Friday, November 19, 2010

The Beat Goes On

Many members of the Spring 2010 Environmental Writing class graduated and have gone out into the world. One of the then-juniors, Stephanie Noda, recently wrote a timely front page article for The Ramapo News, that ran in the November 11 issue, on a new campus dorm life sustainable living program.

I summarized the work of the Spring 2010 class in a blog entry on my Earth Legacy web site titled Environmental Writing: The Next Generation. As I noted, their work "includes more than 150 items in various formats, from blog pieces to letters to the editor, news releases and news reports. The work spans weekly assignments on local to international issues we discussed in class--Agent Orange's New Jersey connections to industrial roots of water pollution problems--and magazine-style feature stories on topics of their choosing."

A new round of our Environmental Writing course is being prepared for the Spring 2011 semester. Look for new bylines, new ideas, new programs explored by student journalists in our on-line class journal.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Global Warming and the Garden State

By Michael-Thomas Marciante

Global warming has been the first and greatest environmental threat of the 21st century. The problem is that our most innovative and profitable creations such as cars, nuclear power, even basic house hold sanitizers have been slowly destroying the Earth. With the polar ice caps melting and the world trying to fix our mistakes, a small peninsula state in North America with sandy beaches, bombastic berries, and more corruption than people will suffer greatly if nothing is done.

In 2007, New Jersey’s legislature considered passing a bill for the state to repel the omen of global warming by becoming more eco-friendly with their decisions. The bill was titled The Global Warming Response Act. Their motivation was a report by the organization Environment New Jersey that showed how much catastrophic ecological change would be bestowed upon the Garden State. In his 2007 article “New Report: Global Warming Will Affect Every Corner of New Jersey,” Matt Elliot reported what could be happen to New Jersey’s finer features.

“North Wildwood could be turned into an island, separated from Wildwood Crest by shallow flooding from across New Jersey Avenue,” the report read. Wildwood is one of New Jersey’s most economically stimulating hot spots for tourists and locals to spend money. If the northern shore of Wildwood were to disintergrate into an island, the water surrounding it would lay on top of land that was once occupied by plant life, animal life, and human life.

Wildwood not be the only aspect of New Jersey that would be affected. “Cape May Beach would face accelerated erosion, and on average, Shore beaches could retreat inland between 50 and 150 meters,” only adding to the damage done to New Jersey’s tourist traps, added the report. Cape May is already half under water, as the coastal wall divides eye height water levels. If the Atlantic were to creep to the maximum amount of 150 meters, mostly everything along the Shore would be consumed by water. Homes, restaurants, entire communities filled with people and culture would all be destroyed.

“Global warming could create or exacerbate risks – including pests, weeds and excess heat – that could pose serious challenges to corn farmers’ livelihoods in the Highlands,” the report stated. New Jersey cannot live up to its nickname “The Garden State” if it has problems with growing crops such as corn and blueberries.

In the end, the The Global Warming Response Act was signed by Governor Corzine on July 6, 2007 and New Jersey has been attempting to stabilize itself ever since. So far succcess has been little, but recognition of the problem has not gone unnoticed. Schools such as Ramapo College of New Jersey have been becoming more environmentally friendly ever since. However, the rest of the world needs to get on track, as one small peninsula in Northern America can't make all the difference in the world. With the Garden State’s shining example, the world can cool off a little.

Cutting Through the New Jersey Highlands

By Michael-Thomas Marciante

The National Park Service is in an uproar over the State of New Jersey’s approval of the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line to be built this summer. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities gave Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G) approval for a $750 million electric transmision line project to begin construction in Montvale and cut through state and federal forest and parklands. Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club exclaimed open resentment over New Jersey’s decision to allow construction in the New Jersey Highlands.

On April 20, Brian T. Murray (one of New Jersey’s renowned environmental journalists) of the Star Ledger covered the Board of Public Utilities’ decision. The large gray, possible cancer causing 500 kilo watt towers will run through 146 miles including the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. In February of this year, the National Park Service held a hearing over the soon to be decided issues, saying they do not want this project to be approved.

"This is the height of arrogance. ... PSE&G is trying to use this as leverage by saying that construction has begun and money has been spent," said the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club.

The American Transmission Company has a mission statement on their website stating how the transmission lines effect the environment: “State and federal laws regulate all aspects of sitting and building transmission lines. When planning to build a transmission line, state law requires the company constructing the line to develop a plan that details information about environmentally sensitive resources on the proposed route and steps to be taken to avoid or minimize adverse impacts on those resources. “

However, a company is not always observant of the effects that their construction can cause to the environment. While the existence of transmission towers may not drastically effect the environment, the construction might. Imagine workers by the hundreds, electricians, construction steel workers, and laborers; these are all people working, eating, possibly smoking all on federally protected land.

In response to open resentment over their coming summer project, PSE&G stated that the construction will bring better utilities and prevent blackouts for the northern New Jersey area.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Shale Gas: A Fracturing Issue

By Jennifer De Shields

The face of a rural Pennsylvania town is changing. The town of Dimock, Pennsylvania was your typical American farming community. It was a small, relatively lower income town where everybody knew each other and made their living running dairy farms. Up until relatively recently, few Dimock residents knew they were sitting on top of one of the largest natural gas shales in the world.

The Marcellus Shale runs from central New York State all the way through most of Pennsylvania and into West Virginia, as well as into Ohio and parts of Maryland. In 2002, the United States Geological Survey calculated that the Marcellus Shale contains an estimated 1.9 trillion cubic feet of gas. In 2008, the estimated amount of gas jumped to 500 trillion cubic feet. The estimated amount of gas could supply enough power to the entire country for two years, and is valued at being worth one trillion dollars.

Tapping this wealth of natural gas would sound like a step in the right direction to environmentalists, but the opposite is true. The mining technique to extract the natural gas isn’t an environmentally sound practice. Hydraulic fracturing, also know as “fracking” and “hydro-fracking,” is a mining method that involves blasting rock/shale at high speeds with chemical-infused water. The force of the blast and chemicals encourages gas to break apart from the rocks. Although hydraulic fracturing is being used more frequently now, the practice has been around for over half a century. The mining technique was first used commercially in this country in 1949, and has since grown in popularity. The practice is very loosely regulated; hydraulic fracturing is exempt from most environmental rules and acts.

Although this method is very successful at retriving gas and oil, there are many environmental risks. The practice puts local water resources at risk because of possible contamination from fracturing chemicals. Local water resvioirs could be at risk of overuse because the technique requires around 4 billion gallons of water per day. Communities and towns will see their landscape littered with gas wells and problems with their drinking water.

Despite the possible environmental problems, some people believe that the economic benefits it can have for towns outweighs the environmental damage. People living on land good for mining could have their properities leased by gas companies and earn thousands, and for some millions of dollars. Local hotels and restaurants could see a rise in profits due to workers using their facilities. It’s even possible that some residents could get hired by the gas companies and would have steady incomes.

The issue of hydraulic fracturing is contentious. Victoria Switzer, a resident of Dimock and anti drilling activist, sees both sides of the issues.

“It’s a mixed review you know,” Switzer says, “You have a handful of land owners that are making more money than they ever imagined. And like I said, you have restaurants and diners and the bars and hotels, those kinds of things are really raking in the money.”

Although a few lucky people have made a large profit off of drilling, Switzer hasn’t seen too many Dimock residents get rich. “ The average person out here though isn’t seeing any significant wealth, they’re just seeing the destruction of the road, reduced water or diminished water, or even non-existent water,” she said.

Water is a big issues with hydraulic fracturing. The drilling companies need billions of gallons of water for the fracturing process. Water contamination due to fracuturing operations is common. Complaints about polluted water have been documented in several states where drilling has taken place; Alabama, Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming had had complaints from residents who claim there have been changes in their water quality or quanity after operations started. Pennsyvannia is no different; Dimock residents are having issues with their water also.

“ We get a water delivery every Friday,” said Switzer. “The gas company brings us water to drink and to cook with. Everybody is disconnected in Dimock from well water; that’s the big dirty secret. Even some of the wealthy land owners don’t drink their water.”

Even though the company provides clean water to cook and drink, the residents aren’t given clean water to bathe with.

Water quality isn’t the only problem Dimock residents have. Methane gas from wells can leak into homes. Although inhaling methane isn’t dangerous, small amounts can lead to explosions.

Switzer noted: "Their proposal is that they’re going to put a methane airator on everybody’s homes and that’s going to solve our problem. They were supposed to put (methane warning devices) on, but they did not. Our levels are very low now. We started at 2%, then 8% to 12% after drilling on top of the valley. At 12% the DEP ( Department of Environmental Protection) put a vent on our well, and that seems to work; it reduced the methane. So I’m not so worried about methane. Now people on Carter Road have it at 37%; and Penn State says that between 10%-15% can be explosive depending on the conditions. A well already exploded on New Years Day.”

Despite issues with water quality and methane leaks, drilling is still going on in Dimock and soon hydraulic fracturing will begin in New York and other states that extend into the Marcellus Shale. Unless law makers attempt to stop energy companies, there will be scores of other American towns that will have the same problems as Dimock.

