Before commercial harvesting, oyster reefs used to compose more than 220,000 acres of New York’s coastline, acting as a natural flood-mitigation system in addition to increasing marine biodiversity. With these reefs’ destruction, New York is dangerously vulnerable to natural disasters—a threat that (as Hurricane Ida recently showed) is only growing. To protect the city, Billion Oyster Project founded by Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, is constructing a wall of recycled oysters (collected from over 45 restaurants) in order to soften the blow of big waves, lessen erosion and ease floods. Volunteers from the non-profit collect the leftover oysters, clean, cure and set them with microscopic larvae and then bag them, placing them around the city’s harbors to foster the growth of baby oysters and grow back the reef. While this process will take over a billion oysters and hundreds of years, the founder of the project, Pete Malinowski, is hopeful, “because the key to solving these challenges of climate change is changing human behavior, and humans aren’t going to change their behavior without a direct connection to the natural world,” he says. Learn more the project and the path it opens for sustainable infrastructure at Bloomberg.
Image of Helene Hetrick of the Billion Oyster Project, courtesy of Catherine Blewer/Bloomberg CityLab