Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Letter to the Editor: Global Climate Change

In response to article:

To the editor,

This letter is regarding Ethan Huff’s article, “Is global warming ‘over’?” that you published in I disagree with the premise of the article, which appears to defend a global warming theory claiming that it is actually no longer occurring.

Global warming is an environmental issue that has been discussed by scientists for many years. The unusual rapid increase in Earth’s average surface temperature is what causes global warming. I am not a scientist; however, I feel that global warming is still an occurring issue. According to, scientists believe that current global warming isn’t natural. Therefore, I don’t agree with your reporting on how Professor Judith Curry concluded that global warming is over.

Currently, the winter season for the East Coast has been a “warm winter.” Temperatures have reached highs up to 65 degrees and about an average of 45 degrees. The East Coast usually experiences cooler temperatures during this time of the winter season and it seems likely that global warming is the blame for the unusual temperatures.

You stated in your article, “the debate whether or not so-called “global warming” is real, and whether or not human activity plays any role, will likely continue on for years to come.” I believe global warming not only exists, but will also most likely continue. Additionally, I don’t believe that human activity plays a role with global warming. This environmental issue has to do with the Earth and its unusual rising temperatures on the surface. Last summer, the East Coast experienced hotter weather that scientists and weather reporters may have considered to be related to global warming. Temperatures rose to a high of 118 degrees, with the humidity temperatures above average. This “heat wave” had to be linked to global warming.

To conclude, I respect that many scientists are taking the time to analyze and study the role of global warming and its occurrence today. Thank you for taking the time to read my response to your article.

Molly Rothberg

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saving a Swamp

By Richard Fetzer

This story starts with a bistate government organization, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, planning to build another international airport, in addition to the three that were already in the New York metropolitan area.

Their choice of location sat 30 miles west of New York City and less then 20 miles from Newark Airport.  The site, located in Morris County, N.J., is called the Great Swamp.  It consists of 7,768 acres of varying habitats and is home to more than 244 species of birds. Fox, deer, muskrat, turtles, fish, frogs and a wide variety of wildflowers and plants also live in this beautiful natural expanse. 

When it was at risk, the swamp did not have many allies.  The local and state government were not going to step in.  So, how is it that there is not a fourth international airport, but rather a national wildlife refuge, at the Great Swamp?  Grass root campaigns.  It took people with a passion of the marsh and it’s wildlife residents to protect it from the almost certain destruction.

Helen Fenske was one of the leaders in the campaign.  Because, she was a stay at home mom, she held meetings in her kitchen.  The view of the swamp from her farm house was captivating and became a physical embodiment of the their goal to save the entire swamp.

It took a lot of legwork by a lot of different people.  As explained in “Saving a Swamp and Other Landmark Campaigns,” they gave talks to various conservation groups, and seeking a wider audience, they set up a display at the Short Hills Mall that included pictures, maps, films, slides and even a recreated pond scene.  They gathered public attention and support, that trickled up to government and eventually saved the swamp.

This is a great example of how to accomplish conservation today.  With all the concerns on the political arena about human rights (gay rights in particular), the economy, health care, etc., environmental issues are often overlooked.  This is not saying that any other issues are more or less important, they just grab more attention and therefore, consideration from politicians. 

So, in order to make changes and protect the environment, we all need to find a local environmental issue to become passionate about  (God knows there are plenty), and rally the troops.  It can start out small, handing out flyers, talking to people on the street.  Then you get the attention of more people, they get involved.  Then, large environmental organizations catch wind of it and they get involved.  Politicians are next in line; they will help make change and then take all the credit, as if the whole thing was their idea.  We let them, because, after all, we have saved an important part of the earth and that is far more important then credit.

Good luck and happy conservation.

Continued Legacy

By Richard Fetzer

Picture this.  You are at a backyard BBQ with friends and family.  People are milling around, chatting and soaking in the vibrant sunshine.  Kids are playing tag in the grass, giggling as they avoid being “it.”  Suddenly, you notice the family dog is digging at something, but you can’t quite make out what it is.  As you take a closer look, you realize that it is paint sludge oozing out of the ground, like a newly discovered oil well.  Everyone you love is now at risk of being exposed.  Now, imagine that there is nothing you can do; no one that will help or even seems to care.  This doesn’t leave you with a good feeling, does it?  It probably would fill you with overwhelming feelings of anxiety, rage and despair.

