Heidi was selected as a 2021 Con Edison Waterfront Scholar to attend the Waterfront Alliance’s annual Waterfront Conference on May 10th, 12th, and 14th
This involved submitting a short essay addressing the one of the following questions:
The COVID-19 pandemic brought us many challenges both globally and locally which we continue to work through. Responding to climate change, centering vulnerable populations, and growing our green and blue economy are all central to emerging from this global pandemic stronger. In a 250-word (or less) response, answer ONE of the following questions: (1) What are some of the implications of climate change on public health & the economy, and what should our leaders be doing to address this? or (2) Why is the maritime sector significant to our nation’s COVID-19 recovery efforts, and what do you envision a ‘green-economy’ looks like?
Heidi answered question 1 as follows:
Oysters provide a taste of the environment that they come from—unfortunately, climate change is becoming an increasingly dominant flavor. Stress to oysters caused by ocean acidification and volatile weather conditions tax their reserves, and warmer temperatures could increase the prevalence of pathogens in their meat. An old adage warned consumers to only eat oysters in months with an “R” (September through April). What was once a matter of life and death is now mostly a matter of preference; restrictions on harvesting practices and product handling have reduced the incidence of shellfish poisoning from Vibrio bacteria. However, climate change could make this an uphill battle, as the warmer temperatures that drive Vibrio growth expand to more calendar days. Public confidence in the safety of seafood products can be easily shaken by a small uptick in illness cases. Despite the myriad of challenges they face, farmers along the Jersey shore and Long Island generate much economic activity: in 2016, oysters grown on farms in New Jersey brought in $1,370,060 in sales, and generated even more business in markets and restaurants. To protect this industry and consumers, regulators must remain vigilant against the rising threat of pathogens in a changing climate. However, too much regulatory caution can limit the expansion of oyster reef restoration projects in the wild. Natural and artificial oyster reefs stabilize shorelines against erosion, which is increasingly important with rising seas. Oysters embody the complexities of climate change—revealing its threats, while simultaneously offering hope for adaptation.