Jennifer De  Shields is a journalism major at Ramapo College. She aspires to a career in environmental writing.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Oil...America's Worst Enemy

By Dave Ragazzo

What is America to do? When the United States went into the Middle East to fight terrorism, there was much speculation that they were really trying to gain control of the much coveted oil fields over there. George W. Bush caught a lot of hate from that move because people didn’t want him to take over another region, when we could get oil on our own soil. Unfortunately, the oil in our country has become our worst enemy.

On April 20, an explosion on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico has caused great destruction in the body of water. The explosion caused 11 workers to go missing who have since been presumed dead. It was also initially reported that the oil rig was leaking 1,000 barrels a day. Since then, the NY Times reported that the initial report was wrong, and that the rig was actually leaking at 5,000 barrels a day.

On top of all this, a third leak was discovered a few days after the accident. The third leak only shows how serious of a problem this really is, and action must be taken immediately to help out the ocean.

This is obviously a very serious environmental issue that does garner much attention. There is a lot at stake because of this oil leak. There are millions of species of animals that call the Gulf of Mexico home, and this oil leak will only affect their daily life. These species of animals will either have to quickly relocate, or suffer the consequences.

I was initially for the United States digging for oil on our own soil because I thought it would overall help our country. It could help drive down the cost of gas, which is once again rising to absurd amounts and it could also help the United States leave the Middle East. We would not have to rely on outside sources for our oil, which is one of our most important imports. However, now I wish we had not done this. This oil leak will have a great affect on our environment because it is going to take a long time to clean up this gargantuan mess. Although this mess is very bad for the Gulf of Mexico, it can be fixed. The fixing however must come quickly before the damage only gets worse.

Rachel Carson: Soil's Importance to the World

By Dave Ragazzo

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson is one of the most well respected environmental books to be written in recent memory. She brings up many valid points about the environment and wildlife around the world, but the one thing that stuck in my head was Chapter Five “Realms of the Soil.” In this chapter, she discusses the importance of soil on the environment, and the reason that this caught my eye was because I never thought of soil being all that important to life on Earth. Her points are well supported, and she taught me a great deal in this book, especially in this chapter.

She begins by talking about life in the soil. There are certain life forms that are formed in the soil, and now there are different forms of life that now exist within it. One interesting point that I got from this was that without life in the soil, soil would not be able to do what it does. Soil is necessary so plants can grow in it. If there were no other living organisms in the soil, it would not be able to support the earth’s “green mantle.” If the soil was dead, we would not have flowers and other plants, and the world’s cycle would be in disarray. There would be certain animals that would not be around because they would have nothing to eat, and the whole food chain would be disturbed because the soil would not be doing what it is meant to do.

Another point I found interesting was that soil exists in a state of constant change. I did not know this because I take the ground and soil that I walk on for granted. I do not realize that below the surface, things are always changing. For example, rocks combust and disintegrate and matter beneath the surface decays into the soil. Also, when it rains, nitrogen and other gases are brought down from the sky. This gives the ground certain nutrients that it also needs to live. Important chemical change is always in progress, and without this chemical change, again plants would be the most affected forms of life. The main point of the chapter is that soil must be kept safe, but unfortunately that doesn’t always happen.

One of the biggest problems that the soil sees is when poisonous chemicals come down through it. This is one issue that gains little attention, but is a serious issue because it can affect the life forms that call the soil home. There are different ways that chemicals can enter the soil. It can first be introduced directly as soil “sterilants,” and the other way it can be poisoned is from rain that comes down from leaves of trees. There have been cases where the leaves contain contaminants, and then when the rain comes down, the soil sees the same lethal chemicals. Carson argues that this is arguably one of the biggest environmental issues, and yet still gets ignored by scientists around the world.

In conclusion, the soil is one of the most important things to life on Earth. Without soil, it is possible that life could not be possible. It would drastically change our food chain, and if life on Earth were to be possible, we would have to find different ways to go about things. The soil is one of the most important elements on this planet, and needs to be treated with respect. Unfortunately, it does not always get that treatment, and that can be a serious problem.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I'll have the Fish Tacos, Hold the Mercury: Mercury levels in Pompton Lakes

By Demelza Davies

Mercury in the body does a lot of harm. It can damage the kidneys and cripple the nervous system. Mercury is poisoning to the body's development and prevents a healthy lifestyle. Most people would agree that Mercury is something to be avoided and not ingested. However, Mercury is ingested unknowingly.

Mercury thrives on our environment through our rivers and water supplies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been getting involved to reduce the levels of Mercury in the environment. One of the biggest benefactors of Mercury in the State of New Jersey is the Pompton Lake which is located in the northern region of New Jersey. The lake is home to fish life that people depend on for food and the simple balance of our ecosystem.

The Mercury in the town of Pompton Lakes comes from the DuPont explosives company, which closed in 1994. During its productivity, the DuPont plant leaked Mercury into Pompton Lake for years. The EPA and other environmental organizations have been working on the pollution DuPont left behind, but it is very difficult to simply remove Mercury.

It is possible to "suck up" the Mercury using other chemicals, however, it is a very complicated and expensive process that the EPA decided it was not favorable. Another method for getting rid of the Mercury is to absorb the Mercury by the surrounding soil. But that would mean we would be experiencing the Mercury through the soil which grows our food rather than our water.

The EPA seems to not be as proactive as they could be in getting rid of the Mercury. Many people would never consider the high levels of Mercury in their water or think twice before taking a bite into a perfectly deep fried piece of pike which swims freely in the Pompton Lake. But it is evident that Mercury is absorbed in the meat of fish and other water life, making it unsafe to consume. In New Jersey, there is no such thing as fresh fish. In the Pompton Lake area, under advisory, fishing is for pure sport and not for keeps. However, experienced fishermen admitted that they feel the fish is so toxic, they are careful to wear black gloves when they throw their catch back in the lake. It is only amazing that this fish have become so immune to the pollution that they continue to survive in the toxic place that is the Pompton Lake.

For more information on the situation with the DuPont site and Mercury please visit:

The Highlands Regional Master Plan: To Be Followed?

By Demelza Davies

The Highlands Regional Master Plan is designed to protect the water supply for the northern part of New Jersey. The Highlands Region is 13% of the state; however, it supplies water to 65% of the population. The main points of the plan is to conserve the land and protect the water by monitoring human activity. This means that the state would have final say if a family or its community decides to apply developmental needs to buildings and properties.

This issue has members on each side, pro and con. Some agree that it is not too much to ask for it is for the better in the future, on the other hand others argue that it will prevent the local community from making its own decisions thus a violation of their simple rights to make decisions for their own land and community. Communities such as Denville are on the fence over this plan, as many residents are not sure if it is for the better or worse for New Jersey. People such as Gene Fitzpatrick concluded that this plan should be evaluated and researched thoroughly before any decisions are made. Gene Fitzpatrick is a Denville Councilman who wrote a letter in regards to the Highlands Regional Master Plan. He agrees that something should be done in regards to this matter, however is hesitant as to whether the Plan is the right way to go.

The Highlands Regional Master Plan is a good start to strengthening the ecosystem, but the plan needs to be fair to everyone so that rights are not sacrificed. We need to modify human behavior in every way possible like using less and conserving more. If we teach these simple policies to our children at an early age and reinforce this valuable information, then we are at a good start to saving the environment without upsetting people.

For more information on the Highlands Regional Master Plan please visit: Read Fitzpatrick letter to the editor please visit:

What's New at Dupont State Forest

By Krysta Daniels

As of April 12, 2010 all of North Carolina's DuPont State Forest roads and trails are officially open. Forest Supervisor David Brown wrote a press release on their website that updated what changes and improvements have been made. He stated, ”the winter of 2009-10 was wetter and colder than any winter in recent years.” Unfortunately there was a serious problem with the ice storm debris. The debris left the trails very hazardous and dangerous for pedestrians to travel on.

Since the first of March, DSF staff, BRIDGE crews and volunteers have worked to clear the debris. What hikers and people walking through the trails need to understand is that this clean up does not mean that the trailers are completely free of hazardous. Brown said, “visitors to the forest must always be aware of their surroundings, and watch for hazards when recreating in the forest.”

Other things that are going on at Dupont State Forest are photos taken by J. Jennings that are now on the website.

Some of the attractions include Triple Falls, High Falls, Hooker Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Grassy Creek Falls, Wintergreen Falls, Stone Mountain and Cedar Rock Mountain.

Triple Falls can be found while walking upstream of the popular Hooker Falls parking lot on Station Road. High Falls is give or take 15 minutes farther upstream from Triple Falls, the terrain is more moderate. Hooker Falls drops off an 11’ ledge directly into Cascade Lake. Hooker Falls is a 6 minute downstream from Hooker Falls parking lot. Bridal Veil Falls has a very unique aspect to it, it’s a 4’ tall overhanging ledge on the upper section, and a long, shallow whitewater section, and a long, shallow whitewater incline along the lower section. This Fall would take a much longer hike or even ride in order to visit it. Wintergreen Falls on the other hand is a 20’ cascade on the Grassy Creek, Wintergreen offers solitude on the Henderson County side of the Forest. Grassy Creek Falls spills down a shallow inclined slab in a verdant cove not far from the High Falls bridge.

