senate. That bill will be reintroduced next year by Republican State Senator Kenneth LaValle. Democrats now control both legislative branches and the governor’s mansion. So now it’s all on the Dems. Let’s see if they have the political courage to stop taking money from the chemical companies or helicopter companies or other people profiting from methoprene spraying and pass the methoprene ban bill.”

Number three on McAllister’s Santa list is to make the upgrading of septic systems mandatory on the East End. In a recent column here, McAlister explained how local waters are being contaminated: “As the coastal waters rise and the headwaters now meet the groundwater where septic systems are buried, especially near the shore, the human fecal waste and urine now meet and contaminate our ponds, creeks, harbors, and bays. This is causing a rise in nitrogen and bacteria called enterococcus. . . it makes the waters contaminated for humans and animals.”

Last week, as he made his Santa list, McAllister said, “Since last I spoke to you at The Independent there has been much more public discussion about making septic system upgrades mandatory. Human waste is literally turning our waters in places like Little Fresh Pond into a s–t show. People want to be able to recreate on our beautiful waters of the East End. We need the political courage to make laws that will protect our waters — especially from ourselves.”

So maybe Santa will bring some new Christmas conviction from the defrosting North Pole to the rising shores of the East End.


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