Consequences of Growth

The consequences of our own, collective decisions

As the summer season and all of its frustrations arrive in earnest, it is worth pausing to reflect that much of what residents might find offensive are the consequences of our own, collective decisions.

Behind all the traffic, aircraft noise, crowded beaches, environmental degradation, and even the offensive new PSEG utility poles, lies an inescapable reality: The South Fork in general and East Hampton in particular has grown beyond its infrastructure, government, and natural systems’ ability to cope with human demands.

We are not alone in this observation. Indeed, it is East Hampton’s own fault, representatives of PSEG Long Island have all but said, in defense of the new power lines now marring neighborhoods and destroying trees. Though town officials have sought to hold down the final number of houses that will eventually be built in East Hampton, little has been accomplished to limit their size and the attendant demand for lots and lots of electricity. Giant residences and resorts have hefty power needs, and, in the past, dirty diesel generators were operated to meet the summer demand. Now that these have been decommissioned here, the electricity has to come from somewhere, and, if PSEG is to be believed, that source has to be new lines.

Change, too, of a less obvious sort comes from the area’s various emergency services departments, which have been adding paid paramedics to their rosters to work alongside volunteers in providing care for residents and visitors alike. Within the last handful of seasons has there been a willingness within the departments to recognize that an aging year-round population is unable to keep up with the number of ambulance calls. Now, paid first-responders are available in several districts, and they may be sought in others soon. The cost in dollar terms is modest, but the change is a milestone.

If, as all signs indicate, government is going to continue to allow construction of new and larger houses and expanded businesses, it must look well beyond the projects themselves to the greater regional impact. There are, after all, real consequences for each and every one of us.