Saturday, April 30, 2011

Global Warming: Small Steps Towards Conquering a Big Threat

By Jessica Vasquez

Since 1950, the world's climate has been warming and has had an increasing negative effect on the planet and its inhabitants. Today, carbon dioxide is abundant in Earth’s atmosphere primarily as a result of burning fossil fuels and deforestation. Such activity adds to the atmosphere's invisible blanket of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases. Recent research has shown that methane, which flows from landfills, livestock, and oil and gas facilities, is a close second to carbon dioxide in impact on the atmosphere.

While this is a scientific problem, no one should be intimidated from researching the issue. In fact, presentations on the matter have used various metaphors to get the point across so people all over the globe can understand what is happening and take a part in solving the problem to maximum human capabilities. The sun’s solar energy reaches Earth in the form of light and is absorbed by the surface. It is converted into heat and released from the surface. Some of this heat passes through the atmosphere and some is absorbed by greenhouse gases. With the increase in greenhouse gases, more and more heat is being trapped; this is known as global warming and climate change.

Now more than ever, scientists are studying the heat collecting in the seas and atmosphere to predict the strength and number of tropical cyclones to come. The latest science suggests that while the number of storms will decrease, they will reach the most dangerous categories of intensity. Such natural disasters are just that, natural, and the occurrence is not to be blamed on human activities. Reductions and reactions, though, are something that humans play a role in. In order to protect ourselves from these occurrences, the nation must come together to lower our impact on the world, such as consumption and waste. Such actions will slow down climate change and could reduce the harm caused by natural disasters. Also, by knowing that the intensity of storms are increasing, regions can take the necessary precautions to evacuate or prepare the people who could be affected.

As described on the official webpage,, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) treaty began over a decade ago “to consider what can be done to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable.” Representatives from each nation include government delegates, environmental organizations, and business representatives. In 1997, UNFCCC met in Japan to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol. This treaty put restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions.

While a majority of the world’s industrialized countries accepted this treaty, economic powerhouses, led by China and India, oppose mandatory obligations to curb their emissions. They promised to do what they could, but not at the risk of their economy suffering. Emissions of carbon dioxide per person range from less than 2 tons per year in India, where 400 million people lack access to electricity, to more than 20 tons per year in the United States.

A second part of the Kyoto Protocol required the wealthiest nations to provide assistance to developing countries for a cleaner energy future. The richest countries are able to use wealth and technology to insulate themselves from climate hazards, while the poorest, which have done the least to cause the problem, are the most exposed.

From Kyoto to Cancun

Another conference took place in CancĂșn, Mexico, in late 2010, where the Cancun Agreements were drawn up.

The main objectives of the Agreement include:
-encouraging the participation of all countries in reducing emissions
- mobilize the funds to enable developing countries to take greater action
-assist particularly vulnerable regions of the world in adapting to inevitable climate change
- reduce human-generated greenhouse gas emissions to keep the global average temperature rise below two degrees
- establish institutions to ensure these objectives are met successfully

The agreement fell short of the drastic changes scientists say are needed to avoid dangerous climate change in coming decades. Yet, it laid the groundwork for stronger measures in the future. The CancĂșn conference ended in December 2010, with only modest achievements.

While warnings from the scientific community are becoming louder, doing anything with this information is on hold. Before a worldwide effort to reduce emissions can begin, technological, economic and political issues have to be resolved. In the face of a global economic struggle, this is not likely to commence anytime soon.

The United Nation Framework Convention of Climate Change website was updated on April 4, 2011. Participating nations met in Bangkok this month to follow up on promises made at the 2010 Convention in Cancun. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres called on governments to tackle work agreed in 2010 and address shortfalls in climate action. Ms. Figueres said that governments have two main tasks before them in 2011.

The first task relates to the emission reductions which would allow the world to stay below the maximum two degree Celsius temperature rise. Secondly, the building of institutions to follow the progress of the Agreement will take place immediately, as will the delivery of funding and technology to help developing countries deal with climate change. The latter includes educating the people of those countries on sustainability.

Next Step: Bonn

By the end of this convention, an agenda was created to enact these changes on a timeline. Ms. Figueres calls this “a significant step.” The United Nation Framework Convention of Climate Change meets again in Bonn, Germany, on 6 June 2011.

Some fluctuations in the Earth's temperature are inevitable regardless of human activity, but centuries of rising temperatures and seas lie ahead if the release of emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation continues unabated, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The panel shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore for alerting the world to warming's risks.

Over the next decade, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to regulate sources of greenhouse gases, imposing efficiency and emissions requirements. Until the UNFCCC starts taking action on a global scale, it seems that countering global warming and climate change is up to the people’s smaller actions and lifestyle changes. Maybe then those with the greater power will see that we are prepared for much bigger, even drastic changes.

About the Author
Jessica Vasquez is a graduating Communication Arts major at Ramapo College of New Jersey with a concentration in Writing. She aspires to be a creative writer of screenplays and novels. Her academic experience includes journalism, film, screenplays, and short fiction.

Experiential Journal: Covering Environmental Stories in a Small Town

By Courtney Leiva

During the last half of the semester, I had the great opportunity to dive into the realm of environmental reporting. Mahwah Patch, a town online news source, provides local news on a variety of topics and issues.

In April, I began reporting officially for the site. As a freelance reporter, I was allowed by my editor to report on issues that I wanted to cover on the site. Wanting to take what I have learned in this class and incorporate it in real life reporting, my editor and I decided that I would report on environmental stories in Mahwah.

On the Mahwah patch site, the month of April was dedicated to reporting environmental stories to correspond to Earth Day. My first assignment was reporting on Ramapo College’s green incentives.

My editor wanted me to write about the school's green policies as well as how students are making a greener difference at Ramapo.This article required a lot of research about the college policies as well as environmental groups on campus. I contacted Professor Ashwani Vasishth, Director of Master of Arts in Sustainability Education, at Ramapo College as well as 1Step members Noah Luogameno and Amanda Nesheiwat.

Reporting this story allowed me to see how Ramapo has incorporated green incentives in areas like student living and school curriculum. I learned also that Ramapo College works with Mahwah environmental groups such as M.E.V.O (Mahwah Environmental Volunteers Association) to help further their environmental cause.

The second article that I have reported for Patch thus far was about where the trash and recycling goes in Mahwah. For this assignment, I contacted the trash supplier for the town Suburban Disposal. After speaking with Suburban Disposal manager Danny Parisi, I learned that trash in Mahwah was sent to a plant called C& A Carbone Inc, on Western Highway, in Western Nyack, N.Y. In order to find out where Mahwah’s recycling goes, I contacted Mahwah Public Works Director Keith Hallissey. The story was a shorter piece, but still nonetheless gave me insight into reporting environmental stories.

The last story that I reported during the semester was a business-profile story but it was still an environmentally themed story. Give a Green Bag, run by Suzanne Lippe, is an online store, which offers green products. The store is a member of the Better Business Bureau and the Green Business Bureau; it is a fair-trade and ethical business practice that offers anything from biodegradable dog poop bags to hemp-made sponges. I have reported feature stories with Patch before, but this story allowed me to cover a profile of a business with an environmental message.

Although Earth month at Mahwah is officially over, I have learned a lot from the three environmental articles that I wrote for the site. I learned that despite how small the town, there are still environmental issues no matter where you go. By taking what I have learned in this class and incorporating it into actual reporting, I was able to see environmental reporting works. I will continue to report for Patch after the semester and will try to report on environmental issues whenever I can.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Experiential Journal: PowerShift 2011

By Amanda Nesheiwat

Thousands of students gathered in Washington D.C’s convention center from April 15-18th to come together to talk about clean energy and our concern about the environment. Friday night was full of fun and energetic speakers such as Al Gore who urged us to heed the warnings that scientists have been telling us about climate change and how it is the youth’s responsibility to set things right for future generations as well as our own. There were a number of young people who also spoke, encouraging us to take a stand and that this is our moment to unite to set things right. The theme of the entire weekend seemed to be that “every generation needs a revolution.”

The crowd of incredibly inspiring students roared with each speaker, but Bill Mckibben’s address was special. Bill Mckibben, author and environmental activist, showed up on Saturday night with an important message for the youth. He said we have an incredible responsibility, but it is also a terrible burden. “Very few people can ever say that they are in the single most important place they could possibly be, doing the single most important thing they could possibly be doing,” he said ,“that’s you, here, now!” Looking around me, some people were holding back tears. He continued on to say, “You are the movement we need if we are going to win in the few years that we have.” His speech set a mood for the entire room. It was then we all realized just how important this weekend was, and how important the actions that we make from now on truly were.