The situation and the feelings that it evokes are all too real for the Ramapough Indians in Upper Ringwood, a former iron mining community in a remote corner of Ringwood, NJ.  They have an environmental issue literally in their own backyards that is linked to cancer, skin afflictions, mental disorders, which they feel has caused numerous illnesses and deaths throughout their community.  Many of them would like to leave, but financially can’t or are not quite able to leave the land of their forefathers.  It would be a tough decision for anyone, but as this issue persists, staying has become less and less of an option.

The Record’s “Toxic Legacy” series is an in depth coverage of this environmental and humane injustice.  The website they created,, to showcase their findings is full of multimedia and interactive material that brings this important story to life.  It includes original documents, pictures, videos, maps and much, much more that adds so much to this compelling story. 

So, here is a quick over-view.  Ford Motor Co. used to have an assembly plant in plant in Mahwah, one of the largest in the country.  Before it closed in 1980, Ford was left with the task of disposing of the paint sludge and other toxins.  Rather then doing the responsible thing, they decided, like too many other mega corporations, to save money, time and manpower by simply dumping it where it was least likely to be discovered.  Why not the remote area inhabited by the Ramapoughs.  That is the obvious decision, right? 

Wrong! It is a serious human and environmental issue and needs to be fixed.  There have been attempts to right this terrible wrong, but cleanup efforts were less then what was to be expected.  The problem still exists and therefore is affecting countless individuals.  Families have lost loved ones to cancer, are afflicted with disturbing skin disorders and have become overwhelmed by thousands of other ramifications they feel are linked to this poor decision by Ford. 

Please read about this issue on the “Toxic Legacy” website.  Immerse yourself in all it has to offer.  Hopefully, you will be inspired to help your fellow man or spread awareness.  If not, I guess you shouldn’t feel too bad.  You surely won't be the last and definitely not the first to turn your back on this damaged community.

“Toxic Legacy”: The Voice of Upper Ringwood

By Diana Stanczak

“Toxic Legacy,” the 2005 in-depth investigation of contaminated areas in northern New Jersey, specifically in Upper Ringwood, painted a picture of the devastation carelessly caused to the area’s residents by the Ford Motor Company in the 1960s. The report, published in The Record, opened readers’ eyes to the land’s contamination, and more importantly, the innocent lives that were destroyed by illnesses that the community feels were caused by the contamination.

One of the strongest parts of the “Toxic Legacy” report were the interviews with the locals who live in the Ringwood area – specifically, the Ramapoughs. These first-hand accounts allowed the reader to understand the severity of the situation.  The Ramapoughs, which according to the article are recognized as a Native American tribe by the State of New Jersey, celebrate their culture with frequent traditional community gatherings. However, due to the apparent side effects of their land’s contamination many have developed serious illnesses like cancer.

The interviews gave the report a human element, and allowed it to be something that readers could relate to. The interview with Paul Van Dunk was touching – the report explained that Van Dunk, who lost part of his leg to diabetes, and his wife, who suffered a heart attack, do their best to live their lives. The Van Dunks recall when the stream water ran clear – but they also remember when the paint sludge first became a problem.  A quote from Van Dunk sums up their living situation: “This used to be a beautiful mountain. I wish the kids could see it the way we did.”

While Toxic Legacy covers every angle of the story, the interviews are the threads that tie the story together, making the report a thorough and descriptive account of the residents’ lifestyles and their living conditions.

"Mann v. Ford": Another View

By Diana Stanczak

Last week, I watched the documentary “Mann vs. Ford” in my World Cultures class. The documentary focused on the lawsuit between Upper Ringwood’s Ramapough community and Ford Motor Company. A key theme repeated in the documentary was the fact that these natives health has been compromised due to the thoughtless actions of Ford, which dumped paint in the area inhabited by thousands of people.  “Mann vs. Ford” followed the work of Wayne Mann, the lead plaintiff in the case, who fought to receive some sort of compensation for all the damage done by Ford. Damage included health issues and destruction of land.

The health issues were particularly disturbing to learn about. So many people suffered and died from cancer and other diseases. The documentary tied in with “Toxic Legacy,” and served as a good counterpart, because seeing a visual reinforces the situation in the viewer’s mind. The footage of all the areas affected was effective as well, because the documentary really captured the Ramapough’s emotional connection to the land.