Cedar Rock Mountain on the other hand is a different story then when we were talking about waterfalls. Cedar is tiny but the hundreds of acres of exposed granite make this dome a popular destination for cyclists and hikers. Stone Mountain would be a type of route you would take if you are looking for exercise and lots of it. You can take a long route from Old CCC Road. up to Stone Mountain, where the Forest’s highest point reaches 3600 feet. The granite dome offers a 180 degree vista over the Forest during spring, summer, and fall, with nearly 360 degree views during the winter.

These are just a few things you can do at DuPont State Forest and I am sure you can come with many on your own. If you are ever in the North Carolina area, visit this park, you will never forget it.

To learn more visit the site.

Highlands Regional Plan At Issue

By Krysta Daniels

The Pequannock River Coalition’s website talked about the NJ Highlands Regional Master Plan. They stated that the Highlands Act was passed by the legislature in 2003 and the Highlands Council released the first draft of the Regional Master Plan in 2006. How did the plan come about? Well there was a Highland Council of 15 members who were assembled to develop a plan that would protect and restore the quantity and quality of water resources across the Highlands area.

Like any other rough draft of a plan, there were many flaws in the 2006 version. Luckily, there were comments made and suggestions and they were taken into consideration and the plan was revised to include some of the best ideas that would work. The important parts the community and members wanted to get across seemed to have been considered. The members stressed the need for improvement and the rehabilitation of the Highlands region.

The last draft of the RMP was released in November of 2009 and many people think it was not improved. Those included in this disagreement are the readers and staff of the Pequannock River Coalition’s website.

According to New Jersey State League of Municipalities, there were significant comments on the last draft of the RMP. The website documented the statement that, “the Council and its staff have relied on the Highlands Law to defend the RMP while conceding that additional work is required to complete some of the plan’s elements. Landowners and farmers have strongly objected to the imposition of severe restrictions without the provision of compensation. Environmentalists generally support the RMP but some have criticized it for not being sufficiently specific or restrictive.”

According to the Daily Record, Governor Christie’s budget seeks to eliminate some $6 million in additional Highlands aid, including $3.6 million in property tax stabilization aid to municipalities that can prove they lost rateables as a result of the 2004 Highlands Law, and $2.2 million in watershed moratorium aid to municipalities with under developable watershed properties.

The effect of this plan will directly impact seven counties and 88 municipalities. According to the Daily Record’s website the Highland region will have a comparatively good amount of budget for this fiscal year. The article “Some key funding of Highlands survives in state budget,” states that the budget also includes full funding of $4.4 million for compliance aid and planning aid to help municipalities bringing their zoning in line with that of the regional master plan.

There is a fear that the budget cuts will threat the need for creating jobs. There are many environmental programs in New Jersey that could really use the revenue and not the cuts. This budget cut very likely will hurt the environment if something isn’t done with the Highlands region. New Jersey will be able to prosper if there are more green jobs created.

The executive director, Eileen Swan, was quoted saying the staff can continue to operate with the budget cuts without having to cut stuff. “We want to show the governor we will continue to work and perform and reach new milestones so the Highlands regional master plan will provide protection to the important resources,” Swan said.

News Release: Volcano Effects on the Environment

By Krysta Daniels

A new program on NPR reported volcanic eruptions are studied through images from satellites, radar measurements from aircraft, or seismic data from sensors in the ground. Volcanoes are very temperamental. If you want to understand them you need to really study the materials it spewing out. If you would like to know firsthand what it would be like to study volcanoes, you can research the works by volcanologists Evgenia Ilyinskaya and Asgerdur Sigurdardottir.

According to Joe Palca, an NPR writer, the volcanologists went on an expedition to research the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Hvolsvollur, Iceland on April 10. Eyjafjallajokull is a sight to see, and when the temperature is just right it looks stunning. Most of the sky is a brilliant blue on clear nights.

Palca reported, “Ilyinskaya and Sigurdardottir were out to gather the ash that had drifted to the earth after erupting into the sky. It's the ash that's causing problems for air travelers around Europe; the little particles can gum up aircraft engines and disable planes.”

Another component scientists look at is the ash remains. Scientists can tell the kind of magma that is contributing to the eruption and that information provides the scientists details as to how long the eruption lasted and how dangerous it was. Volcanologists need to wear gas masks in order to take samples.

Volcanic gases are very dangerous to the environment. The gasses left behind from an eruption combined with the fluoride gases coming from the volcano eruption cause a devastating damage to people and livestock the area.

While Ilyinskaya and Sigurdardottir were taking samples, the volcano rumbled. Scientists try to find out all they can about a particular volcano before they start to investigate. They want to know exactly what they are up against before the excursion begins. Ilyinskaya and Sigurdardottir recovered a fine power resembling flour that turned out to be ash from the eruption.

Scientists might not find answers right away but if you are interested in helping with their findings you can  contact NPR. If you are interested in researching volcanos in general, read up on their history and current events surrounding volcanoes today.

Be the Shift, the Power is in Our Hands

By Krysta Daniels

There are places in the world where water and shelter are scarce commodities. In these places luxuries include shoes, clothing and expensive items like cell phones and laptops. It is a privilege to own these items for some, but for others they are just the way of life.

The ways in which you hear about these parts of the world that are struggling is through journalism and new media. Journalism, among other fields are now branching out to attract a wider range of audiences, has taken on a new type of media outlet called Twitter. Many newspapers and news organizations have a person managing their twitter account, which updates viewers with 140 character statuses on what is new involving their company. As a twitter user myself, I found information on a crisis going on right on US soil. Twitter can be a tool to finding out breaking news, fashion tips, environmental concerns and also express your feelings to a wider audience. The use of twitter is advocacy in its richest form. This is how I was fortunate enough to be educated on the crisis going on in South Dakota.

On February 1st, 2010 the South Dakota Lakota Sioux Reservation declared a state of emergency after a sever ice storm devastated the surrounding land. The storm toppled more than 3000 power poles and 13,000 people were without power and water.

(From left to right: Chaske Spencer, Kiowa Gordon, Gil Birmingham and Chairman Joseph Brings Plenty)

Twilight Saga star Chaske Spencer has been working closely with United Global Shift for the past few months to educate the public on environmental issues. Several of Spencer’s co-stars also came forward to record a new public service announcement video for the campaign, including Gil Birmingham ("Billy Black"), Julia Jones ("Leah Clearwater"), Justin Chon ("Eric Yorkie"), Boo Boo Stewart ("Seth Clearwater"), and Alex Meraz ("Paul").

“Due to recent storms, thousands of people are without water, food, power, and heat. The Native American people on the affected reservations are freezing and dying right now. Right here in the United States. The government’s response has been slow and inefficient. But this is not a Native American issue, this is a human issue. You can make a difference, you can make the difference. We don’t need your money. We need your voice. To create a sustainable solution beyond the immediate crisis. We the people have to take a stand and be heard. It’ll take you a few minutes, but you can impact generations to come. Be the shift,” said Chaske Spencer.

There are many issues that need to be addressed with the Lakota Sioux Reservation and their crisis. Shift the Power to the People has a very detailed website that states all the problems and issues, they include:

“1. The water system is outdated and operating at capacity, leaving the tribe no room for economic expansion and preventing its housing authority from building new homes. This allocation would put a long-term solution in place and give the Lakota Sioux people an opportunity to prosper. Without water -- the most basic building block of life and society -- the people of the Lakota Sioux Reservation have little hope of impacting their situation in a way where they may prosper and thrive.

2. To explain the need for water infrastructure, since the late 1950's the tribe was forced to move from their original Tribal head quarters, known as the Old Agency on Cheyenne River, which was located on the river bottom. The Tribal leaders during this time, built schools, hospitals and our own police department with tribal dollars. All is under water now. The book "Dammed Indians" shows how the Pick-Sloan Act forced tribal people up and down the Missouri River. This was done to make way for the Dam to make Hydro Power for the government, our precious resource of water is utilized to generate billions of dollars worth of electricity yearly, for the United States Government.

3. Currently, without a water infrastructure, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe cannot build new homes and cannot build on any new development. The system is keeping an impoverished nation, impoverished.

4. 86% Current unemployment rate.”

The website promotes users that come in contact with this information to spread the word and get this issue noticed by the government. The website also provides a letter you can send to President Obama about this crisis. You will also find a page on the website entitled donate. There are three ways you can donate to this cause. The first would be to donate by creating awareness of the current issues and conditions. The second is to donate by creating alternatives that promote dignity, justice, unity and accountability to existing systems. And the third way to donate would be to take action and support the creation of alternatives.

Charmaine Amor spoke out about her anger at the government for allowing this crisis to go on and the news media for not showing more coverage. “Well I think it is horrible and the government needs to be more productive with their spending habits. Our economy is falling apart. We are having education cuts and jobs cuts, yet their wages and lifestyles are the same. We need to focus on the true needs and not the wants of a lifestyle,” she said on twitter.

Susan Fihaki also said on twitter, “I don't understand why its taking so long for the U.S. Government to make good on their promise that was made to SD Lakota Sioux Reservation 30 plus years ago. Do they not understand that these people are suffering? They need water, heat and electricity just like the rest of us! I think its selfish of the government to hold back on things like this. I hope the government fixes this situation. think of the families here, the children, they are our future.