The next morning, we were all split up by region into different halls to learn leadership skills and the skills we needed to organize so that we can take this back to our campuses and organizations. The whole idea of Powershift was to make sure that every person left with the inspiration, motivation, and skills that this movement calls for. I had the privilege of representing New Jersey and being the state facilitator for our state breakout session on Sunday evening. Many colleges and universities from the state showed up and I was responsible for facilitating an open discussion on how we can come up with the solutions and create the network that we desperately need. Creating a state network was my number one priority and we successfully achieved this. The state of NJ now has a facebook page called, New Jersey Sustainable Collegiate Partners, where colleges will be posting events from their schools and participating in discussions and giving advice to schools that need it. At the end of our session, Josh Fox, director of the documentary Gasland, joined us to speak about what our next steps should be to ensure that hydraulic fracturing does not happen in our state and to vote and rally against it.

Monday, the final day of Powershift, was the most incredible day of all. We gathered outside the Chamber of Commerce and chanted, “The U.S Chamber of Commerce, Doesn’t Speak For Me!” After a short skit that I, along with a few other students from Ramapo College took part in, We started the march, chanting and singing towards the B.P headquarters where we chanted, “Make B.P. pay, not the EPA!” We continued on through the streets of D.C. together and eventually made it to the White House. After performing the skit there once more, most of us continued onto the Department of Interior, where hundreds of students stormed in and infiltrated the building. Cops frantically tried to take control of things without much success. 21 people got arrested and were released the same day at 11:00pm after singing folk movement songs the entire time in their cells.

Among the brave people that walked with us were Bill Mckibben and Tim Dechristopher. Tim Dechristopher, a fearless man who, through his activism, has been sentenced to prison for 10 years. When he addressed the “powershifter’s”, he said “We are the generation that has the task of steering our civilization through the greatest period of change humanity has ever experienced.” He said “…we’re not going to meet it in a way that fits into our school schedules and we’re not going to meet it in way that we can avoid sacrifices.”

This line rang true through the audience. The severity of these issues calls for a time of urgency. We are going to need to make a lot of sacrifices for this movement to work. The definition of sacrifice means to give something up for something sacred. Just as the men and women of our history have sacrificed and fearlessly stood up for what they justifiably believed was right, we must do the same. They started our revolution, now it is time to start ours. PowerShift was an amazing experience that we will never forget. It was the event that brought the youth leaders in this country together and the catalyst of the social movement that is to come.

If you are interested in being a part of the New Jersey Sustainable Collegiate Partners FaceBook page, find us or e-mail me at

Friday, April 22, 2011

Experiential Journal: The Symposium on the BP Oil Spill

By Virginia DiBianca

On April 20, 2010, BP’s Horizon Deepwater oil well exploded pouring 2.5 million gallons of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico. The massive oil eruption continued for six months, sparked a fire that took the lives of 11 workers, created the worst environmental disaster in the United States and destroyed the working life of many of the residents along the Gulf of Mexico. One year later, Ramapo College in conjunction with its School of Social Science and Human Services, Sustainability Studies Program and Dean’s Council presented a symposium on the aftermath of the spill entitled Spill Effects.

The symposium included panels of experts who represented various aspects of the spills impact, which were many and far reaching. As pointed out by Thomas Lueck, Ramapo faculty member, the Gulf oil spill dominated major news coverage more consistently than any other tragedy in recent years. Unlike similar disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti, which was newsworthy for about one month, the spill’s coverage was long term and included news on environmental, social, and economic impacts with a dose of government and corporate screw ups that, not unlike the sinking of the Titanic, continues to maintain a readership.

The first day was devoted mostly to the ecological damage. Dr. John H. Paul, a biological oceanographer from the University of South Florida, discussed his two toxicity tests in the Gulf region taken on separate occasions. Those performed in July of 2010 indicated a high concentration of oil had affected the plankton (drifting organisms that are the base of the food web in marine and fresh water). Follow up testing was performed in February 2011, which still showed sampling stations containing evidence of mutagenicity even though the appearance of the water on the surface showed no signs of this contamination.

Dr. Harry Allen, representing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Response Team emphasized that changes need to be made to the Oil Pollution Act to better define the jurisdiction between the two factors that govern an aquatic spill, the Coast Guard and the EPA., Additionally, a fast, efficient system of gathering and sharing information in the event of a catastrophe such as this one needs to be structured.

On the social impact, Mr. Thomas Costanza of Catholic Charities of New Orleans spoke on the loss of work on the Gulf fishermen. Hurricane Katrina, while it destroyed the homes and boats of those in the Gulf, did not come close to the devastation felt by those who lost their livelihood when the spilled oil contaminated their fisheries. Oyster beds have been ruined which take three years before they are re-established. Last summer’s harvest of brown shrimp from the gulf was one of the smallest seen in years. Juvenile crabs are in very small numbers. The national perception, whether true or not, is that the fish coming from the Gulf is tainted and not healthy to consume. Fishermen are suffering from depression that is leading to an increase in alcoholism. Claims from the fishing industry to BP go unpaid. The fishermen are asking for help to be re-trained in their profession, to reconstruct their oyster beds and fisheries. Their claims are within a pile of claims waiting to be satisfied.

On the second day, the symposium included a panel on the media’s perspective of the oil spill. Charles Schmidt, a freelance journalist, described the use of dispersants as complex and how their overall affect is unknown. He drew criticism from one or two members of the audience challenging his viewpoint of how the dispersants might have minimized the oil reaching the shores of Louisiana and that dispersants might be considered toxic to some species but maybe less so to another. Schmidt argued that his position was to report his findings accurately and not to satisfy any one group’s agenda.

Finally, David Barstow, who extensively covered the oil spill for The New York Times, talked about the state of investigative reporting. At the scene of the spill, he was participating in several meetings where the press was invited. In these sessions, reporters were outnumbered 100 to one by lawyers and public relations people who represented BP, Halliburton and other corporations attempting to spin the public’s perception in their favor. Barstow emphasized how independent journalism is weakening as a growing population of public relation professionals attempt to control the public’s image of events. The Internet, he added, is overwhelmed with bloggers who provide opinionated views that are unsupported and may or may not be factual. Investigative reporting he emphasized, approaches the topics with truisms and asks the questions of why things happen, how they happened and what can be done about it. They are the true heroes of the American people and need to be supported.

16th Annual Ramapo River Watershed Conference

By Graig Mihok

April 22, 2011
Geoff Welch
(845) 712 5220

16th Annual Ramapo River Watershed Conference at Ramapo College

Mahwah, NJ – The 16th annual Ramapo River Watershed Conference will be held Friday, April 29th, at Ramapo College of New Jersey from 10am – 4pm in Student Center Room 136, 505 Ramapo Valley Road, also known as Route 202. The event, presented by the Ramapo River Committee and the Institute for Environmental Studies at Ramapo College, will feature an array of speakers on environmental topics pertaining to the Ramapo Valley in New York and New Jersey.

This year’s presentation will include a Ramapo River Watershed tour in photos and HD video; Visioning and Management Plan for Bergen County Ramapo Mountain Parklands; historic film of the building of Sterling Forest Gardens; drinking water and pollution accountability issues; Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Trail Update; water pollution analysis in New Jersey; revisiting the environmental effects of Mahwah’s closed Ford automobile plant; flood issues in Pompton Lakes; expert local knowledge on Lower Ramapo River; the Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda Program; Geographic and hydrologic peculiarities of the Ramapo Watershed; and an presentation of an artist’s nature studies in Torn Valley during the 1870’s.

There will be coffee and bagels at 9:30am before the event starts.

The event is free but registration is requested at

10:00 - Remarks: Ramapo College President Peter Mercer, Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef.

10:15 - "A New Ramapo River Watershed Tour 2011 in Photos and HD Video."

10:45 – Adam Strobel, Bergen County Planner, "Visioning and Management Plan for Bergen County Ramapo Mountain Parklands."

11:00 - Doc Bayne, Sterling Forest Historian: The Building of Sterling Forest Gardens: "Historic Film of Peat Wetlands Drained to Create Gardens."

11:30 - Rabbi Joel Mosbacher of Beth Haverim Shir Shalom Synagogue and co-founder of New Jersey Together; Joe Morris, lead Organizer of New Jersey Together: "Using The Tools of Citizens’ Organizing to Protect our Drinking Water and Hold Polluters Accountable."

12:00 Noon – 1:15 pm - LUNCH

1:15 PM - Janet Burnet, New York State Chair: "Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route - National Trail Update."

1:30 - Kevin Olsen, Passaic River Institute, Montclair State University: "Water Pollution Analysis in New Jersey, Employing the Cutting Edge Analytical Technology of 1876."

2:00 - Chuck Stead, Cornell Cooperative Extension Educator / Adjunct Professor, Ramapo College: The Saltbox Environmental Research Center," Ford Toxic Legacy Continues."

2:30 - Carl Padula, Chairman Flood Advisory Board, Pompton Lakes, "Flood Problems in Pompton Lakes."

