I’m 41 years old. Thirty years ago, I can remember being 11 years old and having my first moment of fear when it comes to the state of the planet. I was at a science fair, and one of the older students had a whole presentation on acid rain and the ozone layer. I remember it concerning me. I didn’t want to get melted by acid rain or melted by the sun. I have a memory of being in 8th grade watching Bill Nye the Science Guy, who did a whole episode on global warming, why it was ruining the planet, and how in less than 20 years, the world was going to run out of oil and that new forms of energy would have to be developed. I remember thinking that I’d probably be heating my house with a fireplace when I got older and worried about all the trees that would be burned.
When I was 14, I got a job as a beach boy in East Hampton, and there was a terrible hurricane back then, I think it was either Andrew or Bonnie. It was a huge deal in my mind at the time, mainly because Georgica Beach, part of the Village Beaches in East Hampton and right up the road where I worked, just disappeared. Like it was totally gone. There was a parking lot, then it dipped down like a cliff, and then it was ocean. The water at high tide was flowing all the way up the beach, and I remember all the lifeguards closing the beach and removing the lifeguard stand because they didn’t want the lifeguard stand to wash away.
In the ’90s, I believe I was in 8th grade at Springs School, and we took a field trip to the Montauk Lighthouse, a big part of the field trip revolved around how it was just a matter of time before the Montauk Lighthouse fell into the ocean. We learned about the boulders that were placed to protect it, all in vain, and that the Lighthouse was going to wash away unless something was done about global warming.
Ten years ago or so, maybe it was more, I remember a kid I graduated high school with, James Katsipis, who is now a photographer and was also at the time, getting arrested on the beach because he was protesting along with a group of other people how the Army Corps of Engineers was handling the bad erosion in Montauk. I have many memories of living in Montauk in my 20s, back when Gurney’s was owned by the Monte family, where the erosion was terrifying. The ocean was like right up on the beach, washing away beach chairs and creeping all the way up to the structures. The same is true for Ditch Plains.
Recently, like it usually does, Ditch Plains and parts of Montauk suffered bad erosion, and the Army Corps of Engineers started dredging sand onto the coast…like they have for decades and decades. The dredging will shore up the coastline and the waves will chip away at it until the end of time.
I’ve seen a lot of panicked people on social media completely freaking out about beach erosion in Montauk. I want to be clear: I’m concerned about it, and I think we should all care deeply about our environment. Now that I’m 41, I try to put it in perspective. Beach erosion is always going to be a thing. Forever.
I want to end it with this. All across the world, including the middle of the ocean, are thousands of man-made islands, many of them (especially in China) supporting full-on military bases with airports. All created with dredging.
Dredging the ocean in Montauk is not done in vain, and I’ll see you on the beach this summer.