The following class, Dwaine Perry, Chief of the Ramapough-Lenape, spoke to our class about the living conditions in Upper Ringwood. Chief Perry did not hold back – his words flowed freely, and some of the things he had to say were harsh. The most surprising thing for me to learn was that Ramapoughs are severely outcasted by the rest of Ringwood’s residents – something that was not depicted in the documentary. He also spoke bitterly about the lawyers, suggesting that there was more they could have done. After hearing Chief Perry speak, I began to question the credibility of the documentary.

I came to the conclusion that as with anything in life, there are always two or more sides and it is important to hear all of them. I still think the documentary is a good vehicle for raising awareness of the destruction in Upper Ringwood, but I feel that it may have almost idolized the Ramapoughs and depicted them in an unnatural, completely positive light.

Carla Koppell: Making a Difference in the World

By Amanda Daley

Carla Koppell’s lecture in Friends Hall gave me a new understanding of global sustainability and women’s empowerment. I found her talk to be extremely interesting and it really opened my eyes.

Carla Koppell is Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment and also Senior Advisor to the Administrator at the United States Agency for International Development. Her main objective is to focus US development assistance on fostering gender equality and women’s empowerment throughout the world.

The most important thing that she said was, “Be bold and be shameless.” I think that those 5 words alone made her entire speech. I am not the type of person that would stand up in front of a group of people and do something that I am not comfortable doing. By being bold and shameless you can accomplish so much even if it’s out of your comfort zone.

Another thing that I found interesting was when she said that what she is doing now isn’t what she wanted to do when she was younger. She said that she took on new challenges and tried different things to get to where she is now. I can relate to that because when going into college and getting to where I am now, I changed my major five times before I finally decided that journalism is what I wanted to do. I went from wanting to be an elementary school teacher, to being a radio broadcaster, to wanting to save the environment, to wanting to own a business, to wanting to write to make a difference. I also went to a different school before deciding that Ramapo was the right college for me. I think that it is important to try different things before you pick just one thing that you want to do for the rest of your life.

I also found it to be amazing that many countries, including our own, have little involvement from women. And when women did get involved in the government they found many flaws and made the laws better.

I think that talks like these are important to have at colleges, especially at a school that is centered on being more sustainable. Ramapo students can learn a lot from this lecture because everyone wants to make a difference and Carla Koppell is making a difference on making the world a more sustainable and women-empowered place.

How Could Regulators Fail?

By Amanda Daley

Reading the section of “Toxic Legacy” on how regulators failed to clean up the land simply blows my mind. How could the US Environmental Protection Agency and clean-up crews miss all that was left behind after the first clean up? It doesn’t make any sense.

I think that the first time Ford went to clean up the land they should have been accompanied by a member of the EPA to see that all of it was actually being cleaned. Also the fact that the EPA approved the least costly testing of the area for Ford should have been a red flag that they were going to do a half way job. And since there were already so many problems with Ford cleaning up their mess they should have denied it.

f this mess was cleaned up right the first time then Ford wouldn’t have had to spend as much money as they did on a subsequent clean-up because they tried to skimp on it the first time around. The harsher laws for dumping should have gone into effect before Ford started dumping in the middle of the woods. I think that the EPA and Ford should be held more responsible for what has been happening to these people rather then just brushing it off their shoulders like it’s nothing.

It should be illegal to dump in wooded areas anyway. Not only is this sludge dangerous to people but it’s dangerous to animals as well.  I think that Ford’s dumping should have been thoroughly investigated way before the “Toxic Legacy” series came out. All the information that is being uncovered that was either missed or brushed off should not be coming up. Ford should not have been able to get away with as much as they did.  Also Ford shouldn’t hide and say they have no statement about what they did because they know what they did is wrong, and they need to own up to it.

I don’t blame these people for suing Ford Motor Companies as well as the EPA because this is all stuff that should have been taken care of in the first place rather than putting it off for years until someone decided to investigate more. Ford should take responsibility for the damage that they have caused.

An Industrial Waste Story

By Molly Rothberg

"Toxic Legacy” is a newspaper series that examines an industrial waste story where lead, arsenic and solvents that were linked to cancer appeared in lawns and adjacent lands after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared a Ford Motor Company dump site as “clean.” The site, located in Ringwood, N.J. was taken off the national Superfund list and federal officials accepted Ford’s guarantee that they had fully investigated the site and removed the cancer-linking waste. The five-part special series produced by the Bergen Record in Hackensack, N.J. told a different tale after uncovering the real story. The series exposed hazard dumping in a poor community near streams and reservoirs, as well as in other unauthorized sites in New Jersey and New York.

