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Shelter Island Reporter editorial: Right here, right now

In Ernest Hemingway’s novel, “The Sun Also Rises,” one character asks his friend, “How did you go bankrupt?”

The friend replies, “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

That dualism can be applied to a lot of situations, and for many Shelter Islanders, it can be an answer to the question: When did you become aware of climate change?

The “suddenly” part of the equation could be, for some, the past few months — and especially the last two weeks — when monsoons descended and high winds, combined with especially high tides, flooded many parts of the Island (see story, page 1).

Sea level rise now is not just a phrase in a newspaper, or uttered by a TV commentator, but something that can be seen looking at the Island’s coastline.

Some have been aware for a long time, and have called for action against this devastating ecological situation. Years ago, Town Attorney Laury Dowd brought the news to the town’s elected officials.

Former Town Engineer John Cronin, along with former Highway Department Superintendent Jay Card Jr., and Ken Pysher of the Water Advisory Committee, among others, were out front in presenting the case and calling for solutions.

Mr. Pysher, in 2014, brought home to the Island the worldwide discussion of the effects of climate change. Citing a scientific paper on saltwater intrusions of aquifers, and backing that with more articles from the prestigious news magazine, “The Economist,” Mr. Pysher warned that there may be plenty of water in the aquifer, but little will be potable as early as 15 years from now.

As we point out in this issue, elected and appointed officials, to their credit, are working to put into action methods to keep our environment safe. 

This newspaper has published stories, columns and editorials many times over the past decade on the crisis facing us. But we can’t say it enough.

A map of warming temperatures across the United States shows that all of Long Island has already approached a significant threshold in how scientists measure climate change and its future impact.

In our debased political forums, the subject of climate change has become warped by some who proclaim that it is either a “hoax” — former President Trump blames China — or exaggerated, and no one should pay attention to it.

Some issues argued among elected officials have two sides to them. This one doesn’t.

Those ignoring the science of global warming should not be elected, or should be voted out of office. They are being willfully ignorant — or just shamelessly conning constituents to serve wealthy donors — about something that’s a serious threat to all of us, here and worldwide, that must be addressed with urgency.

This is not — and should never be — a red or blue issue. We need our elected and appointed officials to act. If they can’t, or won’t, or want to pretend the issue was invented by some Chinese cabal, they should not have a seat at the table in deciding policies for our communities.