3:00 - E. Durling Merrill, Environmental Officer Pompton Lakes: "Local Knowledge Based on Extensive Field Experience on the Lower Ramapo River."

3:15 - Don Steinmetz, HEnRI, Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda Program: "From Forest to Faucet."

3:45 - Howard Horowitz, Ramapo College: "Geographic and Hydrologic Peculiarities of the Ramapo Watershed."

4:00 - Geoff Welch, Ramapo River Committee: "David Johnson, An Artist’s Nature Studies in Torne Valley During the 1870’s."

4:30 - Wine and Cheese Reception

Experiential Journal: No Impact Man

By Jessica Vasquez

Since the topic of global warming surfaced, innumerous sources have done their best to educate the public about what it is, how it is created, and how it can be slowed down. Books have been written by scientists and environmentalists, politicians have spotlighted it in campaigns, and celebrities have narrated films about it. With all these forms of delivery, messages are bound to get mixed up and this affects how the public responds. Some may write it off as a theory or something they cannot control. Others have done their best to do their research, alter their lifestyle, and spread the word.

One man who is doing his part to go green is blogger and non-fiction writer Colin Beavan. In 2007 he began a year long quest to make no net impact on the environment while living in New York City with his wife, Michelle, and two-year-old daughter, Isabella. He would no longer wait for the government or higher powers to lead the way for environmental change. He also needed material for his new book which went on to be titled “The adventures of a guilty liberal who attempts to save the planet, and the discoveries he makes about himself and our way of life in the process.” Documentarian and childhood friend of Michelle, Laura Gabbert captured Colin’s project with Justin Schein and they later premiered “No Impact Man” at the Sundance Film Festival of 2009.

It started out with converting to self propelled transportation. The experiment became a reality when the TV was removed from the house; wife Michelle had been a reality TV buff. Colin ruled that the family would buy no new products, such as clothing, only second-hand materials when needed; Michelle was a struggling shop-aholic when the experiment began. Also, they started a vegan diet and only consumed foods grown within 250 miles of their home to support local farmers and avoid the carbon emissions that result from the transportation of food outside of the radius. There is no locally grown coffee in New York City for Starbucks addict Michelle. To give back to the earth, the family volunteered in their community and planted trees. Things got extreme, and controversial, when the family rid the house of toilet paper and shut off their electricity.

When word spread of Beavan’s experiment, the media jumped on the story. Several TV news shows and newspapers wanted to get to the bottom of Beavan’s project. More than anything, the sources aimed to find the flaws in Beavan’s new lifestyle; ironic because the point of Beavan’s experiment and book was to highlight the flaws in the average American’s consumer lifestyle.

It was pointed out that even after shutting off the apartment’s electricity, Beavan continued to use his laptop to update the blog that was following his year, Michelle’s job at Business Week was not changing for the experiment. The film would be premiered in a movie theatre that would not be as eco-friendly as Beavan would like.The book would be printed on paper from cut down trees. To counter this, the book was printed on post-consumer paper.

All these comments and more could have broken Colin and Michelle down, but they held their heads high seeing that the changes they had made were already proving beneficial. Before the year long experiment began, Michelle was on the verge of being diabetic. The new diet changed all that. Together, the couple lost weight and were healthier in general. Also, by spending a great deal less on consumer products, they were able to give 10% of their savings to charities that benefited Colin’s message.

It’s understandable that mass consumers could be on the defense about the New York City family’s “No Impact” year because the whole project seemed backwards and highlights what is wrong with the average American lifestyle. It has had great outcome for Colin, Michelle, and their daughter Isabella who followed her parents’ journey with wonder and enthusiasm. It’s no wonder it wasn’t a struggle for the two-year-old because she hasn’t experienced enough to be swiped up into consumerism. While Colin and Michelle aren’t out to change the world in a year, they are out to make a change.

Personally, watching the documentary and reading up on it's effect, I have learned that being more eco-friendly isn't just about the little things. In fact, things such as using paper instead of plastic and carrying a reusable cup everywhere isn't making a big change. Instead, we should all take that extra step whereever and whenever possible. The positive outcomes will always outweigh the negative in this experiment. Since my research I have been more conscious of my contribution to the Earth and my consumer habits. Not only am I aware of the negative effects I may be having on the planet, but also on myself. I'll admit that it has left me feeling guilty time and time again, but that's Colin's goal, to make us all aware of our impact and our surroundings. I have already started spreading the word amongst my friends, navigating them to the No Impact Project website. Together we're doing what we can to lower our negative impact and raise our positive impact on the world we live in.

Colin still updates his blog to this day and travels the world (by mass transportation, not self propelled) to spread the word. He volunteers his time in an effort to make the world a greener place, and it seems to be catching on slowly but surely.

Pompton Lakes Residents Persist in Raising Health Concerns Over DuPont Contamination

By Lorraine Metz

According to, DuPont’s local manufacturing plant was established in 1902 when it acquired a manufacturer of explosives. Some of the products included a spark-fired blasting cap filled with mercury fulminate, says the website. Due to the demands of World War I, DuPont acquired a large workforce to produce many items including hand and rifle grenades, detonating fuses and blasting caps. DuPont increased housing, including dormitory style buildings in Pompton Lakes to keep up with the increase of population boom caused by employees and families.

This manufacturing company continued its work well after the war and contributed military products for World War II as well, states the website. Despite the long-running stability of the company, the citizens in the area started taking note of environmental factors that seemed to have been caused by the company, which closed the local plant in 1994.

In an EPA document from 1999, it was determined that groundwater was “known or reasonably suspected to be ‘contaminated’ above appropriately protective ‘levels’." The document details that groundwater was first sampled at the site in 1981 and had continued to be sampled until the date that it was written. It also states that the ‘contaminated’ groundwater discharged into surface water bodies and that the discharge of the contaminated groundwater was significant. Despite the previous findings the EPA decided that the significant discharge of ‘contaminated’ groundwater was currently acceptable but monitoring would continue.

Despite efforts to help reduce contamination and cleanse the area, residents of Pompton Lakes have had continued disputes with DuPont including lawsuits. According to a March 2010 article in The Record by James O’Neill and Elaine D’Aurizio, titled “Pompton Lakes Residents Begin Suing DuPont Over Pollution,” residents from Pompton Lakes have sued DuPont many times over factors including mercury and lead content in the soil of backyards and the brooks that run along them. DuPont offered a $38.5-million settlement in 1997 to residents who in 1993 made claims about their health due to the contamination. The article says that ‘the highest award was $271,000 for a 13-year-old boy who had been suffering from lead poisoning. Nearly $10 million went to 117 children aged 7 to 17.”

After another lawsuit in 2003, DuPont agreed to provide lifetime medical monitoring to over a thousand residents. In 2010 residents of Pompton Lakes cried out again in complaints about DuPont asking for compensation for lost property value and once again for medical issues.

In December 2009 the state of New Jersey released an analysis of cancer incidences in the Pompton Lakes Neighborhood that had been impacted by the DuPont groundwater plume. According the analysis, all cancer types combined as well as 13 specific cancer types were evaluated during a period of 28 years that began in 1979. The findings concluded that while the overall cancer rates were not elevated, kidney cancer was higher than expected in females and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma was higher in males during the last 13 years. While the analysis is quick to mention that there are inconsistencies in the results between males and females, it does state that the contaminated groundwater contained the chemicals Trichloroethylene and Perchloroethylene that have been found to increase kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other cancers.

Challenging and continued presence of the contamination caused by DuPont, residents have repeatedly taken initiative in standing up for their rights and well-being. While DuPont hasn’t fixed the issues, the citizens in the affected area have continued to keep this issue known and in the best interest of their health and continue to fight for a clean and sustainable neighborhood.

For more information:

Enhance Your Major with Environmental Training


APRIL 25, 2011

914-422-4077 or

Enhance Your Major with Environmental Training

NEW YORK, NY - On Monday April 25, The Environmental Consortium is holding the 6th annual Student Summit of the Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges and Universities. The event is from 2:00 PM to 6:30 PM in the Alfred Lerner Hall at Columbia University.

If you are an undergrad or graduate looking to add ‘environmentally aware’ to your resume, guest speakers such as Nilda Mesa, assistant vice president of Environmental Stewardship from Columbia University, and Tim Rairdon, executive director of the Environmental Consortium, will offer insight and advice.

 Participants at third annual Environmental Consortium event  source:

The event is open to all majors looking to put their green ideas to action.

Following the speakers, there will be a round table discussion and a break out session to co-mingle with other like minded and inspiring guests. Cost of the event and dinner is free. RSVP needed by April 18th and seats are limited but still open.

Following the event, Columbia University extends an invitation to “Special Post-Summit Event, separate from the Student Summit.”

