Neil Gilbert certainly has had a lifetime of memories. For fifteen years, he led marine biology students on five-day field experiences to the Marine Resources Development Foundation in Key Largo, Florida, studying the swaying seagrass beds, tropical mangroves, and colorful coral reefs. During that time, his wife, Barb, was off exploring Paris with her students – studying France’s language, history, and culture.

So it’s not a coincidence that Neil and Barb love the environment. In fact, it’s in their human nature. Since retiring and moving to Sunset Beach in 2010, Mother Earth continues to be forefront in their lives.

Appointed to the Sunset Beach Environmental Resource Committee Gilbert met Jan Harris and Dr. Richard Hilderman, who had co-founded the Brunswick Environmental Action Team, formerly known as Brunswick Friends of the Environment. (Harris formed the original Brunswick Environmental Action Team in 1996.)

The educators wanted a name that was upbeat and positive for their revitalized work, with an emphasis on action. Thus the name BEAT was resurrected in the spring of 2017.

Harris, a longtime Sunset Beach resident and environmental activist; Hilderman, a retired microbiologist from Clemson University; and Gilbert, a marine biology teacher from Nottingham High School in Hamilton New Jersey, serve as the Board of Directors for BEAT. Other volunteers come from all walks of life: lawyers, technology industry, retired military and language teachers.

The team’s humble beginnings stemmed from their studies on Sunset Beach’s environmental issues. The three, instructed by the town council, researched and analyzed the Jinks Creek dredging and its community impact. The committee spent countless hours corresponding with Coastal Federation, NOAA, Coastal Carolina University and UNCW. Their findings, presented to the town council, were not always taken seriously. Limited in their actions, they decided it was time to initiate a countywide action group that focused on a plethora of environmental issues, including proactive solutions.

The mission statement of BEAT is to “educate, elevate, and advocate.”

1 – Educate the people of Brunswick County.
2 – Elevate the environmental issues to a more prominent importance.
3 – Advocate to protect the environment.

BEAT board members meet twice a month. All members meet once a month to attend rallies, movies, or to hear speakers based on environmental issues. Neighboring towns of Leland, Wilmington, Myrtle Beach are taking notice of BEAT’s efforts, wishing to get involved. The board is currently planning by-laws.

“It doesn’t matter what background you have, everyone cherishes the environment. We believe all residents and visitors should display responsibility – that’s what makes the county so great”, Gilbert says.

Taking a leisurely walk or drive around Brunswick County, you’ll see unobstructed views of the natural seashore – no high-rise buildings, and structures are set back from the dunes.

BEAT is passionate about a variety of environmental issues. Currently in the forefront:

  • Rallies focused on the negative impact of offshore drilling and seismic blasting. With offshore drilling, there’s always a possibility of a spill. Oceana studies have shown seismic blasting affects dolphin and whale sonar, causing disorientation, and unexplained beachings.
  • Another topic of concern is the Chemours (Dupont) dumping of GenX in the Cape Fear River, and the effect on Brunswick County’s drinking water. The EPA, Center for Disease Control, and the FBI are investigating this situation.
  • The runoff from the hog farms washing into local rivers.
  • The proposed terminal groins (jetties) by the City of Ocean Isle Beach to aid in the erosion at the eastern end of the island.

On July, 20, the Gilberts, along with three other members of BEAT, traveled to Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, at the invitation of Governor Cooper where he announced his opposition to offshore drilling and seismic testing. The Gilberts were thrilled at the invitation, as protecting the beaches of Brunswick County is a top priority for the couple. “Our coast is a huge part of our identity – welcoming visitors to enjoy swimming, walking the shoreline, and fishing”.

Currently, more than thirty North Carolina coastal communities have banded together and passed resolutions opposing offshore drilling, joining nearly 200 businesses and community groups.

Gilbert feels there are proactive ways all of us can help protect the environment. Here are some suggestions:

  • Composting to cut down on landfill waste, benefitting plants as well as soil.
  • Implementing rain collection barrels to water plants.
  • Recycling.
  • Not littering. Pick up cigarette butts, plastic bottles, and other trash found on the beach and streets.
  • Telling the people around you what you know about the environment.

“If we don’t take environmental issues seriously, our quality of life will be affected. We only have one earth – we need to make the most of our planet”, Gilbert says.

For more information on BEAT, when they meet, or how to volunteer, join their Facebook Group at Brunswick Environmental Action Team.

A meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, September 6, 2017, at the Brunswick Electric Building’s meeting room in Supply.