Additionally, the Record took the series to another level in exposing the failure of the government to address the problem. Once The Record published “Toxic Legacy,” the EPA promised to fully clean the area and re-listed it as a Superfund site. The New Jersey governor took action while New York promised to take action on several years of complaints regarding sludge dumps near a water supple river that flows into New Jersey.
This investigative series raises an important question for the residents of Ringwood: How does this toxic tragedy affect them? Additionally, this story is an example on how it shapes the Ringwood community into a different viewpoint for New Jersey and New York residents. The impact of "Toxic Legacy" changes the residents’ perception on how they feel about their community. It’s a serious community environmental issue that is a major hazard to the residents.

Separate from the Ringwood residents, how does it affect the town’s image to people outside of Ringwood? This issue portrays a negative view of Ringwood, as well as the New Jersey and New York state governments, and especially the federal EPA, which declared the 500-acre site as a “clean" site. Many of the Ringwood residents, who pay a lot of money in property taxes each year, must be furious with the government and their extensive process to finally take action. Residents have been at high risk for cancer for years and haven’t known. It’s a huge environmental issue that needs to be widely addressed.

Ways to Switch to the ‘Green Lifestyle’

By Molly Rothberg

Today, the message is out all over: Nourish our Environment. The promotion of being eco-friendly is hard to avoid nowadays, considering that many people are becoming more conscious about their environment. Though for some, living eco- friendly requires changing your lifestyle, which can be difficult since we tend to embrace the conveniences that we’re used to.

First and foremost, being eco-friendly requires recycling by separating cans, glass, paper and plastics from your trash. Recycling is so easy a task and it makes such a difference in the amount of trash that gets to a landfill. Recycling is an essential task for any eco-friendly individual.

Another step towards being green would be to limit the use of electricity. It’s so easy to forget to turn off a light which wastes energy while increasing your electric bill. Who wants that? Think of it as this: Saving energy will save you money. Need I say more?

When it comes to drinking water, too many of us prefer bottled over tap. It costs the United States a lot of money to produce bottled water. Additionally, in terms of the processing, plastic, and waste, it’s better for the environment to drink tap water. A way to improve your tap water to become pleasant drinking water would be to invest in a good water filter. These can be found anywhere. A filter can be attached to your faucet or buy a container filter that can be refrigerated.

Think hybrid! More car companies are designing hybrid car models because many people are making the switch. Hybrid cars use two or more distinct power sources to move the vehicle, achieving more fuel economy and lower emissions. In stop and go traffic, hybrid vehicles are ideal while they run off battery storage, and uses gasoline once they’ve reached a certain speed.

Avoid those paper towels. Do you know how many trees get cut down to make paper? The answer is too many. In fact, when paper towels are available, people always tend to grab more than what they need, wasting them. If possible, avoid using them in your household by using hand towels instead and turn to air dryers when at a public place.

There are various ways to go green to help improve our environment. The overall issue here is that many people have clung to the conveniences that we are spoiled with. Such as, setting our heat to as high as we wish, to grabbing a bottled water over filling water in a glass. Just like anything else, in time, the ‘green lifestyle’ can be achieved by constant reminding and practice until it becomes naturally adapted.

How “Saving a Swamp” Hit Home

By Victoria Ahlers

Reading “Saving a Swamp and Other Landmark Campaigns” in  A Citizens Guide to Grassroots Campaigns sparked an interest to research topics of this nature in regards to my home town of Freehold, NJ. I could not find any information about groups such as the one that was started to save the Great Swamp, but I did find interesting information about a lake that is located just a mile from my house.

Lake Topanemus is a Freehold landmark. If you are from the town, chances are you have been to the park it is located at.  Whether it be for Old Freehold Day, to fish, to run, or to just enjoy a nice summer day, the park is a local hot spot for warm weather outdoor activities. Located in the center of the park is the lake. The lake isn’t as big as some of the lakes found in northern New Jersey; however it’s still large enough for paddle and row boats. There is a small neighborhood located on the lake as well. The lake has been a local landmark for decades, and back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, was a popular place for children to go swimming. However, the lake is now contaminated and deemed unsafe for swimming because of the development around the lake, and garbage dumping in the lake.

