Posted by: coastlinesproject | June 16, 2017

Plum Island to Palm Beach

Sargent’s view: One lousy birthday present
As I See It Bill Sargent 3 hrs ago

I was born on June 1, 1946. On June 1, 2017, Donald Trump removed the United States from the Paris climate accords.

During those 70-odd intervening years, I had watched the United States become the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. I had watched us go from being one-car families with radios to SUV owners with flat screens, computers and mobile phones.

I had watched us go from taking car trip vacations to thinking nothing about flying all over the world for business and recreation. I had watched us go from eating meat and potatoes from nearby farms to having exotic food flown in from all over the globe. I had watched our rivers, streams and air become polluted and houses wash into the ocean because of climate change and sea level rise.

But I had also seen the United States become the dominant world power maintaining the peace and offering hope, aid and a symbol of freedom and democracy to the rest of the world.

During my student years, I studied biology, geology and international law to help me be able to do something about these problems. In recent years, I helped start a local environmental group and wrote four books about erosion on Plum Island in northern Massachusetts. It had taken five years but I think residents of the island had started to learn they could work with nature rather than fight the Atlantic Ocean.

Our group helped disseminate the first piece of solid science to come out about Plum Island erosion in over 40 years. We were instrumental in convincing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to build a $150,000 dual dune system to protect homes and helped convince the City of Newburyport to provide $8,000 along with the 15 other communities on the Merrimack River to keep floating debris, including heroin needles, from flushing down the river and ending up in public parks and on Plum Beach.

But that had all changed with a single stroke of a pen. President Trump had made America great again, right down there with Syria and Nicaragua, the only other countries which had refused to sign the Paris climate accords — Nicaragua because it didn’t feel the accords went far enough.

To make matters worse, I had even lost 50 cents on a long-shot bet I had made that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would somehow convince Trump to stay in the Paris accords. As a New Englander, I wasn’t quite sure what bothered me more, the end of the world or losing my 50 cents.

But I resolved then and there, on my 71st birthday, to take the battle to Donald Trump sitting in his palatial Mar-a-Lago estate only four feet above the sea. This, then, will be the story of my journey to explore the effects of sea level rise on coastal communities from Plum Island to Palm Beach.

Bill Sargent’s recent book, “Plum Island; 4,000 Years on a Barrier Beach,” is available in local bookstores and at During the summer, he leads Storm Surge beach walks starting from the Plum Island Point lighthouse on Sundays at 2 p.m. Cost is $10.

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