Charging bull and defiant girl at the bayshore

This sculpture exhibit and the associated story in The Wall Street Journal this week perfectly symbolize for me where we stand today in the evolution of humanity. It strikes a chord with me personally having transitioned from Wall Street to environmental advocacy and now facing the threats of institutional power.

This week the small business nonprofit that I established in 2010 received a threatening notice from the New Jersey Department pf Environmental Protection essentially alleging that the progress on the troubled bayshore project that I took on after Superstorm Sandy is not moving fast enough to recover. It is frustrating because we have put in thousands of hours and raised tens of thousands of dollars working with the community and government to address issues ranging from feeding food and medical care to completing the New Jersey Clean Marina certification program. Baysave has clearly taken on more than we intended when we agreed to help with Sandy recovery. Now, four and a half years later, we are still struggling with the legal expenses to settle denied insurance claims and repair storm damage. Yet a whole range of other issues like wastewater handling and aquaculture facility development permits for flooded properties will take much longer.

We have a well considered recovery plan for the region and a business plan for the specific local project. Most government entities have pledged their support. Yet it is clear that tensions remain between powerful government  agency and the rest of the community stakeholders persist. Some individuals withing the NJDEP are obviously not in support of the strategic plans for sustainable recovery.

The latest idea suggested this week by the Executive Director at Cumberland Development Corporation and our government relations strategist is to bring in the resources of the Cumberland County Improvement Authority to assist with the communications and permitting process where I’ve struggled. Meanwhile, I will focus on raising revenues for the bankrupt working waterfront community which is my primary skill. We must find a balance between the forces of the charging bull and the defiant girl. The powerful state agency that controls the water resources and the defiant environmentalists who wish to rebuild a sustainable working waterfront community are at a standoff.

On the larger scale, I recognize that we face unprecedented challenges here from degraded environment leading to the lagging local economy combined with the enormous challenges of sea level rise and climate change. We find ourselves on the cutting edge of this struggle with no way to predict what the future will bring.

I hope to see some resolution to our local situation by the time the sculpture is dismantled on Wall Street.


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