Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Experiential Journal: Sustainability Case Studies from Australia

By Brittany Ryan

To complete my Course Enrichment Component, I attended the two hour Community Resilience lecture presented by Dr. Helen Ross, and fulfilled the other three hours emailing Dr. Ross and reading through her resume and publications.

On February 6, I attended the first presentation in the Expert Practitioner Series for the Ramapo College Masters in Sustainability Studies program. Dr. Helen Ross is an Environmental Psychologist and Anthropologist and a professor of Rural Community Development at the University of Queensland, Australia. Dr. Ross has spent the last 25 years studying Aboriginal communities and their participation in environmental management. She also is an expert in population growth and the resilience of communities, specifically in Southeast Asia and Pacific Islands.

Community resilience is largely relevant to several regions worldwide – if not everywhere. Dr. Ross studies the overlap between social resilience and sustainability.

The two case studies that Dr. Ross presented to us included the research she completed in Stanthorpe, Southeast Queensland and Carins, North Queensland, Australia. At Stanthorpe, she spent three years under a participatory action project, where she incorporated sustainability and other models to improve the psychological well-being of the community. The project involved three phases, where the first two were about collecting data on how the community perceives resiliency. The key concepts identified by the members were social networks and support, positive outlooks, learning, early experience, environment and lifestyle, infrastructure and support services, sense of purpose, diverse and innovative economy, embracing differences, beliefs, and leadership.

During phase three, a “resilience toolkit” was utilized where the strengths of the community were built upon. This toolkit is designed to improve the cooperation within the community. For example, the cultural and economic diversity of the community can be used to build local relationships in helping one another in crisis versus competing with one another. The primary objective is to motivate the community to support one another by developing their own solutions to problems. The objective of interveners, or those interested in enhancing community resilience, is to identify the strengths of a community, build social networks and people-to-place relationships, and engage the community through activities. 

The most important concept I pulled from her presentation was the interdependency resilience and sustainability have on one another. The two concepts are far from separate; forming resilient communities allows for a complex system to become adaptive to changing environments, which is necessary to uphold a sustainable community.

Following her presentation, I emailed Dr. Ross to inquire about her biography; I wanted to learn more about how her passion in the field developed. In doing so, I also learned quite a bit about her accomplishments thus far. Originally, Dr. Ross focused on social impact assessments and over time, she gradually established an interest in community resilience. This was primarily sparked from her recognizing the dynamics of the communities, the way in which they responded to impacting situations and how the responses shaped the result of those impacts. 

Dr. Ross has written sixteen books, co-authored almost 70 journal articles and reports, and served on five different professional boards. Her accomplishments are astounding and it is incredible to witness how much an individual can accomplish in a lifetime. It truly is inspiring and reassuring to see that it is possible to achieve incredible honors and hold such extensive experience in an array of areas.

Experiential Journal: The Life of Snakes

By Jamie Bachar

Friday, April 26, Ramapo College of New Jersey hosted the annual Ramapo River Watershed Conference, which features various speakers on topics related to environmental issues in the region. One such speaker was Randy Stechert, who shared his knowledge of snakes in the New Jersey and Hudson Highlands.

Stechert has been studying reptiles and amphibians for 48 years and has conducted thousands of surveys for timber rattlesnakes in the New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania area. Stechert specializes in non-dangerous snakes. Statewide, Stechert is credited with determining the location of 82% of all known timber rattlesnake dens in New York, according to his private homepage.

During his presentation, Stechert described numerous snakes that live in the area that he has tagged and fought for protection. Stechert began his presentation speaking about the milk snake, which is a species of king snakes. They are not dangerous to humans and like the Black Racer snake eat mostly mice and other snakes.

Of the 22 species of snakes found in New Jersey, there are only two types of venomous snakes. One is the northern copperhead and the other is the timber rattlesnake.

Many of the snake populations are depleting, especially the rattlesnakes and copperheads. In fact at one time rattlesnakes were near extinction in New Jersey due to overkillings, but after laws were passed to protect them they have out preyed copperheads and the copperhead numbers are decreasing. 

Generally, it is out of fear that people kill snakes and many don’t know if they are venomous or not. Poaching snakes has really depleted their populations.

Stechert also explained that many people are getting approval to build homes that are known to be around snake dens. There is a huge threat to the snake population in New Jersey because people are encroaching on their dens. Typically, snakes can not reproduce till 9-10 years old and they have limited reproduction years. There is also a low survival rate of juvenile snakes, which is another contributing factor to their low population numbers.

