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Can We Envision a World Where People and Nature Thrive? | Nancy Kelley | TEDxHofstraUniversity

bays and harbors were filled with
clamming boats and fishermen today we
can feel the impact of Nassau and
Suffolk counties 2.8 million people for
example each of those 2.8 million people
generates about two and a half pounds of
human waste every day
and what we once thought was an adequate
acceptable way of treating that waste
turns out to have been a huge
miscalculation we discovered this
mistake in a rather surprising way
not long ago Long Island was among the
nation’s top shellfish producers we were
responsible for some 50% of all the
clams eaten on the East Coast and we
were home to the famous and once
plentiful blue points moister but after
decades of intense coastal development
and unsustainable fishing practices
shellfish took a dramatic decline in the
1960s 70s and 80s all but disappearing
from our local waters the Nature
Conservancy in an effort to address this
decline we undertook a grand experiment
we attempted to kick-start mother nature
by restocking millions of clams scallops
and oysters back into our water but no
matter how much we stocking we did the
shellfish simply did not survive
and reproduce why because our water had
become too polluted now my story doesn’t
end with a failed experiment instead we
switch gears we focused on the problem
on the pollution specifically nitrogen
pollution excessive nitrogen pollution
from wastewater the predominant source
of which was antiquated outdated septic
systems and cesspools some 400,000 of
them across Long Island imagine for just
a minute
Long Island as a sandbox with a layer of
fresh water directly underneath
surrounded by seawater on all sides what
we Long Islanders put into our sandy
porous soils trickles down first into
our freshwater lens and then gradually
seeps out into our bays and our oceans
so what do we put into our sandbox
chemicals fertilizers for lawns and
wastewater in septic systems were never
designed to remove nitrogen from
wastewater so you might ask nitrogen
what’s the problem with nitrogen it
makes plants grow it does but too much
of is a good too much of a good thing
becomes a problem and as nitrogen from
wastewater gradually seeps into our
freshwater lens and then out into our
bays and harbors it triggers massive
blooms of algae we essentially have over
fertilized our local waters these
massive blooms cost shellfish to die and
fish kills and it’s not just marine life
that suffers our drinking water supply
is threatened local economies of
shellfishing tourism recreation suffer
people who just want to go to the beach
to enjoy a day of swimming of clamming
or fishing can’t because of these blooms
pets have died from drinking nitrogen
ladened pond water and people have
fallen ill from swimming this was the
state of harmful algal blooms
Long Island just this past summer in
2017 it’s a colorful picture but it’s
not a pretty one much of Long Island’s
1,100 miles of shoreline and waters were
impacted by some sort of algal bloom and
what’s worse is that the steady rising
in temperatures of our waters as a
consequence of climate change are
increasing the frequency and the
toxicity of these blooms if we are to
thrive in the year 2050 we need to win
the battle to restore swimmable
drinkable fishable water the things that
matter most to Long Islanders there’s
good news
we are already well on our way to
enhancing public awareness about this
problem promoting the right kind of
technology and securing the public funds
needed to transform antiquated
technology we place it with
state-of-the-art nitrogen moving systems
that will return the water we use back
to nature in a clean condition and Long
Island is not alone in this pollution
problem massive algal blooms are
occurring all over the world such as
this one on a beach in China pollution
kills 9 million people every year that’s
15 times the number killed by war and
other forms of violence so what’s at
stake in the year 2050 when our planet’s
population is expected to grow to 10
million people excuse me 10 billion
people those 10 billion people will
require about 62% more in food calories
than what’s currently available and yes
they’ll be producing a lot more human
waste of those 10 billion people about
70% are expected to live in cities and
two-thirds of those cities will be right
on the coast subjecting billions of
people to deadly storms and sea level
rise just last year alone 68,000 people
every day were displaced by flooding
seems like just a frightening
preview of what’s to come each of the
last four years 2017 included has earned
the badge of being the hottest year on
record I’d say we’re in a pretty hot
mess we need to think of tackling
pollution climate change and the massive
disruptions it causes as disease
prevention as health care and let’s not
forget that climate change is not only a
disrupter it’s a divider those less
privileged are actually much more prone
to its deadly effects nature needs to be
recognized and valued as the most
valuable player it is but as a society
we don’t do this terribly well we can do
for example the value that marshes and
wetlands and dunes play in storm
prevention and flooding prevention is
usually ignored the marshes the dunes
their level they’re filled in they’re
built over and then storms occur and
massive flood damaging happens but here
on Long Island after superstorm sandy it
was reported that we’re present and
healthy wetlands actually helped prevent
an additional 625 million dollars in
flood damages from occurring communities
began to wake up and appreciate the
value of these natural assets once they
were measured in dollars and cents so it
is our relationship with nature is it
just take take take until there is
nothing left have you ever been in a
relationship that felt like a one-way
street you give and give and they take
take take or maybe it was the other way
either way it’s depleting on the flip
side when there’s equal parts give and
take the relationship hums it thrives it
nature doesn’t behave like a credit card
you can
spend down all your credit open up a new
line blow that one out and so on
once we’ve depleted our environment it’s
really hard it’s very expensive
and sometimes not even possible to get
it back here on Long Island we need to
take responsibility for returning the
water we use back to nature in a clean
state before it’s too late there are
signs of hope we can succeed places like
Boston Harbor Tampa Bay in Florida even
parts of Long Island Sound have
recovered from serious degradation when
polluting practices are halted and clean
water is restored and there are other
examples of this vision of people and
nature thriving together fishermen who
will catch a few less fish today by
agreeing to accept sustainable
harvesting restrictions but they’ll help
protect their livelihoods into the
future and to help ensure the recovery
of key fish populations in the whales
that eat them like this beauty recently
spotted feasting off the coast of Long
Island’s waters will be succeed in
creating a world where people in nature
thrive in 2050 I don’t have a crystal
ball we can continue on a path of
depletion or we can change the way we
think and the way we act and make
decisions that get us better connected
to what we value most in nature
businesses communities governments
individual people make decisions all the
time that collectively add up to putting
us on one of these two paths so your
decisions matter where does the food you
eat come from and where does all the
packaging from it go what chemicals do
you use every day in products that are
that you use that are washed down your
drain can you take public transportation
more often and decrease your own carbon
and as a voter are you familiar with
positions that candidates for office
have on really important issues like
sustainable agriculture and renewable
energy pay attention folks all around us
are taking steps to get back on a path
that connects us with what we value most
in nature make informed decisions and
most importantly ask yourself what do I
want my relationship with nature to be
thank you
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