“Students are also invited to attend Earth’s Caretaker: An Evening with NRDC Co-Founder John H. Adams and Patricia Adams. Taking place on Columbia’s campus, John and Patricia Adams will be interviewed by Andrew C. Revkin, The New York Times Dot Earth blogger, at 7:00pm,” the Environmental Consortium wrote.

The after-event will conclude with a book signing. “Co-Sponsored by Theodore Gordon Flyfishers and the Environmental Consortium. Proceeds benefit a regional scholarship fund. Student tickets only $10.”

Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges & Universities was established in 2004 to advance understanding of the cultural, social, political, economic, and natural factors affecting the Hudson River Watershed, and is headquartered within Pace University’s Academy for Applied Environmental Studies. The Consortium’s mission is to harness higher education’s intellectual and physical resources to advance regional, ecosystem-based environmental research, teaching, and learning through interdisciplinary, collaborative programs and information sharing.

Deanna Dunsmuir

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nyack Hosts Earth Day Events

April 15, 2011
Marianne Olive
(845) 358-8540

Nyack Hosts Earth Day Events

NYACK, NY – An Earth Day Celebration and Bee Green Event will be held Saturday, April 30. Rain date is May 1. Activities kick off with the Parade of All Beings at 10:30 am that will begin at Main Street and end at Memorial Park off Depew Ave.

Activities in the park will commence at 11 am and continue until 5 pm. They will include “green”-themed workshops, such as a beekeeping demonstration, composting, knitting, Capoeira, yoga, and qi gong class. There will be live music, as well as contests and games. The day will end with a drum circle.

We are seeking volunteers and renting booths to anyone who has an Earth Day activity that will add to the day’s events.

For more information:

By Lindsey de Stefan

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Montclair Sets Pace as Environmental Leader

For Immediate Release
April 19, 2011
Virginia DiBianca

Montclair certainly has a lot to live up to this Earth Day. The town, along with Cherry Hill and Highland Park, has been chosen by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as a Climate Showcase Community in New Jersey. In gaining that distinction, the town established an organization called OurPowerMontclair that supports and promotes environmental efforts at the local government level.

As a Climate Showcase Community, Montclair is tasked with a leadership role in the way communities manage and reduce energy consumption. The town receives federal funding towards the project and has a timeline that spans from February 2010 to November 2012. The goal is for these municipalities to stand as models of efficiency for other communities on sustainable energy use and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging businesses and residents to be conscious of their energy consumption while implementing efforts to reduce their usage as a way of life.

Montclair is a town that takes pride in its role towards environmental awareness and has taken strong steps towards innovations in sustainability. It is one of the few towns that include an Environmental Coordinator, Gray Russell, on its fulltime staff. As the town supports sustainable programs, its appeal to solid, community minded residents can only benefit its future.

Other efforts towards greening include renovating old buildings that have obtained LEEDS certification. Robert Silver, a resident of Montclair found himself looking for an office in town when he came across an old rundown building that was previously home to an auto parts store. Commissioning a local LEED contractor, Jack Finn, to renovate the space, it was revealed during demolition that old etchings and artistic remnants of a prior brass works company were hidden behind the old walls. The salvaged pieces were recycled as decorative additions. Now, its hallways support a gallery of works by local artists.

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program is a national benchmark rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) that certifies the design, construction and operation of building systems as high performance. It looks at five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

Mr. Silver proceeded to refurbish two other Montclair buildings that qualified for LEED Certification. One called GreenWorks was constructed with rooftop solar panels and insulation made from recycled paper. A plan is in the works for another building, Hillside Square, to include a charging station for electric cars in the parking lot.

Montclair has a website and a Facebook page devoted to their commitment to the Climate Showcase program. For more information:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Receding Glacial Boundaries Cause for International Alarm

April 15th, 2011
John Clancey

A recent study conducted by Welsh scientist and Professor Neil Glasser and colleagues from Aberystwyth University, the University of Exeter, and Stockholm University,shows that the glaciers of Patagonia in South America are melting at a much faster rate than originally thought. The study found that since 1980 the rate of glacial melt has increased by over 100 times than that of the previous 320 year long-term average

Utilizing the spread of glacier debris and vegetation lines from bordering mountainsides, the researchers have been able to determining the amount of ice that has melted since the Little Ice Age ended nearly 350 years ago.

Glaciers have always been a wonder of the natural world. The romantic idea of these icy giants moving across great distances for thousands of years has continually astounded us. They exist as grand monuments who, over a million year pilgrimage, have redefined the landscape they traverse. They are among the last remaining reminders of a natural world that once was. However, despite the respect that these ancient giants command, recent changes in global temperatures have threatened them like never before.

The Patagonia Glaciers are located at in the southern hemisphere at a latitude equal to that of the Alps in the northern hemisphere. The team suggests that if they were to apply their finding there, as opposed to South America, the results would remain more or less the same.

"Previous estimates of sea-level contribution from mountain glaciers are based on very short timescales," commented Glasser of Aberystwyth University. "We took a different approach by using a new method that allows us to look at longer timescales,"

The study has concluded that since the Little Ice Age ended in Patagonia 350 years ago, the 270 glaciers that now cover an area of at least one square kilometer have lost 606 cubic kilometers of ice. While this study dose little else than pin down the rate of glacial lose, it does shed light on the alarming rate at witch the ice has retreated over the past thirty years.

This new method is a much needed break from the cascade of satellite imagery based studies that have previously served as the main visual proof of world climate change. By analyzing the glaciers of Patagonia over such a long period of time, researchers provided a much welcome perspective regarding the relationship between glacier melt and rising sea levels.

Glaciers are one of the world’s chief sources of fresh water. The slowing of receding ice boundaries remains paramount if we hope to reduce the rate of raising sea levels. However, with these new discoveries in mind, the team has been able to estimate sea level rises for more than three centuries.

For further Information see

How Ramapo College Implements its "Commitment To Sustainability"

By Courtney Leiva

Many Ramapo students might be wondering, how green is Ramapo College?

“At Ramapo College there are three levels of sustainability; facility, level of operation, and education. We are currently working at all three levels to keep Ramapo green," says Ashwani Vasishth, Director of Master of Arts in Sustanaibility Education Program at Ramapo College.

Ramapo College began its commitment to sustainability in the year 1969. Although Ramapo has continued to grow both in size and student population, the college has not failed in honoring its sustainable promise as new eco-dorms now appear on campus.

In 2010, the college launched Sustainable living facilities, which decreases energy costs and allows students to engage in the college's sustainable mission. Also, the Sharp Sustainability Center, one of Ramapo's greenest accomplishments, was completed in 2009.

According to the college website, the center makes use of natural daylight and recycled and environmentally friendly materials. The center also provides heating and cooling through a environmentally friendly geothermal system.

"The Sharp Sustainability Center is a demonstration project tht shows that buildings can be greener. We are using the lessons we have learned through this project to help build greener buildings on campus," Vasisth says.

Along with its many green policies, the college does not stop short at recycling.
Each classroom on campus must be equipped with two bins for trash. A blue container is meant for paper products. All other trash is to be placed into another container which is usually gray, black, or brown.

The college is still working to make these guidelines effective.

"You have students throw the waste trash away in the wrong container, so we are working to make these guidelines more effective, particularly through education. At freshman orientation we introduce the incoming students to concepts such as recycling and sustainability," Vasishth adds.

Not only has college administration tried to make Ramapo College more sustainable. Student led organizations such as 1Step have worked to take green matters into their own hands.

"In November of 2007, President Mercer signed the American Colleges and Universities Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). This is a commitment that over 600 other colleges and universities have signed on in order to go green," says 1Step president Noah Luogameno.

"With the signing, the president also created the Climate Commitment Task Force, which is faculty and administrators tasked with getting Ramapo to 'Carbon Neutrality.' Carbon Neutral means that the college will be mitigating or offsetting more carbon dioxide than it produces through energy savings and other green initiatives."

Once the Climate Commitment Task Force was initiated, soon came the creation of Ramapo's own 1Step organization.

"Along with the Climate Commitment Task Force, 1Step (Students Together for Environmental Progress) was created to act as the student working group of the sustainability initiative. 1Step has been leading the charge at Ramapo to raise awareness about environmental sustainability, as well as developing and implementing green projects, programs, and events," added Luogameno.

Over the years the student-led-organization has accomplished many green incentives. In 2008, the organization sponsored monthly late night dining which introduced the use of all biodegradable materials including utensils such as cups and plates in the campus dining hall.

More recently the club is taking new actions like composting and getting involved with local environmental organizations.

"We are incorporating composting on campus. We might be getting an industrial size composter called rocket compost. We are also involved with MEVO (Mahwah Environmental Volunteer Organization), in which we do clean ups and spread the word about recycling" in the town, said 1Step member Amanda Nesheiwat.

