By Jeffery McNeil
When I see photos of my hometown of Seaside Heights after Hurricane Sandy, I wonder if this may be the end of my ties to New Jersey.
I haven’t heard from the members of my family as of this writing; but I pray they are okay. I wonder if those who say the homeless have chosen to be homeless would like to tell those who live in the Northeast they deserve what they have received.
In the coming years, there will be many theories about Hurricane Sandy. Some will say God caused this devastation; others will blame man. My vote is for man.
I used to distrust environmentalists, considering them to be left-wing nutjobs. But I am evolving. Sandy is evidence that all is not well on our planet.
Living not far from Island Heights, I remember all the town hall fights between fishermen and environmentalists. I sided with the fishermen. There was a time I could tell you the weather by the fish you caught: cod and whiting in winter, croakers and sea bass in summer. My greatest memory is of catching a giant tuna.
While I am nostalgic about life on the Jersey Shore, in the back in my mind I had worries about a storm like this arriving on the coast.
In my thirty years living in New Jersey, I watched the ecosystem decline. Marshes and wetlands were replaced by residential homes, shopping centers and roads. It was not uncommon to see dead foxes and deer lying on the side of the roads. Wild animals from the pine barrens were coming closer to the ocean.
Floods and Nor’easters in the last twenty years have seemed to be increasingly severe and destructive. When I started seeing tropical fish such as grouper and spanish mackerel on the coastlines in late September. I really knew something was off.
The greatest sadness for me was the dwindling of birds like blue jays, orioles and finches that were once plentiful.
When I was younger, I came back from a fishing trip with burlap bags of fish of every species from sea bass to porgies. The area was a flowing ecosystem of clams, crabs and small fish. Then came over-development and over-fishing. Formerly quiet fishing areas became hotbeds for trawlers and commercial fisherman. Dredgers would collide with surfers and jet skiers in search of clams and scallops.
Some of my friends and relatives moved further down south to Cape May because the fishing was awful. Other people convinced themselves that nothing bad was happening to the ocean and waterways.
My last visit to Point Pleasant was sad. Before the storm happened, the whole river system was destroyed by residential development.
I was shocked to see river banks that were once muddy and full of clams and sea worms reduced to shallow gravel beds and white sand. Open water became a harbor for wealthy yacht owners and fishing boats. Nature was replaced by parking lots and restaurants.
I blame all this on the motive to make money regardless of the ecological consequences. When you destroy what God creates by building parking lots and restaurants, then let trash and chemicals flow into the ocean, it is only a matter of time before a biblical calamity will occur.
This storm makes it hard to not argue that there is something happening to the planet. But what is the solution? How many Sandys will it take before we say that something is happening?
I don’t know if we can reverse the trend of climate change or a declining ecosystem.
Maybe a tragedy like this is a wakeup call for the self-interested. I didn’t choose to see my neighborhood wrecked by restaurants and casinos. My mistake was being too poor to do anything to stop it.
The reason I can’t go home again is because my home is gone.