The governments response has been slow and insufficient. You can make the difference and create a lasting solution beyond the immediate crisis. It will only take you a few minutes and you can impact generations to come. If you are interested in helping this cause or others like it you can go here.

You can also contact them through their Twitter and Facebook page. If you want to make a change through your government then send a letter to your state representatives.

Monday, May 3, 2010

It's Electric: Can Electric Cars Help New Jersey?

By Dave Ragazzo

Jackson, NJ is a long way from Mahwah. Just ask Ramapo senior Thomas Schiro. Schiro, a four year student at Ramapo, has made that trip many times as he has traveled too and from Ramapo College to his home in Jackson. And what is the one thing that he has noticed every time he has made this trip?

“There’s always so much traffic,” Schiro said. “Both Route 17 and the Garden State Parkway are more commonly parking lots than multi-lane highways. There are just too many cars on these roads at all times.”

These aren’t the only two roadways in New Jersey that have traffic problems. As of 2008, the estimated population of New Jersey was 8,682,661. Even with its small land area, it still ranks in the top ten of the most populated states in the Untied States. Because of these numbers, there are a large number of cars that are driven in New Jersey on a daily basis.

Being that climate change, or global warming as it is more commonly called, may have a direct correlation to carbon emissions, New Jersey drivers should be concerned that they are possibly causing much of the damage. Unfortunately, the American public does not think about this when they are in stand-still traffic. People need cars to travel every day, so what are New Jersey residents to do?

Electric cars may be the answer.

Electric cars are vehicles that are powered by electric motors instead of a traditional gasoline engine. Electric cars, which are also sometimes referred to as electric vehicles or EV, works quite differently from a standard car in which the United States and much of the world has fallen in love with, and also different from the much appraised hybrid cars. Electric cars function off of energy stored in rechargeable batteries, which are recharged by household electricity. For New Jersey drivers, this may help with the amount of emissions that standard cars send into the atmosphere.

Because many people do not use electric cars, it is usually unknown that there are many good things to owning one of these innovative automobiles. Besides not giving off tailpipe emissions, it would also reduce our dependency on oil. One of the biggest concerns of many in this country is the reason behind our country going into the Middle East. Oil has been the reason of much speculation, and if the majority of the people used electric cars, we would not need to rely on other countries for as much oil.

Some believe that as the new decade begins the era of the electric car will begin as well. Chris O’Hanlon, a senior at Ramapo College, has never owned an electric or hybrid car, but is not entirely opposed to the idea. His view keeps the environment in mind, and he thinks if more people begin using these cars, the atmosphere will truly benefit from it.

“I think New Jersey drivers are harming the environment because of all the cars we have,” O’Hanlon said. “Every person needs a car to get to their jobs, and other places on a daily occurrence, so no one is to blame for this. However, I do believe that if everyone in New Jersey had an electric or hybrid vehicle, New Jersey air would be much cleaner.”

Although O’Hanlon has a vision for New Jersey, many others do not share those same beliefs. According to the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car, the sale of the electric car is all but dead in the United States. This documentary focuses on the first electric car that was mass produced in the United States, the General Motors EV1, which was produced from 1996-1999.

One of the main focuses of the movie was that although this would be helpful to the environment, there was not a high demand for an electric car. One of the reasons for this is because oil and auto industries were working to kill the production of such cars. Oil companies were obviously against the EV1 because they had a monopoly over the transportation fueling market, and if electric cars were to ever get popular they would lose millions of dollars in profits. Auto companies campaigned against it by pointing out the weaknesses of electric cars, one of the main ones being that people would only get roughly 80-100 miles per charge.

Even though electric cars wouldn’t eliminate traffic, Schiro believes that with a little modification to current electric car ideas, electric cars could really become popular in the United States because of how helpful they would be to the environment.

“Electric cars could potentially help our environment, especially in New Jersey,” Schiro said. “There are so many cars here it’s kind of ridiculous. I understand that everyone needs cars, but because most people don’t use hybrids or electric cars, I can’t imagine all this driving helping our atmosphere.”

Dave Ragazzo is a graduating senior at Ramapo College who will have a degree in Communication Arts with a concentration in Journalism. Upon graduation, Dave would like to get into sports writing or sports reporting, as sports have been an instrumental part of his life. He currently has an internship at the Bergen Record, and hopes that this can lead to future job opportunities.

Experiential: Learning from Movies

By Dave Ragazzo

For the experiential component of this class, I watched two movies that focused on my overall final story idea which was global warming and carbon emissions. The first movie that I watched was "An Inconvenient Truth," which was a documentary directed by David Guggenheim. The movie follows former Vice President Al Gore as he campaigns around the country to educate American citizens about global warming. Although climate change is a hot-button issue, there are some things that make me not sure if it is entirely true. Before watching this movie, I had to say that I did not really believe in global warming because of the cold winters we have been experiencing the last few winters.

I have not always been the biggest Al Gore supporter, and loved when they made fun of him on the show "South Park" numerous times, but after watching this movie I must give the man some credit. He is very dedicated to his work, and the information he presents seems very formidable. He backs up much of what he says with charts, graphs, and other visuals that definitely help add to his points. One point he made that really stuck in my head was how he addressed global warming as not a political issue but more of a moral issue. He shows that if every person in the world cannot cut down on their own greenhouse gases, climate change will only get worse. I thought that was very interesting and never really thought about it like that. However, because I did some research for my final story about carbon emissions caused by people, and its effect on the environment, it made perfect sense to me.

Where I disagree with Gore is where he says that climate change can be reversed if proper action is taken soon enough. I tend to believe this is not the case and I believe that weather on this Earth works in cycles. Evidence has shown that in the past, at some point in time, there was an ice age so everything was obviously freezing cold. Then, the Earth got warmer and the ice melted and as we move closer to the sun, it will continue to get hotter. That is one of the main reasons I do not believe in global warming, but I do believe that people in this world need to take better care of the environment that we are in. That is where climate change comes in, and when we get hit with three feet of snow in the winter, I think a cleaner environment can actually control that.

The second movie I watched was "Who Killed the Electric Car," which focuses on electric cars, but mainly the production of one model that General Motors came out with. I thought this movie was important to watch because the carbon emissions that standard oil cars let into the environment can be very harmful. However, there has not been a solid solution that the United States or any other country in the world has been able to embrace. This movie shows one of those alternate car solutions, and although electric cars may seem good on paper, this movie shows why they were not popular in America. They could really do a lot of good for this country, but getting everyone on board is not an easy task, and this movie clearly illustrates that.

This movie gave a lot of information on electric cars, and was a helpful tool in my research of my final project, which was how I finished my experiential learning. With about an hour left, I did a lot of research on electric cars, and used information from this movie in my final piece. Although I thought I knew a lot about electric cars from things that I had heard, I actually did not. I did most of my research through the internet, and found out interesting facts such as electric cars work off rechargeable batteries, and a fully charged battery only goes about 80-100 miles. This is probably the main reason that they are not popular as people need cars to go farther than that on a single charge.

I also discovered that oil companies were against electric cars, which was another main reason that they never took off in America. For obvious reasons, oil companies wanted to maintain their monopoly on the American car industries, and electric cars would definitely kill that. However, electric cars would help this country not only by making the environment a cleaner place, but we would not have to be so dependant on other countries for oil. Oil was a huge reason that we went into the Middle East, which is often looked at as George Bush’s worst move as President. If electric cars were prominent in the United States, he wouldn’t have had to do that, and a lot of bad publicity would not have been thrown his way.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ramapo River Watershed Conference: Rockland County's Water Resources

By Katie Lukshis

Ramapo River’s 15th Annual Watershed Conference was held this past Friday at Ramapo College in Mahwah, NJ, featuring an informative array of speakers. According to the Ramapo River Watershed Intermunicipal Council, past conferences have always been well attended, since they are open to the public with a free admission to attract students and other concerned members of the community. The conference this year had a very great turn out for both the morning and afternoon presentations. The wine and cheese reception at the end was made up of a small crowd of presenters and faculty members, but allowed for great conversations.

The conference began with opening words from Ramapo College’s President, Dr. Peter Mercer, Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef, and Mahwah Township Mayor Richard Martel. Associate Professor of Geography, Howard Horowitz along with Ramapo River Watershed Keeper and Conference organizer, Geoff Welch followed up with updates on the watershed. Horowitz made an interesting comment about the watershed and why there seems to be very little progress, stating that there is a disconnect between science and public policy. He believes there are more rational approaches to the watershed problems this area faces, and that connection between science and public policy needs to be made in order to accomplish these rational solutions.

One presentation that seemed to stand out in terms of importance was from Paul Heisig, a hydrologist from the USGS New York Water Science Center. Heisig’s presentation, “Rockland County Water-Resources Study: Summary of Findings” was prompted by the concerns over the sustainability of water resources provided by the bedrock aquifer that provides almost 1/3 of the county’s water supply. The study’s purpose carried out by the USGS was to (1) define the hydrogeologic framework of the aquifer, (2) assess conditions within it, and (3) identify other potential sources of water for the county.