"It is 1Step's vision to see Ramapo as the leader in sustainability education and practice among New Jersey higher education. Ramapo is already ahead of the game with the first Sustainability Studies Masters Program in the state, and the Sharp Sustainability Education Center; a highly efficient and green structure used for teaching classes," Luogameno said.

Ramapo is considering a cool roof program might allow the installation of solar panel roofs on the campus's academic buildings.

"There have been talks of replacing roofs of the academic wings on campus (A-E) with solar panels. This would reduce dependence on energy and reduces heat load on buildings, which decreases the use of air-conditioning in the summer," Vasishth adds.

Ramapo College's upcoming Earth Week promises lots of green activities. Among other activities, 1Step is hosting a special dinner. The dinner, open to all students is opportunity for students to learn how to keep the environment and campus clean. The dinner will be held on Tuesday, April 19th at from 4-7 p.m.

For more information:

"Earth week is coming up and there are tons of events going on to raise awareness of environmental issues as well as fundraising for the club," Nesheiwat says.

More information on Ramapo's green initiatives can be found at

This article also appeared in Mahwah Patch

Bedbugs, Malaria, and DDT

By Graig Mihok

It has been thirty-nine years since William D. Ruckelshaus, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, gave the order to stop the production of DDT, making it illegal in the United States. Ruckelshaus acted in the wake of the growing concern about DDT's effects on the environment and public health. Since then, there have been many discussions about whether the ban of DDT has been good for the world, or bad. Since DDT targets insects - most notably Malaria-carrying mosquitoes – it is possible that the ban of DDT could be having both a negative and positive impact where it has been used and where it currently could be used.

The first thing to consider is the argument to bring DDT back. There are numerous campaigns for DDT's revival and not all for the same reason. Closest to home would be to combat the growing bedbug population in most major cities around the U.S. Although most lists do not appear to have a consistent order of infested cities, certain cities appear on multiple lists and most seem to agree that New York City takes the number one spot.

The fact there is no consistent list for bedbug infestation means the problem is much larger than it appears and is growing. A friend of mine has found bedbugs in several different apartments in Buffalo, a city that did not make any of the lists on a Google search. His problem is most likely the common one; infestation throughout the entire building where some residents actively try to rid themselves of the pests, meanwhile, other residents do nothing and help contribute to the growing infestation.

Many claim that rubbing alcohol and steam will kill the bugs on contact, but in cases where the infestation is too widespread, in walls or under or inside furniture and appliances, the exterminator is usually called in. And thus, the cry for the return of DDT gets louder. The powerful pesticide is responsible for nearly wiping out bedbugs out in the1940's, but now they've returned, many with resistance to pesticides, including DDT.

In Africa, malaria is still a major issue that has had an interesting development over the years. Those who have called out for the return of DDT for the sake of Africa's malaria problem seem to ignore that the amount of annual malaria-related deaths has decreased significantly since the ban on DDT. In 1972, annual malaria deaths were at a staggering two million. Yet, by 2000, that number had been cut in half. Currently, malaria-related deaths are under 900,000, marking the lower number of malaria deaths ever recorded. Insecticide treated nets and other pesticides like pyrethoids are the current popular alternatives to DDT in Africa.

Death from an easily-prevented illness like malaria is still a revolting notion, but seeing the annual death count being more than cut in half in thirty-nine years shows the incredible progress that has been made. Would bringing DDT back into the picture really help in this case? Bill Gates is working on eradicating malaria around the world, but he has not mentioned the use of DDT in any of his efforts.

So where do we go from here? Bring back the pesticide that bedbugs have shown a strong resistance to in an attempt to eradicate them? Of course, all while not poisoning ourselves and the environment again. And what about malaria? The problem seems to be receiving more attention than it ever has before, and with the annual death-toll at a record low, would it be a good idea to reintroduce DDT to the planet again? Misinformation seems like the biggest bug that deserves a squashing, yet it always scurries away only to show up a little later.

DDT advertisement from the 1940's:


For more information:

Earth Day 2011 Set to Commence on April 16 in Monmouth County

April 15, 2011
Brittany Shann

Earth Day 2011 Set to Commence on April 16 in Monmouth County

Monmouth County, NJ – Earth Day celebrations will commence starting on April 16, 2011. The Monmouth County Parks System will hold events for children and adults for the weekend, ending on April 17, 2011. Events will start at noon on the 16 and proceed until 5 pm at the Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center,331 Georgia Tavern Road, Howell, NJ.

On Saturday, April 16, activities include arts and crafts, family-friendly nature activities, an invertebrate study, and a “how-to” event on gardening in a cup. There will also be representatives from environmental organizations such as Monmouth County Audubon Society, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ, and the NJ Beekeepers Association.

The event will move to Huber Woods, located at 25 Brown's Dock Road, Middletown, NJ on Sunday from noon to 5 pm. There will be games made from recycled items, various animal shows, and volleyball played over a recycled net made from 6-pack plastic rings. There will be lacrosse using plastic and cardboard as equipment. The Naturalist Corner will teach participants the basics of birding and how to use recycled materials to make useable things. There will be wagon rides offered to the Frog Pond Outpost where participants can try to capture live frogs.

This is a fun way to engage children and families in Earth Day events and inform them about ways to conduct environmentally-friendly lifestyles while having an enjoyable time.

There is no admission or parking fees but some activities may require a small fee.

For more information, visit, call the Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center at (732) 751-9453 or the Huber Woods Environmental Center at (732) 872-2670.

Will Proposed Waivers Overrule Highlands Plan?

By Graig Mihok

Environmentalists are up in arms about a recently proposed waiver that would allow the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to circumvent its own rules to approve development plans. The waiver rule is part of Governor Christie's “Common Sense Principles” designed to minimize bureaucracy while maintaining environmental protection. Environmentalists believe this can only be bad for New Jersey's protected areas and serve as a platform for builders to set their sights on protected lands that until recently they have been restricted from building on.

The Common Sense Principles stem from the Governor's Executive Order No. 2 - a rule that would allow homeowners and developers to ask for exemptions from the DEP rules – outlined last year, and were put into place to help mediate the conflicting rules between existing state agencies that have been coined as “unduly burdensome” regulations.

The exemption requests are to be looked over on a case by case basis instead of in clear-cut regulatory style. Environmentalists see the proposed wavier rule as an empowering device for the DEP that would allow them to bypass existing environmental laws. They are afraid the term “unduly burdensome” is too subjective and open to such interpretation that would allow any exemption request to be passed despite its impact on the environment. Protected areas like the Highlands and Pinelands would be subject to the waiver rules as well, according to the DEP.

Still, there is some protection that appears to have been spared from the proposed waiver's jurisdiction. Federal and state environmental regulations written specifically into law, like air and water quality laws, would be unaffected by the DEP's proposal.

Yet if the vote to pass the waiver is successful, one should wonder how the DEP with its shrinking budget and smaller staff will be able to handle the increased workload they would be bound to experience.

Critics of the plan believe the wavier rule would not only empower the DEP but also take the power out of the hands of the community. “If the agency believes that some of the provisions of its rules are too burdensome with too little public benefit, it would be more intellectually honest to identify those provisions and propose specific revisions,” stated Michael Catania, former Deputy Commissioner of the New Jersey DEP. “This would allow all stakeholders -- the regulated community as well as the public -- an opportunity to weigh in on the advantages or disadvantages of these specific rule changes.”

For more information:

Ramapo Fault Possible Threat to Indian Point Energy Center; a New Concern

By John Clancey

Nuclear energy has long held a place at the boundaries of man’s imagination. The raw destruction and overwhelming energy produced by nuclear fission does not come without its risks. Tragedies such as the bombing of Hiroshima and the disaster at Chernobyl remain painful reminders of the awesome power held within atomic energy. Recently, safety regulations regarding nuclear facilities the world over have been called into question. The recent Japanese nuclear crisis, where reactors teetered on the verge of meltdown, has sent up warning flags regarding atomic facilities both at home and abroad. The possibility of meltdown via natural disasters is a chilling prospect that has more than a few Americans’ losing sleep.

The Indian Point nuclear power plant, located thirty eight miles north of New York City, remains a top concern for residents of New York and New Jersey. For years the plant has operated with little notoriety, providing thirty percent of the power diverted to New York City and Westchester County. Owned and operated by Entergy Nuclear Northeast, the plant utilizes two operating reactors built between 1974 and 1976.The reactors, designated Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3, produce 2000 megawatts and employ 1,683 workers in their operation. However, despite the facilities uneventful history, recent discoveries regarding fault lines gives officials’ new reason for concern.

Researchers from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have located a previously active seismic zone running from Connecticut, into the Hudson Valley, and under the plant. The fault, appropriately dubbed “The Ramapo Fault” proves a serious concern regarding the possibility of nuclear catastrophe. If such an incident was to occur along this fault, the consequences would be horrific. "Frankly, that was surprising to me," stated New York’s Governor Cuomo. "One normally doesn't think of earthquakes and New York in the same breath."