While reading “Saving a Swamp” I wondered whether my town had a group of activists similar to the ones that campaigned to save the swamps in their towns, would the lake still be safe to swim in today.  I’m not sure if there was a group formed and they just weren’t successful, or if no one even knew that the lake was becoming progressively more and more contaminated with each passing year. I do know, however, that there have been a few things done to try and clean up the lake. For instance, Freehold High School, which is located just down the street from the lake, had a number of  biology classes test the PH in water samples from the lake, examine what types of echo-systems developed in and around the lake post-contamination, and also have done a little bit of garbage clean-up along the banks of the lake.

I feel as though it is very possible for these measures to take on a larger scale and really promote the clean-up of the lake. Unfortunately most people in the town are unaware of its contamination, or it doesn’t bother them. Although the lake wasn’t completely destroyed by the building of the surrounding developments, and the increasingly growing amount of litter along its banks and in its water, surely it is not used as much as it once was, and it is losing its value as a landmark of the town. Younger generations are not fully appreciating the potential beauty the lake and the park have. “Saving a Swamp and Other Landmark Campaigns” really opened my eyes to the fact that I don’t really need to have unattainable goals and resources to campaign for the landmark lake in my town, considering how Helen Fenske did much of the work for the Great Swamp Campaign from her own kitchen.

The “To-Go” Cup of Coffee: How Can We Make it More Sustainable?

By Bliss Sando

Unfortunately, not many people actively participate in sustainable everyday practices.  A good example of this is our obsession as Americans with the "to-go" cup of coffee.  How many of those thermal cardboard and Styrofoam cups do we really need to use?  Bring your own travel mug, for Earth's sake!  Here are some of the environmental problems caused by our excessive use of disposable coffee cups.
First off, most paper coffee cups are NOT made from recycled paper.  Many are made entirely from 100% bleached virgin paperboard (essentially new paper), and those who advertise their use of recycled paper (like coffee giant Starbucks) often use only a small percentage of recycled paper, the rest being new paper.  Secondly, the manufacturing process of paper cups uses a large amount of resources (namely water, energy, and a whole lot of trees).  The third, and potentially the most troublesome, problem with these hot cups is that during the manufacturing process they are covered with a plastic resin called polyethylene.  This substance that coats the cardboard helps to prevent leaks and keep your beverage warm, but also prevents the cups from being recycled.  It is unfortunately not common knowledge that any cup laminated with this polyethylene substance is not recyclable, and therefore will end up in a landfill.  Once in the landfill, these cups begin their decomposition process, which releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is a contributor to climate change.

The website entitled “Sustainability is Sexy” has compiled the chart below to give consumers an idea of exactly how many disposable cups we use, as well as the resources involved in their production:


To some, the answer may seem easy.  Why don’t cup manufacturers find a way to produce recyclable cups?  Well, the fact is that the process of recycling is energy intensive in itself, so we as consumers must simply use less.  One way to do so is by using our own reusable mugs.  These mugs are available in ceramic, glass, stainless steel, and even plastic.  And get this: most of these mugs are made to be used up to 3,000 times!  Although the process of producing reusable cups uses more resources, their durability causes their use to be much more environmentally friendly in the long run.  So, let's weigh the ups and downs.  Paper and Styrofoam cups can only be used once, and are TERRIBLE for the environment because of the resources that they use up in production and the steady stream of waste that they cause.  Reusable cups can be used thousands of times, have a positive environmental impact, and can save both consumers and coffee retailers money!

I, like many Americans, love my coffee.  I almost always have a cup in my hand, wherever I am.  About two years ago, I realized that I was using up to five paper or Styrofoam cups per day.  I purchased a few different travel mugs, which are sold at most coffee retailers and grocery stores.  Now, I brew my own coffee in the morning, and fill up my reusable mug.  When I need a refill during the day, I bring my mug to a coffee shop, and they are always happy to rinse and refill it for me with a drink of my choice.  Most coffee retailers even give a discount to those who bring their own reusable mugs!  This simple practice of bringing your own cup results in less garbage in your car, and a lower cost for your beloved cup of coffee.  If you are a coffee-drinking consumer, you can’t beat it.  If you don’t have your own reusable mug, you can order one at the “Sustainability is Sexy” website. 

For more information: