Tuesday, April 17, 2018

New Jersey National Parks

Trail sign in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
(Wikimedia Commons)

By Mary Waller

When parents think of spending the day with their children they generally play video games, go to the movies, play arcade games or anything that generally has children in front of some type of screen. Many children don’t know about the playground they can go to for free-- national parks. New Jersey has many national, historic and mostly free parks for families to go to for a great day.

The Garden State is home to some of the most beautiful, scenic places that are nearby to travel to and enjoy. One of those places being a portion of the Appalachian Trail. The 2,180+ mile scenic trail attracts thousands of visitors over the various states it crosses over, stretching from Maine to Georgia. After being completed in 1937, the trail is maintained by the National Parks Service, US Forest Service, numerous state agencies and thousands of volunteers. Traversing the northwest corner of the state, “the 72-mile New Jersey section gives a view and a feeling of what this area was like two hundred years ago,” states njskylands.com. 

Another national recreation area New Jersey has to offer is the Delaware Water Gap, where a portion of the Appalachian Trail draws lots of families for a day hike. The 70,000-acre park welcomes those who wish to paddle down the river or hike the ridges and valley. According to the National Park Service, the Delaware Water Gap “has known human hand and voice for 10,000 years.”

One of the most historical and significant places New Jersey has is Ellis Island, the first thing that 12 million immigrants stepped onto when they arrived to America between 1892 to 1954. Situated in New York Bay next to the Statue of Liberty and the Jersey City shoreline, Ellis Island offered these immigrants a gateway to a new home, a new start and a new life. The stories of these immigrants are still told today in the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration and welcome those willing to listen.

Canoeing in New Jersey Pinelands
(photo: Pinelands Preservation Alliance)

The New Jersey Pinelands is classified as a United States Biosphere Reserve and in 1978 was established by Congress as the country’s first National Reserve. The Pinelands combines over one million acres of farms, forests and wetlands that also house 56 communities that have over 700,000 residents.

Those are just some of what New Jersey has to offer. But why should families spend more time outdoors? There are new scientific studies and research that show how nature and the outdoors help improve a child’s growth and development.

There are clear physical benefits for children spending time outdoors, such has helping fight obesity, but there are underlying benefits as well. A May 2010 Report to the President from the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity states: “Children’s level of physical activity has been shown to increase when they participate in environmental education programs that promote outdoor activity,” according to the National Recreation and Park Association.

Children who spend more time outdoors are also overall healthier, happier and have better social lives since outdoor play allows for children to play in unstructured and creative play. 

New Jersey is home to so many outdoors treasures that can help a child grow into a more well-rounded and happier person. So when families want to spend time together, take a day trip to a national park and enjoy the natural wonders New Jersey has to offer.

Grab & Go Green: Sustainable Habit Fest

By Kristie Murru

Grab & Go Green was an on campus event that my Senior capstone group hosted on Thursday March 29 at the Ramapo College Student Center. This event was designed to provide students an incentive to practice sustainable habits by rewarding individuals that had reusable mugs or bottles. With the assistance of the on-campus organization 1-STEP, we were able to ask the school for money to fund this event. The coffee and iced tea were catered by the food company Sodexo.

In addition to the on campus provider, we partnered with the Ramapo College Bookstore. The director of the store provided a 25 percent discount on all reusable items and mugs that students purchased that day. The idea then became that if you want to participate in a campus event like this one, you should either bring your reusable mug if you already have one or make the investment at a cheaper cost by purchasing one.

Using person-to-person face time, we were able to engage roughly 70 Ramapo students and staff. At the table members of my group handed out stickers with the Ramapo Green logo and displayed a compost container that participating dorms present to students that live there. One of our members answered any questions that students had regarding what to do or what not to do with the bins.

In addition, there was a Single Stream recycling sign on display that students and faculty can expect to see over campus-wide recycling bins. The sign details what can be placed into a recycling bin on campus and what can’t. Both paper and plastic bottles can be recycled, but what a lot of people don’t know is that if any sort of liquid or food is put into the recycling bins, the whole thing becomes contaminated. The entire bin load can no longer be recycled. With a wider range of knowledge on this occurrence, I believe that it can definitely prompt people to become more conscious of their actions.

