Seeing is Believing

People like to see things to believe them, and this goes for most things — including climate change. Many of the people who deny its existence do so because they haven’t had any firsthand experiences with its effects or simply don’t believe they witnessed climate change. This is a recalling of one of my experiences with climate change. I will hopefully write more of these in the future.

But first, some background on myself: My name is Chris Fazzari, I’m from Maryland, and I’m an Eagle Scout. I love the environment and I’ve had a lot of experience with it during my 16 years on this planet. I’ve hiked sections of the Appalachian Trail, I’ve camped all across the mid-Atlantic, I backpacked 90 miles at the Philmont Scout reservation once (and I plan on doing it again). I’ve been to many beautiful places and want others to see all the amazing things I have. However, I want to focus on one place I have been many times for beach camping: Assateague Island, which is very near Ocean City, Maryland.

Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey.

Being on the island is truly beautiful. Camping right on the beach is amazing — waking up with a beach sunrise with a few quiet people around you is amazing.

Image credit: National Park Service.

The island is also home to a large population of wild horses, an interesting sight that is found in fewer and fewer places around the country.

Image credit: National Park Service.

But the island is in peril. And I have personally seen it get worse. Over the years, I have seen the water level rise and the sand dunes erode.

However, the last time I was there was the most concerning experience yet. I was there last September and the island was in very bad condition.

Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, parts of Assateague Island’s Bayside Picnic Area and nearby parking were swept out to sea (image credit: PBS Newshour).

When we arrived, the parking lot was flooded with large amounts of standing water. After finding somewhere else to park, my family and I spoke with a Park Ranger and he told us that they had been getting intense flooding the whole season, that the water had been “consuming” large chunks of the island. When we waded our way through the parking lot we found that half of our campsite was also flooded, but we managed to fit in all of our tents. The next morning, we got to see the full scale of the flooding. We also saw the water coming farther up the beach than ever before.

During a 2013 rainstorm, wild ponies are herded into the Assateague Channel to be auctioned off in Chincoteague, Virginia (image credit: CNN).

More recently, it has emerged that because of a lack of money in the budget and due to the intensity and harshness of the climate change, the Park Services are ready to give up fighting climate change on the island. The loss of Assateague Island is not specifically a national tragedy, but it means a lot to me and the other two million people that visit the island every year.

There is an uncountable number of places that, like Assateague Island, are meaningful to Americans. This, however, should not happen to other places. This must not happen to other places.

Climate change is real. Climate change is happening. Climate change must be fought.

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