A cautionary tale


To the Editor:

The waves gently caressed the shoreline. The water temperature was 76° and the air temperature was 97, and only the beach umbrellas and sunblock protected the bathers from the sun’s rays. It was New Year’s Day, and the Thompson family was observing a family tradition of going for a family swim — grandparents, parents, and children — to celebrate the start of a new year.

Jack Thompson was enjoying his role as a grandpa, and watching his six grandchildren and their parents run headlong into the warm surf. It brought back memories of his own childhood when his grandfather, a successful businessman, would take the family to the Grand Caymans for a holiday vacation. They would stay at the same hotel on the Seven Mile Beach every year. That is where Jack was introduced to scuba diving, exploring the coral reefs just south of the Caymans. It became his lifelong passion. He was looking forward to scuba diving with his grandchildren later that afternoon in Edgartown Bay.

Jack looked down at his beach bag and saw one of the noisemakers from the New Year’s Eve party from the night before. There it was: New Year’s Eve 2082. Sixty years! Had he really been scuba diving that long? How the world had changed! The family had stopped going to the Caymans 20 years before. Due to the rising sea levels, the Caymans no longer existed; they were 30 feet under the water.

Edgartown Bay, where his grandchildren were swimming, was once the picturesque village of Edgartown. As recently as 2022, Martha’s Vineyard was about 90 square miles, now it was less than 30.

The name Edgartown had been given to the bay to commemorate the lost town that lay several leagues beneath the water’s surface. Why did nobody listen? Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Ian all delivered death and destruction, but not enough people cared. As Lake Mead dried up, nothing was done. The inexorable melting of the polar ice caps went largely ignored. The Amazon rainforests were methodically destroyed, but little was done.

When the Trustees report came out in 2021 about the impact of global warming on the Cape and the Islands, not enough people reacted; too many were skeptical. Ten years later, when the next Trustees report documented the increasing consequences of climate change, it was still met with complacency. As erosion, coastal flooding, and damage to our salt marshes continued to progress in the 2030s and ’40s, too many people continued to remain in denial. By 2050, it was too late. The ravages of global warming could not be reversed.

As Jack’s grandchildren ran toward him, urging him to join them in the surf, he could not erase the thoughts in his head: “How could I have let them down? What were we thinking in 2022?”


Kevin Loughlin