Seaside Sustainability’s Founder Eric Magers On How Earth’s Waterways are Suffering from the Climate
Updated: Jun 30, 2021
Eric Magers sits in his office and reflects upon his fondest childhood memories – ones that he can no longer relive due to the increase in global temperatures. When Magers was a child, he would bring his skates to school in anticipation of an afternoon spent gliding across the thick, smooth ice of the local pond. Those were simpler times, when winters were long and cold and there was no chance of the ice thawing before March. Now, when the skating season approaches, the pond becomes a slush-filled mess caused by uncontrollable weather patterns. Earth is approaching its boiling point, and waterways are alarmingly close to irreparable damage.
Magers took his first-hand experience with global warming as an opportunity to inspire change. After 20 years as an educator in Massachusetts, he decided to start Seaside Sustainability, where his mission is to protect coastal waters through education and action.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to create an organization like Seaside Sustainability?
A: I was raised by a couple of hippies, so I always had sustainability in my blood. In my last 10 years as a teacher, I started a program for project-based learning in sustainability. We trained over 600 people around the country to run this program called Green Scholars. It’s a curriculum where students in middle school and high school take on a project in their school, district, or community with an actionable, sustainable focus. I eventually got really disenfranchised with public education, so I said you know what? I really want to do this for a bigger audience, and Seaside Sustainability was born.
Q: Why did you choose to specifically focus on the sustainability of our waterways when creating Seaside Sustainability?
A: I was inspired by growing up on the ocean. I spent a lot of time on the water with my dog and my family – sailing, learning about what flora and fauna the ocean provides, and, unfortunately, that what we’re doing as humanity, as a species, is really screwing it up.
Q: Since Seaside Sustainability aims to educate students through internships and the Green Scholars Program, do you believe that younger generations could reverse climate change?
A: The optimist in me would say that we are going to come out of this because we don’t have another choice. The pessimist in me says that we’ve already gone over the tipping point. I think the only way this is going to work is if we invent our way into adaptation or create strong legislation around the world. In the United States we certainly aren’t doing our part. We have to start demonstrating to the world that we can make a difference.
Q: A climate clock was just put up in Union Square in New York City that says humans have seven years to prevent irreversible damage to the environment. I recently saw that the U.N. released a 10 year plan to combat climate change as well. If we don’t learn how to adapt, what will waterways look like once time expires?
A: When something warms up, it moves around more – atoms get more activated and it’s going to expand in volume, which will lead to massive sea-level rise. Storms are going to get worse, hurricanes are going to get worse, climate patterns around the world are going to get worse and worse. Additionally, we just keep producing single-use plastics internationally that continue to end up in our waterways. We see these problems every day. 97% of scientists back up the evidence. I like to use the analogy of the California fires. You see that a fire is kind of in the way – could burn, might not burn – so you call up 100 fire marshals. You say, “okay fire marshals, do you think I should move my family or do you think I should stay?” And 97 of them all say “you know what? I think you should move your family. This is probably not going to be good.” Three of them say “nah you’re fine, look, it’s not that close!” I think I’d rather listen to the 97%.
Q: What are the major steps that you think have to be taken for people, both young and old, to stand a chance against the destruction of the planet and also the complete destruction of our waterways?
A: I think the underlying, overarching, foundational concepts are, first, to never underestimate your power. Each of us have an opportunity to make a difference in our own community, in our own way, with our own families and connections. Secondly, we must all be informed consumers with increased awareness of how we spend our dollars. Lastly, we must think globally and act locally. Being informed and knowing what’s happening is really important. It is especially important to get that global perspective and information without freezing and saying, “well, that’s happening, what can I do about it?” There are many things that each of us can do.