This tabling event was a great way to explain these things to people face to face. A lot of educational outreach struggles to gain footing because a lot of the information is too much to process. Speaking directly to people and gauging their knowledge is very beneficial research.

Through survey research at the event, we asked questions to determine the scope of students' knowledge regarding how much plastic is thrown away. For the most part, students seemed to have an overall understanding of how much plastic is used only once and thrown away. The interest in having events like Grab & Go Green was confirmed by 42 percent of participants. This information is great to know going forward so that more people can become engaged in sustainability related events on campus that will continue to be put in place by 1-STEP, The Garden Club and Ramapo Green.

Recycling Even When It’s Inconvenient

By Chris Bernstein

Reduce, reuse, recycle. It’s a phrase almost everyone has heard before, but does everyone truly take the time to think about its meaning and actually do what the last word is saying to do? Recycling isn’t always convenient, there’s no denying that. There isn’t always a recycling bin around and when there is, they’re sometimes confusing to understand what kinds of waste can truly be recycled. Here are three scenarios to help you when you’re faced with an inconvenient decision of whether to recycle or not.

1) That one water bottle really does add up

So, you’re out for a walk in your neighborhood and you brought with you a plastic water bottle. First off, reconsider doing that on your next walk. Bring a reusable water bottle that you can refill instead. (They’re pretty cheap on Amazon.) You finish the water bottle and you’re sick of carrying it around with you, but there are no recycling bins around – only a trash bin a few feet ahead. Don’t think to yourself “it’s only one water bottle, so what if I throw it away?” Instead, think about how many times someone has been in the same position as you and have thought the same thing. The best thing you can do is hold onto the bottle until you get home where you can properly recycle it. 

2) It’s not really empty

You’ve bought a cup of coffee at school and you’re taking the last few sips. You have class in a few minutes and you’re about to throw away the cup in a nearby recycling bin. However, what you may not know is that by recycling that cup of coffee, the cup with a small amount of liquid left inside, you could be preventing an entire bin full of recyclables from being properly disposed of. Instead of simply saying “oh well, I guess there’s nothing I can do about it”, go over to the nearest bathroom or water fountain and quickly rinse out your cup. It may seem weird and a waste of time, but by doing this you’ll be saving an entire bin worth of recyclables from being thrown out. This isn’t something that many people don’t know about but can really go a long way in helping reduce waste. 

3) No, that’s not actually recyclable

Everyone’s faced this problem at some point or another; “do I throw out this take-out container or can I recycle it?” Luckily, there’s an easy solution to this so that you’ll never have to wonder again. The best thing you can do is educate yourself on the best practices regarding recycling. If you’re unsure if object A or B is able to be recycled, simply look it up online. There’s lots of information right at your finger tips that can tell you so much about one thing. Instead of questioning it in your head and simply throwing it away, take a minute to find out if you should be throwing that object away or not. By taking a few minutes to learn about what materials can be recycled, you’ll help cut back on waste and know you’re helping the environment.

These three simple tips may seem a bit too simple, but it’s important to know that these small actions go a long way towards helping the environment. As mentioned in tip number two, educating yourself is the best course of action to making recycling part of your everyday life. By understanding a bit more about the recycling process, you’ll think twice about tossing that water bottle in the trash can.

Ramapo River Watershed Conference Presents News Updates

Ramapo College students present report on DuPont contamination
in Pompton Lakes  (photo: Geoff Welch) 

By Eileen McCafferty

The Trustees Pavilion at Ramapo College hosted roughly three dozen people for the afternoon session of the Ramapo River Watershed Conference on April 13. Everyone was there to discuss several issues in relation to pollution, cleanup, and current news about the Ramapo River watershed.

Following a presentation by two Bergen Record reporters on their “Toxic Secrets” investigative report on DuPont pollution in Pompton Lakes, Pompton Lakes native Jefferson Harman Lasala talked about his involvement with community groups affected by contamination from the former Dupont explosives manufacturing plant. He was followed by a panel of four students from Professor Michael Edelstein’s 2018 Environmental Studies capstone class, who highlighted their research on the Dupont case. A third presenter was Professor Chuck Stead, who spoke about his efforts to clean up the Torne Valley of paint sludge dumped by Ford Motor Company.

Jefferson Harman Lasala spoke about being a lifelong Pompton Lake citizen who was forced to move due to concerns about DuPont’s contamination and the decline in price on the house that his grandfather left him and his brothers. Since the house is over an area of contaminated groundwater, they had to sell the house for a fraction of what its normal market price would have been. Lasala stated he is part of two groups that bring the community together in efforts to combat the pollution issues that DuPont has caused to their town.

Lasala highlighted that Pompton Lakes residents have been fighting for years to get the contamination cleaned up. He stressed that the DuPont contamination is the poster child for issues like this nationwide. Dupont has 169 other contaminated sites in the nation. Even if the pollution is in one area, he noted, we are not aware of who else might be getting affected downstream.

Michael Edelstein’s capstone classes create a consulting firm to assist clients on environmental issues. This year’s class created the Turtle Clan Consulting Firm and their research was broken into three phases: an assessment of the history of the cleanup and those affected, comparing Dupont to similar cases in the area, and indicator impacts with a focus on the social, ecological, and physical impacts.

For the social part of the research, the students met with members of the Pompton Lakes community to hear their stories first hand. Many citizens have cancer or some form of severe ailment, the citizens cannot afford lawyers to take on the numerous Dupont lawyers, and their homes are becoming devalued due to hazardous volatile organic chemicals in the groundwater under their neighborhood.

Ecological studies showed the chemicals destroy the local flora and fauna, in addition to affecting local residents. The students found that plants are more susceptible to VOC poisoning from vapor than from groundwater. The students also found that a New Jersey health department study found men in the community had high levels of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and women had high levels of kidney cancer.

The physical indicator presentation talked about how climate and energy are being affected as well. The students found that in Pompton Lake with vapor mitigation systems installed by DuPont or other contractors in the basements of affected homes, 1,131 kWh of energy was being consumed annually per home. In three hundred and thirty five homes, nearly 400,000 kWh was being consumed per year. Pompton Lakes is utilizing 12% more energy than it should be using just because of the vapor mitigation systems installed in the homes. Furthermore, the student research found that this process sends the toxic vapor into the air around the houses.

Professor Chuck Stead then took the podium and spoke of his efforts to have Torne Valley’s paint sludge issue eradicated. Ford Motor Company had contractors dump paint tainted with lead and chemical solvents from their factory in Mahwah into the area, which is near public water supply wells along the Ramapo River in Hillburn, New York. Several areas of buried paint sludge found and mapped out by Professor Stead and Ramapo College students have been excavated by Ford contractors in recent years.

Describing a recent visit to an area of buried paint sludge along Torne Brook that two of his students found, Professor Stead said the smell of the paint is a “sweet industrial aroma.” The crew of Ford contractors who went out with him said that the paint must have been “scattered around by someone” because they weren’t finding concentrated areas of paint sludge. Professor Stead insisted they keep looking. He was not convinced they had found the end of the contamination. Sure enough, they found the buried “flow” of paint. What looked like a rocky boulder was broken open and a mass of red paint poured out.

Not far away, near an Orange and Rockland Utility transformer site, Professor Stead found more lead paint sludge and industrial trash sticking out of the ground. He said the Ford contractors plan to start a cleanup of that area in June.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Great American Cleanup, Rockland County Branch Looking for Volunteers

For immediate release

Contact: Eileen McCafferty

Come volunteer with your neighbors, friends in Keep Rockland Beautiful’s Spring cleanup event!