Paul Heisig, presenting his findings

An important factor in this study that was outlined in Heisig’s introduction was that the population growth in Rockland County has reached nearly 300,000 people, which severely contributes to significant hydrologic changes over the past 50 years. With population increases come higher demands for water; increases in impervious surfaces such as roads, which ultimately affect ground and surface water quality; and therefore an increase in sanitary sewers, which now serve most areas and discharge wastewater to the Hudson and Ramapo Rivers.

The total water use in 2005 was estimated to be at 12.7 billion gallons, with residential use being 63.5% of that total. The second biggest use of water came as a result of increases of summertime usage, due mostly to lawn watering or other uses that do not go into the sanitary sewer system. The three primary sources of public water supply for the county are (1) fractured sedimentary bedrock aquifer that underlies most of the developed areas of the county, mainly the Newark Basin, (2) alluvial (sand and gravel) aquifers in the Ramapo and Mahwah River Valleys, and (3) surface-water sources such as the Hackensack River at Lake DeForest.

The sedimentary bedrock aquifer underlies the lowland part of the county and while coarsening from east to west, consists of mudstone, sandstone and conglomerate strata. These bedding planes have dipped about 10 degrees towards the northwest instead of forming horizontally, and a characteristic such as this has the potential to influence the flow of groundwater. There are fractures found in the bedrock that run parallel to the bedding planes, and are the major water-bearing zones located in the aquifer.

As far as the health of the aquifer goes, Heisig and his findings have showed that there has not been a continuous downward trend in groundwater levels throughout the whole aquifer; groundwater levels decline on a local basis in response to stresses from production wells, which affect stream flow, annual recharge of the aquifer, and sanitary sewering. The greatest concern in regards to the sustainability of groundwater resources is the aquifer’s response to the annual increase in pumpage during the summer months (May – October). Results from USGS studies have indicated that water levels at one-third of supply wells would approach the depth of the well pump (essentially, the bottom of the well) before October.

As surface water sources are being affected by over-pumping, this leads to a decline in the annual recharge of the aquifer. Factors that affect the recharge totals include precipitation amount, wetland and surface water area, overburden thickness, and impervious surfaces of the area.

In the event that Rockland County’s water-use exceeds what is available to them in underground water levels, there are potential additional water sources to take advantage of. One solution may be to increase current pumpage from the bedrock aquifer, since there is the possibility that there are untapped areas for public supply. Other additional sources include the Ambry Pond Reservoir in the northern part of the county, stormwater retention or reuse, increase flow augmentation to the Ramapo River through releases from the Stony Brook watershed, desalinization of water from the Hudson River, or the indirect use of recycled water.

At the conclusion of Heisig’s presentation, he made it evident that the greatest concern and threat to Rockland County’s water resources was the spike of seasonal groundwater use. The overall health and availability of groundwater resources is largely dependent on the county’s ability to limit water-use during those summer peak-demanding months.

For more information about the Ramapo River Watershed Intermunicipal Council and its partners:

For more information about the project

Katie Lukshis is an undergraduate student at Ramapo College, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies. She has worked with Geoff Welch, Ramapo River Watershed Keeper, has volunteered at Camp Hill Farm in Pomona, NY, and has worked as a student aide in the George T. Potter Library since her freshman year. She is graduating in August, and is considering continuing her studies in the Sustainability Studies Masters program at Ramapo.

Experiential: Down on the Farm

By Katie Lukshis

For the past two weeks, I’ve been putting in volunteer hours at a bio-dynamic farm in Pomonoa, NY. Camp Hill Farm is a bio-dynamic farm, the first Community Sponsored Agriculture in Rockland County, and a member of the Rockland Farm Alliance. Camp Hill Farm is owned by John McDowell and his wife Alexandra Spadea, and they promote the cultivation of healthy communities and a holistic lifestyle.

Bio-dynamic farming/agriculture is a method of organic farming that recognizes the importance of the interrelationship between the soil, plants and animals. Everything on the farm is viewed as one whole living organism. A Community Sponsored Agriculture, or CSA, is when a farmer offers a certain number of shares of its crops to the public. Interested customers purchase shares, or a membership, and in return receive a box of seasonal produce each week during the season. It is a great program to support because food is kept local, and small farmers are able to stay in business.

Camp Hill Farm is a six-acre plot of land that grows a range of vegetables throughout the season, as well as herbs and flowers. The farm has a greenhouse and hoop house in order to get a start on growing other vegetables out of season.

My first day there consisted of weeding the perennial garden in order to prepare it for planting. I really enjoyed getting my hands in the dirt the second I got there. After weeding, Andy – the master farmer, and I gathered compost from the many piles on the side of the property, and distributed it over the raised beds. The next task involved trimming of stinging nettle.. a job that required gloves in order to prevent the obvious stinging effect. … After leaving that day, my hands black from working with the earth, the only thing I could think about was how soon I would be able to return.

On my second day there, I helped Andy stack about 20 columns of two rubber tires and fill them with soil, in order to be used for planting potatoes. We discussed how using rubber tires created the perfect conditions for growing potatoes, because tires retain heat. The next activity involved the transferring of onion sprouts from the greenhouse to the ground. Although I didn’t count how many we actually planted, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were close to 100. They looked like grass shoots, and there just seemed to be an endless supply. Our last job consisted of turning over topsoil in the hoop house. Their middle bed needed to be prepared for planting, so Andy and I used spading forks to pull up the different grasses in the bed. Some sections were tougher to pull up than others, like ryegrass, because of the roots.

I really enjoy volunteering at the farm… I feel like I belong there. I plan on continuing working there until I’m finished with school, and possibly volunteer there a few times over the summer. I’m glad I took the initiative to get this experience in before I lost my chance forever.

Check out their website!

Letter to the Editor: Cut Joy-Riding, Reduce Pollution

By Demelza Davies

Dear Editor,

The state of our environment as you know is a deterioration that needs to be halted. There are many issues people are passionate about when pertaining to our mother earth but tragically we cannot face all the problems at once. Therefore we need to prioritize and it is within this letter you will see that the most important thing we need to do to reduce our carbon footprint, is to stop the joyriding.

In case you are unaware, teens and young adults are using their cars for frivolous driving. When bored, some would simple "drive around" or when the distance is a mere walk would prefer to drive out of laziness. It is due to these frivolities that we are extricating too much carbon dioxide and other green house gases. Therefore I propose we have a gas ration to limit the amount of fuels emitted to the environment.

Understandably, people will object because they have the right to do with the car as they please. However, it is crutial for people to understand that until the atmosphere improves, we cannot pollute it anymore where it is unnecessary. It is the fuel in the air we breathe that enters our lungs and give us breathing difficulties and cancer. When there are people dying of lung failure or being effected by skin diseases, just think of all the people that cause it when they opt to drive a car rather than a five minute walk.

Thank you for your time reading my letter.

Demelza Davies

Green and Clean: Earth Day

By Demelza Davies
The Festivities Begin

April 22 is the official day to love the Earth. Although we should love the Earth everyday, Earth Day was created to bring awareness to the people about the importance of the environment. is a website that provides information on how to properly celebrate the holiday and gives information on how to treat the Earth well everyday.

The Earth Day Network was founded on the beliefs that no matter what race or gender you are, all should stick together to helping the planet. One of the main components to their campaign is their website ( where anyone can find information on how to better the planet.

The website gives concise information about the environment and if you're stuck on how to celebrate this underrated holiday, they give you tips to improve your typical behaviors. There is information varying from campaigning to simple environmental facts.

The website also features a calendar of events to aspire those to take part in fighting for the Earth. The next event is on the 24th of April and will be a fair in honor of the Earth in Butler, New Jersey. Most of their events take place in the New Jersey and New York region. These are charitable events and encourage all to participate.

The website accepts donations all year round and welcomes comments and participants for their cause. People are encourage to write to the website and voice their opinions on the Globe's health.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Global Warming: Brew Your Own and Other Things You Can Do at Home

By Amanda Valenti

Global warming is a growing issue in the world. Many people do not take it seriously so the human impact on the world has yet to see a significant decline. The most recognized reason for global warming that people understand is the release of greenhouse gases. This occurs through driving, flying, and general transportation as well as the production of many products. Anything that involved gasoline will emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Though this is the one reason most are familiar with, is it not even close to being the main reason for the change earth is undergoing on a constant basis.

People are continuing to purchase water bottles at an alarming rate and still most do not recycle considering only one in three water bottles is recycled. The price of bottled water is up to 10,000 times that of tap water, and with the current economic standpoint, it is a wonder why anyone would pay more for something they could get so cheap. With the high price of oil, this idea continues to seem counterproductive. It takes 17 million barrels per year to produce the amount of water bottles at the current rate, reported A little known fact that would likely prevent people from purchasing water bottles is that is takes three times the amount of water to produce a water bottle than the actual amount of water it contains.

Many people take clean water for granted. They do not realize how scarce fresh water truly is. Only 2.5 percent of the earth’s water is fresh and a mere 0.007 percent is ready for consumption. While the earth’s population increases and disease continues to spread, the amount of water per person will continue to drop at a steady rate. The constant pollution caused by humans has made drinking water harder to get and transport, thus contributing to global warming.

It has been predicted that within the next 100 years, Venice, Italy will go below sea level. The years following Venice would then bring San Francisco and Manhattan under water, according to Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”. London and Taiwan have roughly 1,000 years left above sea level, according to recent predictions based on the current rising sea levels. People do not understand that scientists release these figures considering the most conservative approach. If anything does not go according to plan, these occurrences could happen much sooner than later. If people do not start taking into consideration that their actions are causing the sea levels right rise with the continuing warmth of the earth, these occurrences could speed up at a rapid rate.

Globalization, though many would not consider it a part of global warming, is having a rather large impact on the earth. Starbucks and McDonald’s, though they have a large difference in annual income, are two very prominent globalized markets today, according to Starbucks brings in $4.1 billion annually while McDonald’s brings in $41 billion annually. It takes 19 countries to brew one cup of Starbucks coffee. The immense amount of transportation takes a toll on the earth. The fuel it takes to get these products from all over the world is not a cheap process. All the fuel burned to simply make one cup of coffee that incorporated a little piece of each country. It has been deemed unnecessary. They have a unique flavor, yes; however there are many other effective ways to brew a delicious cup of coffee that is more localized. By localizing the beans used it would cut down on fuel costs, thus lowering the prices of Starbucks coffee as a whole. Lower prices; in essence reveals a lower impact on the earth.

There are solutions to these problems, but whether or not the attempt would be too late is up to the human race to decide. Purchasing a reusable water bottle is a great way to cut down on the earth’s impact. By not purchasing expensive water bottles, not only is that money saved, it is space and earth and saved. The bottles will not end up in a landfill if they are not purchased. Every bottle of water not purchased is less water and oil used in their production.

Making coffee at home is also another great way to lower carbon footprints. The large chains use plastic and paper cups for the coffee that takes an immense amount of fuel to even get to their locations. Using a durable coffee mug and making coffee at home is another effective way to stop the pollution and the progress of global warming. Though it may seem impractical never to buy another cup of coffee from a large chain again, avoiding it when possible is a decent start.

Many people roll their eyes when they hear they should drive less, but it is one of the best ways to lessen impact. Walking and riding a bike is a great way to avoid jumping in the car every day. Of course there are times when driving is the only way, but there are many other times when using the power of feet can be a better option. Not only would fossil fuels be stunted from entering our atmosphere, but people would be getting more exercise. Considering the health of the earth and its population, getting more exercise is not the worst idea. Lessen the impact on the earth now and maybe she will stay around a little longer than she planned.

Amanda Valenti is a senior at Ramapo College of New Jersey. She is majoring in Communications with a concentration in Journalism. She currently writes for the Ramapo News, as well as Ramapo Lookout. Amanda also writes for F&F Ventures, a company that distributes her blogs according to topics. She looks forward to expanding her Journalistic experience after graduation by attending Ramapo for her Masters.

Experiential: Learning from Global Warming

By Amanda Valenti

To fulfill my experiential component for Environmental Writing, I did several activities this semester. For the final project I viewed Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” as well as “The Great Global Warming Swindle”. After watching these documentaries, I decided it was not enough to write a well informed magazine article. I took to the web and did extensive research on the global warming topic. After reading many articles and documents on the subject along with the notes I had taken from the documentaries, I felt informed enough to put together a well researched magazine article.

In addition to doing research for the article, I decided to take my own advice and lessen the impact I am having on the earth. I stopped buying water bottles and walk where I can. I also eat less red meat and more vegetables. Coffee has always been a weakness of mine, but after many experiments I think I can make a better cup of coffee than Starbucks. I put my coffee in a reusable thermos and brew it at my house now. Not only have I saved a lot of money these past few weeks, I like to think of myself as an experienced barista now.

It has been a rather hard task to get others to do the same, but I realized I can only change my own ways and encourage others to do the same. This was actually a great experience and had a larger impact on my life than I thought it would. At first I was just doing research for a magazine article, but it wound up being much more than that. This was a wonderful experience and I am glad I chose the topic I did.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Experiential: My Final Project

By Demelza Davies

My experiential component was thorough research to develop my final project. I created a survey on and was able to collect accurate percentages concerning my topic, college students and the environment. I put the link on my Facebook as well as asked my friends to spread it around to their friends. I also emailed the link of the survey to my classes. I aspired to have more surveys done, but I was satisfied with the number I received. I also researched various campaigns and images to give me further insight on my topic. Although I did not use this research in my final presentation, I was able to develop my ideas and create different tips for students to be more environmentally sound.

Overall, I enjoyed doing this project as it gave me insight on my own behavior that effects the environment negatively. I myself am guilty of every one of the topics presented (except for the smoking), and I intend to use the tips I displayed towards my own lifestyle. I am very interested in learning about the small ways someone like me who will never be an environmentalist can change to help make the Earth a little healthier.

Experiential: Recycling Program Keeps Ramapo Green

By Krysta Daniels

Ramapo College is lucky enough to have a recycling program where students under the supervision of facilities pick up students’ recycling on a weekly basis. I’ve been a student here at Ramapo since 2008 and it has been a huge inspiration to see this group of students really help Ramapo become more green.

Other colleges that have a similar program include EARTH University, The Evergreen State College, Harvard University, University of British Columbia, California State University, Green Mountain College, Yale University, Aquinas College Glasgow University. Just by the looks of these colleges listed, you get a feel of prestige and Ramapo is included in this category.

The recycling crew at Ramapo College collects bottles, cans and paper and then sorts them. ”From my knowledge, this job was created by a couple of students who thought it would be beneficial to the school as well as the environment to recycle on campus,” said sophomore Andrew Wong.

This group is important on campus for the simple reason of green awareness. Students, staff and faculty should be aware of the different types of items to recycle and what a better way then to witness students on campus doing it for you. With this program you get to become educated on recycling facts, statistics and even the causes of global warming.

I was able to walk around with the crew on a very rainy Tuesday in March and see exactly what they do. They did everything from ride the elevator with recycling bins to sort through the bottles and cardboard to teaming up and giving a lending hand to another section of the residents halls. My trip with them started in the Village, which is located not too far from the entrance from Ramapo College. I brought my umbrella and a sweater and got to work with them.

I was privileged enough to chat with three of the student staff that recycle Ramapo’s goods. They shared with me their likes and dislikes about the job and what made them get started with this special environmentally friendly job.

The elected supervisor for the students is senior Jennifer De Shields. “At first it was about the money, but after I started working my concern for the environment grew. Although getting paid is very nice, the good it does for the environment is starting to outweigh the money,” said De Shields.

“Although we have supervisors in facilities, the job is student-run, so I like that we’re the ones who are more or less in charge. Although I like working outside on nice days, it’s pretty terrible working outside when it’s raining, snowing, icing, or bitterly cold and we’ve had a lot of that weather lately,” said De Shields.

The pay varies with academic year standing. Despite the job’s environmental aspect, there are pros and cons. “Well, the major enjoyment from this job is the feeling of helping out the environment. A dislike is sorting through student bins. For example, when a student puts plastics into a garbage can,” said Wong.

The entire experience took about two hours to complete the Village complex, but overall I had such a good time. I was able to see the exact grunt work taken in order to get this job done. Regardless if it were rain or shine, this job is a necessity on our campus. We are lucky that students have this passion for a greener world and do this job to better it. If you are looking for a job on campus, they are hiring students; simply contact the facilities office at Ramapo College.

Krysta Daniels is an undergraduate student at Ramapo College, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts with a concentration in Journalism. She has worked as a staff writer on the Ramapo Newspaper, Ramapo College Marketing and Communication department, as well as contributed to Ramapo College's Bischoff Halls monthly newsletter. She is currently a Resident Assistant and enjoys her job with Residence Life. She was inducted into the Resident Assistant Honors Society, Rho Alpha Sigma in April 2010. Her goal is to continue her education at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in 2011 and start a Christian Magazine when she is finished her masters.

Letter to the Editor: Preventing Oil Spills

By Jonathan Madden

Dear Editor:

According to the National Ocean Service, the United States alone uses about 700 million gallons of oil everyday; similarly the world uses nearly 3 billion gallons each day. This has to be transported somehow. Most often than not, oil is exported by tankers across the ocean to their destinations.

Most of the biggest oil spills into our oceans are the results of tankers carrying large amounts of oil, such as the spill caused by the Exxon Valdez. In 1989 the Valdez spilt approximately 11 million gallons of crude oil covering 1,100 miles of Alaska's pristine souther coast. This oil spill, recorded as the fourth largest spill of petroleum globally, took its toll on the environment with a casualty list of 900 bald eagles, 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, and 300 harbor seals according to

Since so much is at stake when dealing with the oceans surrounding us, I feel as if it is time to do something to reduce the risk of petroleum polluting our waters and hurting the environment. Though our country does heavily depend upon oil, we should find ways of limiting our oil intake so we do not put our environment further at risk of being polluted by such a harmful substance. Perhaps we could also work on developing new methods of transportation that wouldn't be as risky as attempting to carry it across our oceans.

Examples of how harmful petroleum can be if released into the environment has already been seen and has taken its toll. How much more must we sacrifice to address this potential problem and work on developing new ways to further limit it's risk?

Global Warming Takes Its Toll on Bird Species

By Jonathan Madden

Global warming causing climate changes around the world may not just effect temperatures, but migratory birds as well. According to The National Wildlife Federation, climate change is changing waterfowl habitats, food sources, and migration cycles.

"Migratory birds are particularly vulnerable because of their use of several habitats during migration as stopover sites for feeding, resting or to sit out bad weather," Said Bert Lenten, Executive Secretary of the AEWA Agreement.

Though many species of waterfowl and migratory birds are effected by teh change in climate, according to the U.N., habitat change is expected to hit the Actic and other high latitude regions the hardest. Habitat loss within this region will furthermore hurt migratory birds by elminating stopover spots and preventing them from finishing their migrations.

In some cases, climate changes have already shown signs amongst certain species which include birds starting their migrations earlier, change of routes, or the abandonment of migration.

"Examples include cranes which normally migrate to Spain and Portugal but now stay in Germany... they are not used to low temperatures, there is a danger that most of them wouldnot survive a hard winter in Germany," Lenten said.

Areas of North America may be greatly impacted by the climate change as well, including species of birds living wihtin the Pacific, Central, Mississippi and Atlantic Flyways. In areas like the Atlantic Flyway, which spans from Florida up the coast to Quebec, global warming is expected to affect the timing and distance of waterfowl migration. Ducks are amongst the species of birds affected in North America such as the Canvasback Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Mallard, and Northern Pintail.

Migratory species are particularly more vulnerable to climate change than other species of bird because they require separate and defined breeding, wintering and stop-over sites. Any changes to one of these habitats could be disasterous and put them at extreme risk. With certain species already on teh threatened list, many more may receive endangered status if temperatures continue to rise.

According to a report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, "In the past year alone, 26 of the 1,226 species on their red list of threatened bird species became more endangered, while only 2 species improved in status."

Though evidence of the damages to bird species caused by climate change continues to mount, further damage can be inhibited. According to the U.N. it's not too late to help birds cope with climate change. The protecting of key stopover and nesting habitats could prove to make a critical difference in some species' survival.

News Release: Backyard Composting A Way to Go Green

By Jonathan Madden

For Immediate Release
Contact: Leonard J. Buck Garden


Instructional Meeting on Backyard Composting To Be Held May 1, 2010 at Leonard J. Buck Garden

Far Hills, NJ- An informational meeting on how to properly Backyard Compost will be held at Leonard J. Buck Garden at 11 Layton Road, Far Hills, NJ. This event will be open to the public but pre-registration and a 12$ fee is required.

The meeting will take place on Saturday between the hours of 9:30 - 11:30am. The event will include teaching those interested on how to create and produce soil amendments to enrich garden soil and how to protect our environment.

Whether making a compost pile, using a bin, or verminculture, be prepared to get dirty while learning how to go green. Speakers will include Buck Garden Foreman Jim Fleming providing you with all knowledge necessary to get started.

Additional information can be found about the event at

Experiential: Timber Rattlesnakes

By Stephanie Noda

For my experiential component for Environmental Writing, I attended the Ramapo Watershed Conference. One of the most interesting lectures was by Randy Stechert, a specialist on timber rattlesnakes, who talked about the anthropogenic impacts of rattlesnakes in the New York/New Jersey Highlands.

Timber rattlesnakes come in two basic color morphs: yellow morph timber rattlesnake and the black morph rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes do not actively go after their prey; they will wait on a log without moving in order to ambush their prey. This method is unlike most other snakes, since black snakes, garden snakes, and water snakes will actively go after their prey. The timber rattlesnake is smart about where they set up an ambush; they will find a rodent pathway, where rodents are bound to turn up. They will sometimes wait over 24 hours for their prey. The timber rattlesnake population of New York State is quite small – they only occupy 7% of the state – but this is unfortunately on the land with the most development. This area is located in the southern part of New York State called Orange County, which is considered one of the fastest growing counties in New York State.

The demise of some of the populations of timber rattlesnakes in the past are linked to “collecting.” It could not officially be called poaching till 1983, when a law was made that proclaimed killing timber rattlesnakes was illegal. 4,000 timber rattle snake were taken from New York State by one man alone over the course of 45 years, Stechert said. This man also “collected” from northern New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts as well. According to estimates by Stechert, who knows the whereabouts of about 65% of timber rattle snakes’ “den colonies” in New York State, there are only about 10,000 timber rattle snakes left. This number shows how much damage killing 4,000 could have on snake populations. Today, some populations of timber rattlesnakes are recovering, but some are declining. Due to the effects of the “collecting,” they will probably never been taken off the threatened list, he said.

Development is one of the major problems affecting the population of timber rattlesnakes. A man recently put up 240 homes in Orange County; the development had taken place on a major conservancy property, which caused officials to make the owner donate 222 acres to the conservancy. Stechert did a four year study in this area, where he marked and recaptured timber rattlesnakes. There were two methods he used in tracking the snakes. The fist was just marking the snakes with Sharpie marker on their rattle. The mark will stay in place as long as the rattlesnake does not shed the rattle; Stechert had found these marks on snakes for up to 9 years now. Another way he finds the snakes is through the use of radio telemetry. Usually finding a snake in the woods is like finding a needle in a haystack, he said. If three rattlesnakes are found during one hike through the woods, that’s a lot for the year as a whole. Since the snakes are elusive, the technology of the radio telemetry is necessary to find the timber rattlesnakes. To date, Stechert has found 20,025 timber rattlesnakes, with about 600 recaptures.

To separate the snakes on the 222 acres of conservation from 240 homes, snake beds were created between the snake dens and the development. The snake beds were essentially a giant fence to keep the snakes out: it was made out of 48 inch wide metal mesh and 1 ½ inch hardware claw, which was held vertically in place with reinforcement bars every 8 feet, with the bottom 6 inches sinking into the hummus layer of the soil. However, Stechert’s study found that there were many rattlesnake locations in the development that were past the fence. The development had an excellent foraging habitat for the timber rattlesnakes, since the area of development was on a lowland. The rattlesnakes were determined to get past the fence, finding chipmunk holes to climb through or even traveling thousands of feet around the snake beds to get through to the development area. If the timber rattlesnakes continue to lose their land to development, there is no telling how much more the population of this species will decline.

Exploring the Great Swamp and the Raptor Trust

By Jonathan Madden

Somerset County, a land-locked county in central New Jersey, may not seem too vibrant to search out places where one could go out and enjoy the surrounding environment. Yet in actuality there are a few points of interest you shouldn't pass up.

The Great Swamp

The Great Swamp is a big wetland left behind from glacial Lake Passaic from about 15,000 years ago. This watershed spans across Morris and Somerset counties including 10 different towns and is a compilation of five streams; Upper Passaic River, Black Brook, Great Brook, Loantaka Brook, and Primrose Brook which flow and meet with each other within the Great Swamp. But perhaps what the Great Swamp is most recognized for is its wide variety of plants and especially animals. The Swamp is home to about 39 different types of animals which include wild turkey, otter, beaver, muskrat, wood duck, and pheasants. Birdwatchers may also find locations within the Great Swamp intriguing as it hosts over 90 species of birds, including birds of prey such as ospreys and red tailed hawks. To these birds, the Great Swamp acts as a safe haven and a place to live, as well as a key part in the migration route of many species who reside there temporarily. Yet of course this section of mother nature is also at risk, according to Naturalist Cathy Schrein, for a number of reasons, some of which include acid rain, water pollution from surrounding rivers and water run-off, and invasive species of quick growing non-native plants which choke out other species.

The Environmental Center in the Great Swamp

Located in the heart of the Great Swamp is Lord Stirling Park, where the Somerset County Park Commission set up an Environmental Education Center nesting in the tall grasses of the surrounding swamp. This building, which is maintained and operated by the Commission, is about 18,000 square feet and is home to a number of naturalists offices and a wealth of information about the Great Swamp including its long history. For years these naturalists have created classes and provided instruction to the surrounding community about the environment and the importance of conservation. The Environmental Center in the Great Swamp is also known as an educational center as well, hosting its own form of pre-school for children who live within the area.

"Everyone who lives in Basking Ridge knows about the Environmental Center and have been there on multiple occasions because there is just no place like it nearby. My little girl attended pre-school there and in some cases, I think we got more than we originally bargained for since she got the education necessary while also learning about the environment and the importance of conservation, something I wish they taught me in school." said Kim Madden, a teacher in Bernards Township and mother to 5 kids.

What seems to attract most of the attention to the Environmental Center lies outside the facilities' walls. There one can take part in a satisfying and unique experience while hiking, using the center's 8 1/2 mile trail system. No more than 100 feet in, the hiker is engulfed by tall grass as the boardwalk pathway weaves around the swamp to places otherwise unreachable by other means as you navigate from start to finish through an experience you ordinarily might have had to travel a fair distance for. If hiking by yourself isn't enough, throughout the summer the Environmental Center offers guided nature walks hosted by a naturalist, so a visitor not only has a chance to see the swamp first hand, but can learn about it and it's wildlife simultaneously.

While at my visit there I had the opportunity to speak to a college grad of the local Ridge High School, David Cymer, who told me that he still visits here on occasion because of the unique experience this area offers. "I moved away from this town after college, having frequently visited this refuge, I still find it a necessity to come back here whenever I'm in town to visit family. This place is one of those places that make you wonder why people don't do more to preserve the environment," said Cymer.

To find out more information about the Environmental Center and Educational programs, visit:

A Unique Experience to See Birds of Prey at the Raptor Trust

While in the area of the Great Swamp, one can also not pass up the opportunity of seeing first hand, some species of birds you may only read about in books or see from a long distance. The Raptor Trust is located in Millington, New Jersey near Lord Stirling Park. The Raptor Trust is an non-profit organization to protect and nurture birds of prey, created by Len Soucy. In the past, many states including New Jersey, looked at birds of prey-also known as "raptors" as vermin and killers. In some cases, states would place bounties on these birds for their destruction. Now the Raptor Trust is home to a wealth of information about these amazing species of birds, as well as 70 exterior cages and aviaries which house 130,000 cubic feet of space where visitors have the opportunity to get a close look at some of the greatest predators of our skies. The Raptor Trust also offers a series of classes to educate the public on things such as the story behind the organization, raptors, and the hawks and owls of New Jersey. What the organization is best known for is its rehabilitation program for injured birds. The Raptor Trust encourages anyone who has come across an injured bird of prey to contact them so they can take it to their rehabilitation center where it can be nurtured back to health, or if unsuccessful, has a permanent and safe home.

During my visit to the Raptor Trust, I had the opportunity to speak with a volunteer, Tom Fritz, who told me about the importance of this organization and what opportunities it presents for visitors. "The Raptor Trust is an excellent way for the people to see up close these often miss-understood predators of the sky. So many times I hear around me a child pointing up to the sky at an encircling hawk and saying mom what's that... well, here's an opportunity for the children to see what Hawks and other species actually look like first hand," said Fritz.
To find out how to donate to the Raptor Trust or seek additional information, visit:

Of the many places one can visit to experience the environment by their own means, any interested person native to central New Jersey shouldn't pass up the Environmental Center or Raptor Trust and the unique opportunities it presents. It's not often you have a chance to see what an owl actually looks like first hand or go on a hike that navigates its way through the swamp on board walks above the water.

Jonathan Madden is a senior at Ramapo College of New Jersey, studying Journalism and Media Studies. He has had a variety of classes dealing with audio, video, and production and aspires to one day be a magazine or newspaper columnist.

College Students: What a Waste

By Demelza Davies

During the month of April, an online survey was conducted in hopes of receiving fresh information about college students' behaviors and how they may affect the environment. Forty responses later, it is proven that your average student's actions result negatively towards our planet Earth. For example, out of the people (mostly were students) who took the survey, 71% drive or have driven a car. This percentage is not surprising as the car is a basic necessity to most. Most of the questions were geared to college students so that they can evaluate their lifestyle and how friendly or unfriendly it is to the environment. Questions concerning laundry, smoking, and coffee consumption were asked to bring about the awareness that no matter how insignificant a lifestyle choice may seem, it can greatly affect the environment negatively. The percentages presented in this report are mere results of a survey that was taken online. In this survey of 40, 83% of the takers were college students between the ages 18 and 25.

The Impact of the Automobile
Cars are a necessity to a college students lifestyle and 71% of students drive cars on a daily basis to travel to class work or home. To fight the over indulgence on gas emissions colleges such as Ramapo College have incorporated public shuttles for their students to serve those without a car and hopefully to encourage others to use the shuttle rather than their vehicle. By using public transportation, there will automatically be a sudden decrease in the pollution that goes into the air. The Ramapo College shuttle is free for Ramapo students and visits the local shopping square (Ramsey Interstate Plaza) as well as the train station and bigger malls. If your school or institution doesn't have a shuttle, carpooling is an option to take into consideration. You spend less on gas when splitting it with people and its no fun riding in a car by yourself anyway. Start a carpooling sign up program at your school; it can be a great way to meet people in your hometown.

Snack Time
Having a healthy granola bar in between classes is a great way to be energized for your studies. But what are you planning to do with your wrapper? Sure you can throw it in the garbage but what happens to the trash? It sits in a landfill is what happens. To help decrease the amount of trash that ended up in the landfills, try not buying the individually wrapped snacks. Go for the family size option. You can get a pound of granola for an economize rate compared to the wrapped bars. Just place the portion you want in a Tupperware container. In the end you will be saving money and helping the environment.

Would you like a Grande or a Venti?
Coffee is a big thing for college students. We not only want it, but need it. However, the impact the disposable coffee cups, stirrers, and lids have on the environment is detrimental. Not only college students but most people use disposable coffee materials. It is better and cheaper to either make your own coffee or purchase an inexpensive travel mug. Most coffee places such as Starbucks even added a small discount to those who use a travel mug rather than a disposable mug. The same goes for bottled water. People have been afraid of tap water for years, but honestly, as long as you live in an area with a decent reservoir, drinking bottled water is purely a fad and a waste of money. In fact, a lot of people are unaware of the added chemicals you are ingesting through the plastic of the bottle. So when you purchase your travel mug, don't forget to pick up a reusable water bottle.

Toilet Paper

We flush things down our septic tanks multiple times a day. It is an accepted practice in our society, however, the environment does not want to accept our waste and the paper, so to make a
compromise let's change the paper. First off, ladies, don't flush your feminine products down the toilet, the box may say flush-able, but that tampon can block the pipes and create a real problem. Also, it is just added litter to the earth. Use a garbage receptacle. Place it discreetly in your bathroom and empty it when needed. When it comes to the toilet paper, try to only purchase brands that are chlorine-free and made from recycled materials. It is ideal to not flush anything down the toilet, but let's take it one step at a time.

Don't be such a Butt
It is common knowledge that cigarette smoke pollutes the air. But has anyone noticed the amount of cigarette butts that aren't discarded in the proper receptacles? Approximately 30% of North Americans are smokers and I can guess that each of them, in some point of their life, has tossed a butt on the grass without a second thought. Cigarettes are a danger to the environment even before they are created. Millions of acres of land are needed to grow the crops and a lot of energy is used. It would be great if everyone quit smoking, but unfortunately that is not possible and smoking remains as a stress relief for many. It is understandable that smoking is addictive and some people just can't go cold turkey and sometimes places do not offer the proper receptacle for ash and butts. What I suggest is to purchase a portable ash tray. They are really handy and only cost a couple of dollars. They come in various designs so that you don't feel your fashion has been compromised. The idea is that they trap in the ash and when you are able to get to a garbage receptacle you empty it out like a pencil sharpener.

Please take the responsibility to properly throw out your butts and try smoking in a private indoor place. Just be wary that second hand smoking is still at risk so in order to protect your friends and family keep the smoke to yourself and use a smoke eater or an air purifier. Smoke eaters can be expensive, but it is easy to go online and find one at the best price. Also consider it an investment especially if you're a heavy smoker because these babies make your living space and fresh and clean smelling as if you don't smoke at all.

Perfume and its fancies
Many people don't know that 95% of perfumes and colognes and other products that give off a scent (i.e. cleaning fluids) are made from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are hazardous to the environment and approximately 70% of college students use perfume. While a lot of people feel it's important to have a nice smelling body, they need to be aware of the consequences. Honestly, just investing in scented body wash is just as beneficial to smelling nice and is better for the environment. Or instead of spraying, just open the bottle and use little dabs; you don't need that much anyway.

Similar to water bottles, the added plastic used in disposable eating utensils add to the landfills. What is getting popular in the work and school environment is using reusable lunch packs including reusable plates and knives and forks. This is a big money saver and you put less plastic into the environment.

Washing machines
The survey conveys that everyone who participated uses a washing machine and dryer at least once a week. But that is not necessary to what our clothing really needs. People don't understand that if you hang up your clothing when you wear them after a day, they are just as good to wear the next day (you don't have to of course). If you hang up jeans after each day you wear them, they can be washed as little as once every six weeks. That is, considering that you shower every day and don't do strenuous activities while wearing them. By limiting the amount of times you use a washing machine, you use less water and energy and your clothes don't get worn as quickly, because they are washed less. Not everyone has the time to be devoted to the environment. If you make small changes to your every day life, the environment can be helped and save one water bottle at a time. A lot of people may think that their actions are insignificant to the environment and one cigarette butt won't make a difference. But if 76% of people use disposable eating utensils, imagine if they opted to switch to real silverware. That could make a world of difference. Overall, what the environmentalists are doing is a great impact, but what an every day person could be doing would be a greater one.


Coffee Mug Cartoon Image taken from Visit for other funny cartoon images on various subjects.

Toilet Paper Image
taken from It is a site about various issues including governmental.
Naked Butts Image
Image taken from the Surfers Against Sewage website ( This organization works hard to maintain clean beaches.
Portable Ashtray Image taken from

Demelza Davies is a senior at Ramapo College of New Jersey. She is an aspiring author who likes music, reading, and of course writing. She will be receiving her Bachelors Degree in Communications with a focus on writing and music in August of 2010.