The first Long Island Earth Summit was held at Long Island’s largest science hub, Brookhaven National Laboratory.  It was hosted by the Laboratory and Citizens Campaign for the Environment.  The event will combined good science with good advocacy to advance a 2012 Earth Agenda for Long Island.

The Earth Summit featured a tour of the East Coast’s largest solar farm, four informative environmental workshops on Long Island’s most pressing issues, a panel discussion, a green car expo, and a keynote speech from Dr. Ellen Pikitch of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook, Institute for Ocean Conservation Science.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is a very impressive facility, spread out over many acres.  The Solar Farm is quite extensive – according to the Brookhaven National Laboratory website “It is made up of 164,312 photovoltaic panels and can produce 32-megawatts (MW) of electricity, which is enough to power up to 4,500 homes and businesses on Long Island. Among the largest solar farms in the nation constructed on federal property, it also boasts the smallest footprint for a solar array of its output.”

The Earth Summit attracted some of the best minds working on environmental issues, both locally and internationally.  Dr. Chris Gobler of Stonybrook University presented a workshop on the toxic tides which are plaguing Long Island, forcing the closure of thousands of acres of shellfish beds.  Gordian Raacke, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island discussed the possibilities offered by renewable energy.

A panel discussion between Eric Alexander, Executive Director of Vision Long Island, David Calone of the Suffolk County Planning Commission and Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment discussed how to balance “Preserving Open Space, Our Natural World and Growing Long Island.”   Eric Alexander stated “The Earth Summit blended the scientific underpinnings of LI’s key environmental issues and the need to develop additional allies to address them.  Despite the drastic challenges facing our planet in the areas of water protection, the need to reduce greenhouse gases and provide transportation and energy choices the folks in attendance presented creative strategies to address them.”

A larger panel discussion asked each of the participants “what are Long Island’s greatest environmental challenges, and how do we meet those challenges”  Some of the recurring themes expressed by all were how to encourage growth and preservation, availability of water, loss of water quality due to improperly maintained septic systems and pesticides, and how to fund the infrastructure upgrades necessary to remediate these problems.

Ellen Pikitch, the Executive Director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science gave the Keynote Speech, and addressed the topic of “Starving the Ocean:  Why We Should Leave Small Fish in the Sea”.  She and her colleagues have conducted a survey of the depletion of menhaden (known locally as bunker) in the world’s oceans. Globally, the stocks of these small fish, also known as forage fish are depleted.  They are a key element in the ocean food chain, providing sustenance for birds, larger predatory fish and whales.  Many of the species dependent on forage fish do not have alternate food sources. I have heard many fishermen express frustration with the lack of bunker.  Now we know why – they are being overharvested to provide ingredients for fish oil capsules, pet food, and for food for farmed fish.

It was a great pleasure to see Kyle Rabin, Program Director at Grace Communications Foundation at the summit.  Kyle summed up the summit by saying “The Long Island Earth Summit along with its organizers – Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Brookhaven National Laboratory – successfully explored the top priorities facing Long Island today including the need to better protect open space and the local drinking water supply, to invest more in renewable power and energy efficiency, to improve planning and resource management and to do all of this in partnership recognizing that the health of Long Island’s economy and environment depend on it.”  I agree, and am looking forward to attending the Second Earth Summit in 2013.

This Week’s Results

Friends of the Bay began its water quality monitoring season on Monday April 16.  The delayed start was due to the high winds of the previous two Mondays.  The Dissolved Oxygen readings were at levels of 5.0 mg/L in all the nineteen sites we monitor.  The water temperatures were higher than they usually are in early April, with temperatures ranging between 14.0 and 15.5 Celsius.  The summer birds are starting to return.  All of the osprey nests are occupied, and we saw many egrets and great blue herons.  The buffleheads, long tailed ducks and scaup which were here in such abundance over the winter have returned to their breeding grounds.

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If you would like to become one of our water quality monitoring volunteers, are interested in other ways of assisting in our effort to preserve and protect the waters of the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor estuary, or want to report an activity that may be threatening the estuary/watershed please visit us online at www.friendsofthebay.org or give us a call at 516-922-6666.  Friends of the Bay’s mission is to preserve, protect and restore the ecological integrity and productivity of the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor estuary and the surrounding watershed.