Officials at the plant stress that speculations of these kinds are completely ungrounded. "… only if a tsunami could make its way up New York Harbor and the Hudson River, somehow avoid New York City, and drench our plant," said Jim Streets, director of communications at Entergy Nuclear Northeast. "It just doesn't seem very realistic to me," continued Streets, who claimed the chances of a rector failing in this manner are minuscule at best. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which regulates the plants, reassures citizens that the facility is built to withstand an earthquake measuring a 6.1, larger than any quake ever recorded in the area.

Still, despite reassuring words from plant officials, the risk of nuclear fallout in one of the densest areas of the nation is more than enough to keep citizens on their toes. "It should be closed,” Gov. Cuomo continued. “This plant in this proximity to the city was never a good risk." Supporters of the plants closing may be in luck as the NRC announced recently that the plants operating licenses are up for review in 2013 and 2015. "We're going to do a systematic and methodical review of the information,” stated an NRC spokesperson. “If we need to make changes to our program, we'll make changes."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Eco-Center Planned for Morristown

By Courtney Leiva

Morristown is full of good food, eclectic stores, and lots of history. But now the trendy New Jersey town might be able add sustainable to that list.

In March it was reported in an excellent article at that the township of Morristown announced the possibility that the old Mini-Cooper dealership on Bank Street would be converted into a 20,000-square feet green facility.

Plans for the center include “an organic restaurant, commercial kitchen, rooftop greenhouses (which will supply some of the food for the restaurant), retail stores, and a place for arts, educational, and cultural events,” according to

The project will be a joint venture with building owner Jack McDonald, the Sustainable Business Incubator of New Jersey, and community investors, as reported by

The project was met with praise, especially by Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty.

“It’s a very interesting concept, especially the idea of an organic restaurant. I think that would be well received by the community. So would the gardens, and the class space. And it would still be a tax-paying entity. I look forward to another meeting with them,” Dougherty said to

However, the project still needs public support according to one of the project’s creators’ Jonathan Cloud.

“The most important thing for us right now is to consult with the community and see if there is enough public support to move forward,” said Cloud, senior fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise at Fairleigh Dickinson University, to

Morristown has had green incentives in the past.

According to the article, Mayor Dougherty hired Jonathan Rose Companies as town planners. Jonathan Rose Companies is a green real estate policy, planning, development, and civic development and investment firm.

The Mayor was also reported in the article to have created the Office of Sustainability with funding from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation in February of 2009 The town’s efforts have earned it a seal of approval from Sustainable Jersey as Morristown Memorial Hospital and the Hyatt Morristown perform large-scale recycling of food wastes.

Although the project is recycling a building, renovations of the Mini Cooper dealership are expected to cost anywhere near $1 and $2 million.

The project is still in its earliest planning stages, but creators hope that the project will soon come into fruition.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Continuing Legacy of Agent Orange

By Lindsey de Stefan

Agent Orange was used during the Vietnam War from the early 1960s to early 1970s as a form of herbicidal warfare. The immediate goal of this chemical was to deforest many areas of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, depriving those utilizing the guerilla warfare tactic of effective hiding places. But during its decade-long use, Agent Orange had a devastating effect that the United States military could not have predicted.

Innumerable American soldiers, Vietnamese, Laotians, and others living in that part of Asia at the time were severely impacted by the unrestricted spraying of Agent Orange. A contaminant in Agent Orange, dioxin, as we now know, is extremely toxic and detrimental to the health of humans who come in contact with it. This can include but is not limited to: those who got the chemical on their skin, those who consumed food or water contaminated with the chemical, and those who breathe in the herbicide.

The effects of Agent Orange are vast, as stated in a report by the BBC in the 1990s. In children born to parents exposed to the herbicide, it can cause deformation, mental disabilities, extra fingers and toes, hernias, and cleft palate. Adults exposed to the chemical may experience cancer, nerve, skin, digestive, respiratory disorders, and even death.

The United States government has yet to truly compensate those impacted by the widespread and prolonged use to this potentially fatal chemical, particularly our own veterans. The effects are still being felt today. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, grandchildren of Vietnam War veterans can continue to experience the above listed medical problems, such as extra appendages, because of indirect Agent Orange exposure. It is a crying shame that those who served so dutifully for our country cannot receive the appropriate care and consideration they deserve from their own government.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Agent Orange's Reach to the Next Generation

By Virginia DiBianca

During the1960s and early 1970s, if a boy was not going to college, he was going to Vietnam. The war was not very popular at home and this Asian country was a far cry from the more appealing images of World War II Europe or the beaches of the South Pacific. Vietnam, for many Americans, was a name and land as unheard of as the herbicide Agent Orange that was meant to destroy the foliage the enemy hid behind.

Vietnam has a tropical climate where a monsoon rainy season lasts from May to September creating forestry foliage. The Vietcong took advantage of their natural habitat and hid from their adversaries, the Americans and South Vietnamese. In an attempt to destroy this natural cover, the American military sprayed an abundant amount of the herbicide labeled Agent Orange, which included the highly toxin chemical, dioxin. This powerful herbicide was mixed, transported and sprayed by the servicemen from 1962 to 1971. It was not until after the war ended and reports of serious illnesses were recorded that many war veterans made the connection to Agent Orange.

In August of 2010, the veterans’ organization Vietnam Veterans of America held a conference in Orlando, Florida where the key topic was the exposure of Agent Orange to Vietnam Veterans and its effects on the children of these veterans. While the connection seems obvious, in the medical community, there is still disagreement as to whether dioxin is responsible for the mental and physical disabilities on future generations. Arnold Schecter, a professor of environmental and occupational health science at the University of Texas School of Public Health claims the relationship between Agent Orange and the health problems of the children of those exposed is unsubstantiated even though fathers and mothers who had direct contact with the herbicide have children with serious diseases and disabilities.

Betty Mekdeci, executive director of Birth Defect Research for Children, of Celebration, Florida disagrees and contends that the research is gaining strength towards proving the relationship. Mekdeci, who created a national birth defect registry, feels that the reason the relationship has not been confirmed is that reliable testing is costly and not available in any more than three labs in the world. As reported in The VVA Veteran magazine, children of Vietnam vets are beginning to come forward to report their health problems.

The conference organizers hope to bring more awareness to the health issues associated with Agent Orange through a series of town hall meetings, which were scheduled to start in October 2010 in California. Educating the public, they hope, will be a major boost to supporting the effort of recognizing that the toxic power of Agent Orange not only killed the foliage but also left its mark on the future of even the strongest soldiers who fought in Vietnam.

For further information:
The Agent Orange News site:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Veterans Not Only Ones Worrying About Agent Orange Side Effects

By Brittany Shann

Veterans of the Vietnam War have been unfortunately known to have side effects as a result of Agent Orange exposure, but others have reported suffering the same side effects – hydro workers from Manitoulin in Ontario, Canada.

Last month, the Manitoulin Expositor reported that these hydro workers had jobs that consisted of spraying the power transmission lines with chemicals to kill the vegetation.  Their job was similar to that of soldiers in Vietnam who sprayed the same chemical herbicides in order to leave the enemy at the disadvantage of having no place to hide.  Unfortunately, these workers were not told of the danger behind chemical exposure.  They weren’t even given any protective clothing to wear – just goggles, which they often removed if it got too hot.  Additionally, they often sprayed each other with the mist, in order to cool off, because of the high temperatures in the summer.  They were being directly exposed to these chemicals with no warning or guidance about the dangerous effects that could potentially occur.

"We knew we were using a chemical but we were told then that it was safe," said Ron Towns of Little Current, whose 39-year career with Ontario Hydro commenced in 1951. "When I first started with a spraying crew, there was no protective clothing except for a hard hat, and when it got hot you took your shirt off. If it got real warm, you'd spray each other a little bit."

Later on in life, many of these men began experiencing health problems like heart and kidney problems, thyroid problems, infertility, and cancer.  Nobody acknowledged these problems as a side effect of Agent Orange exposure.  None of the workers even made a connection that their jobs as young adults wreaked havoc on their golden years.

As news stories about Agent Orange health issues caught their attention, they began to make the correlation between the chemical exposure and the abundant health problems.  Unfortunately, at that point, nothing could be done.  Some had already died from cancer – before they even hit 55.

The soldiers who fought in the war also experienced severe side effects later in their lives, but those who were doing simple jobs in Canadian forests were also forced to surrender to the exposure.  Those incidents were also covered up or hidden from the workers – just like those in the war.  In fact, the hydro workers were never even given a fair warning.

Perhaps the effects of Agent Orange were unknown to those using it, which is why so many people were unsafely exposed to it.  Perhaps those involved didn’t think the “little people” needed to know that these chemicals could eventually kill them.  Whichever it was, many of those involved in the war effort – on any level – have contracted incurable diseases or have spent their lives battling various health problems.  They deserve to know what happened and they deserve to know why it was so well hidden from them.