From now until June, Rockland County’s very own environmental, non-profit Keep Rockland Beautiful is hosting their annual Great American Cleanup, a smaller sector of the national community improvement program Keep America Beautiful’s Great American Cleanup.

Keep Rockland Beautiful is a proud source that educates and empowers the members of the Rockland family to care and protect the immediate surroundings in our corner of New York State. We ride our bikes on these streets, we play in these fields and woods, and we enjoy the natural waterways that create the ecosystem of our county.

Registering for this two-month, weekly event gets you out into the community and creates a greener environment for all to enjoy. It’s a great way to connect with neighbors, get out into nature, and obtain community service hours. Every year, KRB has over 4,000 volunteers come together every weekend in various locations to clean up the litter within our neighborhoods.

The Great American Cleanup has cleanups at least once a weekend until the end of May, with some weekends holding multiple cleanups on both Saturday and Sunday. From Piermont to Haverstraw, Sloatsburg to Nyack, there are so many different towns to get connected with. The volunteers do cleanups along the sides of highways, local streets, and various waterways in Rockland.

Register now at www.keeprocklandbeautiful.org for any of the listed dates. Or if you have a date and location you would like to work on, call Keep Rockland Beautiful with the details. Get your friends, neighbors and local community members to become volunteers.

For further information, email Kevin Lowenwirth, the Cleanup Coordinator at cleanups@keeprocklandbeautiful.org or Jennifer Longo, the Administrative Officer, at jennifer@keeprocklandbeautiful.org .

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Ode to a Season Late in Coming

Spring Thinking

By Kathryn Brennan

A field of bluebells
drenched in the early morning mist
A blossom loosening wind
scattering colorful petals about
A single rosebud unfolding
after a morning rain shower
A single strand of spider web
dancing in the breeze
The hum of honey bees
in search of pollen
Jasmine growing
on honeycomb lattice
Colorful butterflies
leaning into the wind
A walking path
covered in wildflowers
A new crop of stones
in the vegetable garden
A closed fist
sowing seeds into the earth
of runaway dandelions
Snow white daffodils
fluttering in the breeze
Wild mushrooms growing
on mossy trees
Morning Glory's
climbing backyard fences
Sparrows singing
sunrise melodies

Melting Ice Impacts Polar Bears

High-tech collar worn by adult female polar bear enabled researchers
to study movements and foraging success of bears on the sea ice.
(Photo by Anthony Pagano, USGS)

By Kathryn Brennan

Ever since I was a little girl, polar bears have been my favorite animal. Polar bears no longer look the same as they were when I was little. What’s changing about polar bears is that their lush white fur coat is becoming dull and sagging. Polar bears are now becoming close to skin and bones. Scientists have been looking closely at many species that are endangered and in danger of becoming endangered. The polar bears are one of the many species that scientists have been tracking.

Recently Anthony Pagano, who’s a wildlife biologist researcher, put cameras on some polar bears. The footage from these polar bears is deeply disturbing. It shows the polar bears scavenging for food. Polar bears naturally burn a lot of fat. Burning fat cells and constantly being in motion is causing the polar bears to change drastically. Polar bears seem cute and cuddly from afar but they’re very dangerous. The polar bears are naturally that way because they’re hunters.

When polar bears hunt they’re constantly moving. The movement decreases their energy and ability to survive if they don’t receive the proper nutrients. In most cases while the bears were being tracked there wasn’t much footage of the bears eating many meals. The polar bears never gave up an opportunity to catch a seal or whatever they could for a decent meal, but it was few and far in between. The polar bears began to change their natural strategies to adapt to the lack of food and winter sea ice they had as their habitat.

From the footage, the polar bears appeared to be lazy in contrast to their typical behavior. It all makes sense because if the polar bears don’t receive the proper nutrients they can’t act to their fullest potential. I’m concerned to see what will come from this problem.

With food becoming scarce will the polar bears find new ways to continue to adapt or will they become an extinct species? As the polar bears continue to lose their environment they continue to lose the ability to survive.

For more information: https://news.ucsc.edu/2018/02/polar-bears.html