Having run so many fundraisers for his organization before, Defend H2O president Kevin McAllister wanted to do something different this year.
He decided to organize an event that would also engage supporters. He planned to touch on the hot topic of climate change, with some tailoring to the East End, in a more narrow conversation about coastal living. He then decided to enlist the help of longtime supporter Alec Baldwin, tapping into his creative talent, zest for environmentalism, and experience moderating forums, given his success at Guild Hall last year, and the agenda was set.
The event, “Living on the edge in the face of climate change: An engaging conversation on coastal living with Alec Baldwin and Kevin McAllister,” will be held on Thursday, August 16, at the Sag Harbor Historic and Whaling Museum, 200 Main Street in Sag Harbor, from 6 to 8 PM.
“As a non-profit, of course, we’ve got to raise money, and beyond a pure fundraiser — summer cocktail party or benefit — I wanted to have an educational component to it and try to engage the public to ultimately become better informed and to activate activism to effect the changes that I think are necessary to protect the resources,” McAllister said over a cup of coffee at SagTown in Sag Harbor.
McAllister said the event, which will be held on the museum’s front lawn, will open with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a clam bar, but then the soirée will become more serious at about 7 PM when he and Baldwin take to the stage for an intimate discussion about global warming. He believes Baldwin is the perfect partner for the event because he is a “very polished stage-person,” who can engage and interview.
“At the core of the discussion will be what physical and environmental changes are in store for coastal communities, and what adaptations are necessary to sustain the beaches, wetlands, and I’ll say ‘our island lifestyle.’ And, what I mean by that is that we are all islanders — Long Island is all about the water and beaches,” he said.
Using a measure of tidal gauges, scientists from New York State have determined that there has been about a four-inch rise in the sea level over the last 40 years, which is an inch a decade, and they project that over the next 40 years, that rise would be between 16 and 30 inches, according to McAllister.
“That is going to be major changes along shorelines and what I see happening — and for me it’s an alarming trend — is that incrementally, property owners are coming in and they are pulling permits for sea walls, vertical sea walls, and stone revetments, geo textile sandbags. These are coming in on every township,” he said, adding that if that trend continues there will be further erosion along the coast because the shore-hardening devices might protect one property, but they will damage other areas of the coast.
“This is like Johnny Appleseed, just getting it out there,” said McAllister, referencing the American legend who spread the word about conservationism to early pioneers. McAllister has been making the rounds this past year, hosting talks at local libraries and civic organizations to raise awareness about sea level rise. “Over the course of the last year, I’ve been educating the community to understand this stuff.”
McAllister said the intent of the upcoming event is to engage the public, and hopefully answer some questions. “It will be good. There is no script,” he said.
To him, it’s an important conversation to have.
“If we are asleep at the wheel here, 10, 20 years go by, we are going to say, ‘My gosh, we are rimmed with bulkheads; we ran out of sand, [and] we can’t pay for it’ as opposed to 2018, we should have been talking about it. So, when I say ‘Johnny Appleseed,’ it’s about just beating the drum, keeping it out there,” he said.
For more information about the event, call 631-267-5644. Tickets cost $150 and can be purchased online at www.defendH20.org.