Typically, the venomous snakes are the most docile. The non-venomous snakes are the most active because they have less defense against attackers. For instance, the eastern hognose snake don’t usually bite but their defense is to imitate rattlesnakes and other venomous snakes. They puff up and spread their neck, roll around on their back, twisting with their tongue out and then lay belly-up. People often think that when snakes die they end up on their back but that isn’t so. For some reason though this snake goes on its back to act dead so their enemies will leave them alone.

Under the state’s Endangered and Non-game Species Conservation Act, it is illegal to kill, harm, harass or collect any snakes. All relocations must be handled by professionals to ensure the snake’s survival. It is also illegal to handle snakes, which unfortunately happens all the time.

Snakes fill a very important ecological role; they control rodents and insects and serve as a food source for numerous animals. In short, snakes are indicators of a healthy ecosystem.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Silent Spring: It's Not Just for the Birds

By Ben Reuter

This was the first time I have had the chance to read Rachael Carson’s book Silent Spring and I must say I am taken away by it. Carson explains how absolutely terrifying and destructive our uses of pesticides and herbicides have been to our environment. 

The book explains and defines the differences between the hundreds of chemicals that have been used on our fields and crops and what distinguishes each chemical from the next. Even with the distinction between the confusing chemical names, all I began to do when a long fancy name popped up was just say ‘death’ instead of the name, because that is what Carson seems to say about each one no matter what they were used for.

Carson not only described the chemicals and what they were, but she even explained how the original production of most chemicals was derived from; they were produced as chemicals to be used during warfare. The most famous of these killers was Agent Orange, which was used during the Vietnam War by the United States in an attempt to clear the Vietnamese Guerilla Fighters out of the dense jungle by having the chemical kill massive amounts of vegetation.

The US government realized that some of these chemicals they sprayed acted as amazing pesticides and herbicides on the battlefields. It took a smart, yet looking back very dumb, person to say, “Wow we can use these on our crops to kill off all the bugs that eat at the crops.” This realization, in my opinion, ended the natural crop era. From now on there were chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides used on farms nationwide to supposedly help with crop production. It sounds fine and dandy until you look at the chemicals used and most contain various dioxins and poisons to kill off pests, but what are those poisons being sprayed on? OUR FOOD!
What could possibly happen to us if we spray this stuff to kill the bugs on our food? Then we eat that poisoned food? How does that make sense?
Carson explained how it wasn’t just the humans that were going to be affected; she also gave numerous accounts of wildlife that wasn’t targeted by the chemicals but were affected in the worst way. She explained how there were hundreds of accounts from bird watchers nationwide that migration patterns and population growth are almost nonexistent around areas where major spraying of fields had occurred. The causes of these extinctions and shifts in migration are linked to the poisons that are sprayed on the fields, consumed by various levels of the food chain, and ending up in the birds. 

The problem with this is the way that these poisons and chemicals are concentrated in animal life higher in the food chain. Birds who eat worms who live in the soil are liable to have hundreds or thousands of levels of concentration higher than the animals being directly sprayed without consuming food lower on the food chain.
Now you are thinking, “Oh, well, that’s just the birds.” Well, what happens when we humans consume the cattle that have been subject to poisoned grasses? The cow’s concentration is higher than the grasses, and then our concentration of poison will in turn be higher than the cow’s concentration, making us very sick with such high concentrations of poisons. This chain reaction is scary because I thought we were spraying to make our lives easier? Not to poison everyone who eats the food we are trying to save… Maybe we should look at ourselves and ask, “Why do we need to do this?” 

It seems to me that if we don’t want to destroy our food system then stop the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, and any other spray that contains any amount of poisons because we realistically don’t know their effects on the world around us. We have been playing in the sandbox and destroying it slowly, now we must stop and start to fix our destruction.