For more information:

Bistate River Commission Bill Aims to Sort out Flood Problems Once and For All

By John Clancey

In the wake of this past month’s floods, local officials have called for new legislation regarding water management. On March 7 New Jersey Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee approved bipartisan legislation that would create a Bistate River Commission for coordinated flood management with communities within Rockland County. The newly created commission would not only look for new ways to prevent flood damage but protect the rivers and streams as well.

"We have been fighting flooding problems along our streams and reservoirs for years," stated Assembly Republican Charlotte Vandervalk(Hillsdale), one of the bills prime sponsors. "While we respect geographic boundaries, overflowing water does not."

The legislation proposes to create an 18-member Commission dedicated to the cooperation of governments in both New Jersey and New York. This commission, selected by elected officials of both parties and states, would protect streams flowing south from Rockland County into Bergen County. These waterways include the Hackensack River, Sparkill Brook, Saddle River, Ramapo River as well as their tributaries and flood prone communities.

The bill’s other primary supporter, Assembly Republican Bob Schroeder (Township of Washington), stated, “Now, our communities can work together to resolve flooding issues in an inclusive, holistic way."

The much needed bill comes as a great relief to local residents who for years have been at the mercy of flash floods and crippling water damage. Stories of residents catching trout in their basement, while farfetched, are not uncommon. Storms like Hurricane Floyd have ravaged the area in the past, turning local parking lots into sizable watering holes. With this bill in place, supporters suggest resident can look forward to a day when all those things are just a product of the past.

Perhaps even more interesting is the committee’s proposed Commission’s focus on environmental protection. In a region that is marked with the constant development of new housing, local water ways have indeed suffered. For towns to battle this ongoing pollution it is key to collaborate cleanup efforts in order to void redundant re pollution. "It makes no sense for a community to desilt and desnag its streams only to have an upstream neighbor literally 'muddy the waters',” stated Vandervalk. “What happens upstream in New York affects us downstream here in New Jersey.”

The bill looks to usher in a new age of collaboration and environmental responsibility for both states. It marks a turning point in both waterway management and social responsibility. "Stream management and flooding mitigation are ongoing problems that require ongoing efforts," concluded Schroeder. “We need a regional approach if we are truly going to get a handle on the problem. This bill will put us a long way toward that goal."

Veterans Seek Justice to Agent Orange

By Deanna Dunsmuir

More than 19 million barrels of the herbicidal chemical Agent Orange was sprayed throughout the four military points during the Vietnam War under operation Ranch Hand. The spraying of the herbicide was used as a military tactic to level the land, in order to eliminate guerilla warfare by the Vietnamese.

U.S. Military Planes spraying Agent Orange during operation Ranch Hand

Although the tactic may have worked in the U.S.’s favor, the effects have proven to produce cancers, birth defects, and types of lymphoma, among other diseases. As a result, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has agreed to compensate qualifying veterans for their illnesses.

In order to qualify a veteran must have, “visited Vietnam even briefly anytime between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975.”

This includes, “Brown Water Veterans: Navy and Coast Guard Veterans who served aboard smaller river patrol and swift boats that operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam anytime between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975,” according to the VA’s website.

Although the dangerous herbicide was used into the 70’s, Peter Schuck, author of Agent Orange on Trial: Mass Toxic Disasters in Courts, wrote, “ Internal memoranda revealed Monsanto Corporation (a manufacturer of 2,4,5-T) had informed the U.S. government as early as 1952 that 2,4,5-T was contaminated with a toxic chemical.”

Even though it has been almost 40 years since the spraying of Agent Orange in Vietnam, new side effects continue to surface.

On February 20, Sheree Evans, a widow of a Vietnam veteran, finally succeeded on her promise to her husband to link brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme (GM), to the dangerous war chemical. Her husband passed away from GM just shy of the ruling. Although not officially added to the list of diseases, the court ruled in the favor of Evans due to enough evidence to offer benefit of the doubt to the jurors.

As veterans strive for connections and answers to the once widely used spray, blogs are exploding with stories of sicknesses; such blogs include “Cold War Veterans Blog” and "Voices for Agent Orange Victims". Still, U.S. war veterans who had come in contact with the chemical are searching for answers to not just their own illnesses, but their grand children’s as well.

Agent Orange effects passed on to children of U.S. Vietnam War veterans

In 2010 it was ruled by Secretary Eric Shinseki that “Parkinson’s Disease, Hairy Cell and other Chronic B-Cell Leukemia, and Ischemic Heart Disease[‘s]” have enough evidence to be linked to agent orange as well, according to

Shinseki also added that, “As many as 150,000 Veterans may submit Agent Orange claims in the next 12 to 18 months. Additionally, VA will review approximately 90,000 previously denied claims from Vietnam Veterans for service connection for these three new diseases.”

Adding that, “This rule is long overdue. It delivers justice to those who have suffered from Agent Orange’s toxic effects for 40 years.”

Decades later the VA is taking steps to compensate the victims. The VA currently offers health care benefits, an Agent Orange health examination, and disability compensation, along with home loans, rehabilitation and even education scholarships for those that qualify. Children of survivors with diseases such as spina bifida or other birth defects linked to the chemical are eligible for benefits as well.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

NJ Environmental Federation's 25th Anniversary Conference


Jenny Vickers
New Jersey Environmental Federation
1002 Ocean Avenue
Belmar, NJ 07719

NJ Environmental Federation’s 25th Anniversary Conference

Newark, NJ- May 14, 2011- Smart, Green & Clean: Practical Environmental Solutions in the 21st Century is this year’s theme which will emphasize smart, green, and clean policies that reduce toxins in the atmosphere, prevent pollution of water and air, and promote green jobs and innovative technology.

Those in attendance will include established environmentalists such as the President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Dr. Arjun Makhijani. Community members can learn how to bring their town into the 21st century green movement by sitting in on workshops, interacting with vendors, and meeting those new to the policies and those perfecting the practice.

There are eight workshops scheduled for the day. At the “Sustainable Landscapes” workshop, those in attendance will learn how to keep public places pesticide free, why we should use low impact fertilizer, and the benefits of building rain gardens in the community. “Solar in the City and More: New Jersey’s Sustainable Energy Future” introduces solar projects including the challenges and successes of those already implemented in Newark. “SAFER Chemicals, Healthy Families” is a workshop that brings light to the harmful effects of toxic consumer products and the alternatives that are already being adopted across the United States.
Register before April 30th for only $25; this includes breakfast, lunch, workshops, and the reception.

NJ Environmental Federation (NJEF), the NJ chapter of Clean Water Action, is a non-profit, action-oriented organization with nearly 100,000 individual members and over 100 environmental, community, religious, labor and student member groups. The organization educates, trains, and advocates cleaning the earth, water, and air and keeping it clean.

By Jessica Vasquez

Stop Mahwah Mall or Stop Mahwah Council?

By Jessica Vasquez

For some weeks now, there has been a group dedicated to spreading the word on talk of a new development in Mahwah, NJ. They call themselves "Stop Mahwah Mall" and the name says it all. While the idea may have teens and mall workers anxious, this plan is rubbing Mahwah residents the wrong way.

From afar, building a new mall in these times seems like an easy decision. More stores in the area means more money going back into the economy, right? Unfortunately, that is a very small point and not proven at all. Instead, the greatest concern is the negative effects such a building would bring to Mahwah.

The site for the plan is located at an intersection of Route 17 and Route 287. Other than a mall, the space would also be developed into office spaces. What does this mean for the area? More traffic, more pollution, and the speculation of more crime. Also, the site is flood prone; resident know this for certain as they have experienced it firsthand. Mahwah residents argue that this plan would decrease the value of their homes, as well. In these times, we can use all the value we can get.

The representative of Mahwah Council were voted by the people, but in this case, they are not giving the people what they want. At a council meeting on Thursday, March 31 over 400 concerned residents were in attendance. When the floor was open to comments and questions, a line wrapped around the already crowded room. Several reasons were given to vote against the building plan. Those at the deciding table were urge to "do the right thing."

Councilmen declare that the project will give back to the community down the road and it will take some patience and sacrifice in the meantime. Residents are not having it, though. They are looking into the instant, not the distant, possible future.

When it came down to it, the plan was approved 4-2. It's no surprise that this surprised the residents. They shouted their disgust, and questioned their representatives. There was mention of hiring a lawyer to file a lawsuit against the township.

This story can be followed on the protesting group's webpage which is updated periodically:

Nature's Voice - Rachel Carson

By Virginia DiBianca

Wars are waged in countries over land that opponents seek to conquer and possess but there is none so great a war than the one man has waged against himself. Taking liberties with the gifts of nature, humans have created an environment of pollution and danger that has not only destroyed the environment around them but has put their own lives in jeopardy. Agencies meant to protect the average citizen appeared to be ineffective. It was Rachel Carson, writer, scientist and ecologist who, with her 1962 book Silent Spring, came to the rescue of humans and their indiscriminate use of chemicals.

Post World War II America accepted the theory put forth by government agencies that the appropriate means of controlling pests was to spray chemicals to destroy their existence. Spraying with the chemical DDT was frequently applied in areas where crops grew, in suburbs where children played and at sites near rivers and streams. In 1956, under the direction of the United States Department of Agriculture and the New York Department of Agriculture an area of Long Island became the site of an annual campaign to eliminate the gypsy moth population through a blanket spray campaign. DDT planes indiscriminately showered above dairy farms, fishponds and home gardens. Animals, fish, birds and insects of value were killed. Plant life was destroyed. As Ms Carson stated in Silent Spring, there was an attempt to stop further blanket spraying when Long Island citizens led by a famous ornithologist protested the use of DDT in court. While the case was brought up to as far as the Supreme Court, it was denied a hearing.

Another government agency, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established relaxed rules on foods that were contaminated by agricultural spraying. The FDA set a tolerance level allowing “maximum permissible limits of contamination” in foods. The agency’s ruling did not take into consideration that although individual parts of a meal might not be a threat, the entire meal made a plate of tainted products. This type of ruling led the public into a false sense of comfort.

While the public is not fully aware of the dangers of insecticides or pesticides, government agencies exist for the protection of their citizens. Assumed to be experts in their field, they are meant to provide guidelines and rulings that uphold the safety of the public. Fortunately, the common sense of the average citizen seems to prevail over the actions of government officials.

Rachel Carson not only had that common sense but the biological education and love of nature that challenged the theory that insecticides, particularly DDT and mass spraying of insecticides is safe. She courageously stood up for the safety of mankind against government agencies and chemical companies who attempted to discredit her findings. We celebrate her words with an appreciation of the poetry of nature as she wrote it.

Silent Spring: A Book That Saved Lives

By Lindsey de Stefan 

Silent Spring, the 1962 book by marine biologist and conservationist Rachel Carson, was one of the first steps toward an environmental movement in our nation. Carson was one of the first to explore the effects of many man-made materials on humans, plants, animal life, and ecosystems. She was the first to alert the masses that there was a serious problem that, if not rectified, could have huge consequences for us and the planet we inhabit.

Carson’s main concern was the widespread and largely uncontrolled use of pesticides in many areas of the country, particularly DDT. In the 1960s, these chemicals, some of which were discovered as effective insect killers during World War II, were falsely thought to be harmful only to bugs, not to humans, plant life, or animals. Carson proved this to be false, citing many cases of accidental death due to exposure to these highly hazardous chemicals.

Carson also explained the scary truth that nearly everyone could be exposed to and potentially harmed by these chemicals, even if they had been nowhere near them, if they leak into our surface and ground water. Once these chemicals are in the water, there is apparently no effective way to get them out. And as many of us know, if you contaminate water in just one tiny area, it can spread through a far greater expanse.

Carson’s research and Silent Spring were certainly important to our current environmental and "green" movement. She pointed out the real dangers that pesticides hold which, for some decades before her work, had gone totally unnoticed. It is probably true that, had Carson not done what she did, someone eventually would have seen the hazards of these pesticides and their unrestricted use. But how many more people would have died? How damaged would our ecosystems have been by that point? How many fish would be floating dead in streams and ponds, and birds falling from the sky?

Carson was truly an instrumental individual in the movement that has largely rid our society of many, but not all of these hazards. Silent Spring could potentially be the savior of innumerable Americans who could have died if these dangers had not been brought to the attention of our nation.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Highlands Conservation Act in 2011

By Lorraine Metz

Since June of 2008 the New Jersey Highlands Regional Master Plan has been in effect. It is part of a larger, four-state effort to protect water supply areas in Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, as well. It’s an important act that will help conserve the land and resources of the Highlands Region. According to the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, this region spans a 3.5 million-acre area that is important in the well-being of our environment and directly impacts our communities to save and keep our drinking water clean. Because of legislation that President Bush signed in 2004, $10 million per-fiscal year between 2005 and 2014 are to be appropriated by the Secretary of Interior to help preserve land in the Highlands, according to the NJ highlands Council.

In New Jersey the Highlands Region includes an 859,358 acre area encompassing88 municipalities. Information provided by the NJ Highlands Council also includes a well researched assessment of the land including surface and ground water, open space, farmland and recreation. In New Jersey we depend on the Highlands to supply 65% of our drinking water which serves 5.4 million residents.

While focus on the streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs are crucial, the Highlands Act also addresses other aspects of the region including forests which help with surface water filtration as well as habitats for animal and plant species. Due to urbanization as well as commercial and residential building there has been a loss of agricultural lands. The Farmland preservation program has helped the Highlands region by preserving acres of land useful in the ecology of the region.

Since the Highlands Act now includes a Master Plan, we can count on our communities to be protected restored and nourished. Not all Highlands communities have agreed to the plan and New Jersey is offering benefits to those communities that will become a part of the act. New Jersey promises legal benefits including legal representations and help with town ordinances as well as their local zoning decisions. The state also provides grants to help with the process.

At the end of 2010, New Jersey released a letter stating that four more towns and a county were approved for conformance with the Highlands Plan. These communities, all approved on December 16th, were Mahwah Township, Bethlehem Township, Califon Borough and Glen Gardner Borough. Also recently approved were Byram Township, Chester Township, Hampton Borough and Lebanon Borough. After these groups in December were approved, the number of municipalities involved in the program rose to 59 of the 88 municipalities in the region. There are still many areas in New Jersey that have yet to conform to the Highlands Plan including most of Morris County, which is the center of the Highlands region.

While there are still municipalities that have yet to submit a plan to conform local zoning to the regional master plan, the Highlands Council is hopeful that eventually all 88 municipalities will approve of the act and allow the Highlands Regional Master Plan to take total effect in helping protect our water supply land.

For more information:

If your community is not yet involved in the Highlands Regional Master Plan more information on your area as well as petitions are available at -

For a look at the tracking sheet of ongoing projects in the Highlands Region -

Pepsi Goes Green

By Courtney Leiva

Pepsi made the decision to create a plastic drinking bottle made from entirely plant based materials.

According to ABC news, the popular beverage company is going to develop its first plastic bottle made of nothing but renewable materials such as corn husks, switch grass, and pine bark. The company also plans to use its own food by products such as orange and potato peels from their other business such as Tropicana and Frito Lay Chips.

Pepsi’s decision is no doubt a greener one, as plant based products are proven to have fewer effects on the environment.

In a 2010 study conducted by the University of Pittsburg, bottles made with plant based plastics were found to be less toxic and more biodegradable in comparison to bottles made with petroleum.

Although Pepsi’s announcement seems to be a groundbreaking one, Pepsi’s rival company, Coca-Cola once made a plant based drinking bottle launched in the year 2009.

Production process was described by Coke as “an innovative process that turns sugar cane and molasses, a by product of sugar production, into a key component for PET(polyethylene terephtalate) plastic.” Coke’s “PlantBottle” was made from only 30 percent plant based materials.

In comparison and nearly a year later, Pepsi’s bottle which will be made from 100 per cent plant based materials. In a recently released statement by the company, Coke was still years away from a 100 percent plant based bottle.

Pepsi’s own plant based PET bottle looks and feels like the structure of petroleum based bottles even though it does not use or deplete the natural resource.

Although this does mean that Pepsi is trying to reduce their carbon footprint, the issue of the continued use and waste of PET plastic consumption is still at large.

Over the years plastic bottle production has had a harmful effect on our environment. Most plastic drinking bottles are made from petroleum, a non renewable resource. Plastic bottle production depletes these fossil fuels as it requires lots of energy just to make one single plastic bottle.

In 2001, the World Wide Nature Fund reported that roughly 1.5 million tons of plastic were used in the production of bottling about 89 billion liters of water each year. That was only ten years ago. Imagine what this figure is like now in 2011!

Pepsi’s newest bottle will be recyclable but not compostable or biodegradable. Unfortunately this means that bottle, like most plastic bottles, will probably end up in a landfill somewhere.

Pepsi’s greener efforts however, should not be ignored.

Pepsi’s decision has received much praise as Allen Hershkowitz from the Natural Resources Defense council said, “It was the beginning of the end for petroleum-based plastic bottles.”

Pepsi has also developed other green food products. Frito-Lay, for example, launched the very first compostable Sun Chips bag according to USA Today.

In 2009, Naked Juice, changed its original packaging to create ‘reNEWabottles’, which are made from 100 percent post consumer recycled PET resin.

Look for Pepsi’s plant bottles are expected to hit stores sometime in 2012.