Ohio River Contamination Continues

By Ben Reuter

A chemical plant in Natrium, West Virginia has been under the eye of the EPA for years due to mercury contamination of the area around the plant. The plant was built in 1943 for the production of chemicals used for a wide range of purposes.
 The plant sits on the banks of the Ohio River upstream of Maryland, which took legal action in 2009 to greatly reduce the amount of pollution. The chemicals produced at this facility are part of the chlor-alkali method of creating chemicals such as chlorine and sodium hydroxide. These are some of the most fundamental chemicals used in many different types of manufacturing to produce thousands of common household products.
The plant first had problems with its pollution while under the control of PPG. At the time, PPG owned this facility and four others that were running on outdated technology that used massive amounts of mercury which ended up being a byproduct at the end of the production line. The outdated technology contaminated ground water and soil with massive amounts of mercury and other pollutants. Much of the life within the river near the plant is now deemed hazardous because of large amounts of mercury. Fishermen are told that all fish taken out of the Ohio River in the region are likely to be contaminated and are warned not to consume the meat.
Currently, the plant is under tight supervision of the EPA and Maryland has threatened major fines if pollution isn’t cut, which is pressing plant owners to put in new, cleaner technology that does not use mercury as well as safer and more reliable waste management systems to remove hazardous waste from entering the already contaminated river. 

The plant was recently sold by PPG in its PPG Industries’ sale of its $2.5 billion commodity chemicals business to Georgia Gulf. The combination of the former PPG unit and Georgia Gulf has been renamed Axiall Corp, but the problems with groundwater contamination are still prevalent. 

In 1983, Paul J. Kienholz, PPG Industries' chlor-alkali business manager, said "With the tremendous strides made lately, it is becoming difficult to imagine the construction of any new plants utilizing technologies other than the new membrane cell designs…We will be able to take good advantage of membrane cells in their present state of development.” More than 20 years later, PPG continues to use outdated mercury-cell technology. It is time for a major change to happen now.

For more information:

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Approaching a Silent Spring

By Alexa Rivera

DDT is the most hazardous man-made substance banned in most parts of the globe. In post World War II America, more than 600 million pounds of DDT a year was used to treat the country and rid it of “pests” such as mosquitoes that were carriers of the disease Malaria.

The debate between environmentalists and humanitarians and the chemical industry has been ongoing for more than 50 years. According to the humanitarians’ perspective, DDT help save the country and to ban it was a death sentence to humans.

At one point, DDT was thought to be a pesticide that could work miracles. It was used on over 300 agricultural products, from apples to walnuts, and by the late 1950’s over half a pound per person was sprayed in the United States.

Speculation was raised about harmful effects of the chemical when the book Silent Spring authored by Rachel Carson was published in 1962. The book discussed the detrimental effects that DDT had on humans, wildlife, and the environment around us.

Carson was attacked by the chemical industry and some government officials who said that she was over-reacting and was “crazy” to think that this could harm humans.

In retrospect, Silent Spring got the public’s attention. Carson’s courageous efforts to warn the public about the long term effects of misusing pesticides was noble. She challenged the practice of agriculturalists and the government.

Carson’s writings were the best way to get people to rally against the use of this hazardous chemical. She began researching the use of this pesticide and found after keeping an organized log of the areas sprayed the wildlife was being affected.

The thesis of the book proposed that we as society had a fundamental right to a healthy environment. Before Silent Spring was published Carson tried to submit a number of articles to magazines like Reader’s Digest. The articles were rejected because these magazines would run the risk of losing money from advertisers of this product, according to a documentary aired on PBS called "The American Experience: Rachel Carson."

Over the years DDT and other pesticides were linked to deadly effects among wildlife. During this time Carson saw a rapid decline in eagles and falcons. She also noticed that after a helicopter would spray farms and homes the horses in the area that would drink the water were dead within a matter of 10 hours.

Ingesting DDT not only killed the wildlife, but had effects on humans.  Cancer and other diseases were linked to this chemical.

How could the government not see these effects given the research? Carson’s book made a huge impact on society’s views. Carson should be credited for the banning of DDT; it is because of her that these effects were noted.

A few years after the book was published, the public’s awareness of the dangers associated with this pesticide impelled them to start taking steps in diminishing the use of this chemical in their communities.

I firmly agree that the banning of DDT was an important decision made to help save the environment. Not only is the effects of the chemical horrible for humans, the wildlife important to our ecology has been impacted upon as well.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”  This quote from Silent Spring defines the terrible danger that man has caused to the balance of nature.

If these chemicals were still being used in the amount they were before the publication of Silent Spring, than wildlife and nature as we know it would be weakened.

As society we must know that these pesticides cannot help us if at the same time they harm us.  I am happy to know that this chemical is banned in countries all over.

Although Carson’s strong-willed fight against the chemical industry has resulted in this ban, what can we do as a society to stop all the other harmful things man has created? In years to come,  who is to say that we will not be approaching a silent spring because of another dangerous poison invented to help us?

Silent Spring: More Voices Needed Today

By Ashley Intveld

 Look around you. The wind rustles through each leaf on the trees, the sun permeates through spotty clouds, and the birds sing a sweet melody that's carried on that breeze. Now, imagine a world that Rachel Carson introduced to readers in her 1962 expose, Silent Spring. This world is barren, void of rustling trees and chirping birds. Instead, it is a vast, stark wasteland; a mere skeleton of a world that once was. 

This book served as an early warning of an imminent future should the use of harmful insecticides continue to be used. Not only would the world as we know it wilt and perish, but we too would cease to exist. The saying goes to "let nature run its course." Why, then, are chemical companies quickening the pace?

Carson writes about the dangerous impact insecticides have on wildlife. The chemicals seep into the fatty tissues of animals in which they are magnified. These chemicals then cause debilitating diseases including liver disease, and often death. When incorporated into the food chain, the presence of chemicals has a devastating effect on populations. Considering the fact that humans take part in this food chain, we too become susceptible to the harmful effects of insecticides. 

Water, an essential element to human survival, also becomes tainted with insecticide poisons. Chemicals wash into large bodies of water and groundwater. This mixture then seeps into our water supply, and thus, our water becomes dangerous for our consumption. Humans succumb to rare cancers, Downs Syndrome, and sometimes death as a result of these ailments.

While reading through this, haunting me in the back of my mind was a recurring question: why? Carson answered this question, however, it still racked my mind, for the answer was insufficient. Money? Large corporations put a price tag on human lives and the well being of the environment solely for the purpose to gain a paycheck. Their short-sightedness is quite problematic, considering the fact that their products are destroying the very products that make a profit, and are also killing off the primary clientele. Money runs short, especially when the demand is low. A low demand is inevitable because the people demanding the products are dying. Where is the sense in that?

Reiterating this point further, this linear approach to business cannot be maintained because the product is not efficient. True to theory of evolution, as pests are exposed to dangerous chemicals, they begin to adapt through breeding. That being said, the chemicals kill off the predators we need and the pests we originally tried to rid ourselves of will actually thrive. Again, I ask, where is the sense in continuing to produce a harmful product that isn't even efficient and needs constant tinkering?

Carson, in retrospect, is a hero of her time. She opened eyes and ears about an issue that could not be foreseen without her insights. In reading Silent Spring, I felt somewhat disenchanted that her words were heeded, but not enacted as fully as I think they should be. If anything, we have taken the quick-fix approach to insect killing and applied it to how we care for human ailments. 

We no longer diagnose; we prescribe. It's a quick fix, but not a permanent fix, and the issues remain unresolved. Issues will be solved when voices like Rachel Carson's begin to speak just a little louder, for everyone to hear.

Ramapo River Not Easily Cleaned

By Anthony Smith

Since the time it was discovered that Ford Motor Company had been dumping toxic waste along the Ramapo River for years before the plant closed in 1980, the river has seen its share of problems.

Although efforts have been made to clean up the river and its tributaries, it has been a tough task to complete. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Rampo River’s water quality is impacted by “extensive urbanization and suburban/commercial development.”

Because overpopulation continues to spread throughout the areas surrounding the river, it will continue to be a difficult task.

A 2005 report by the Bergen Record titled “Toxic Legacy” exposed the problems that surround the river and throughout Bergen County. Aside from the paint sludge that was found near the river, many other contaminated sites were uncovered by the newspaper, many of which still have not been cleaned up. Many of these sites are gas stations that leaked petroleum fuel into the ground, contaminating ground water. Ground water and runoff flow into the river and its tributaries, enhancing the problems.

“Of particular concern is the protection of drinking water resources,” the NYSDEC report said. “Industrial and past hazardous waste site disposal are also noted as the source of some water quality impacts in the basin.”

In 2011, the river was heavily affected when Hurricane Irene struck, damaging a fuel oil storage area, causing thousands of gallons of oil to leak into the river.

“What you have is a variety of contaminants that people should avoid as best they can,” Larry Hajna, a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman, told the Bergen Record.

While that doesn’t say much about what exactly else was leaked into the river, it does show that there is a level on concern for the contaminants that nearby residents have to cope with. The ongoing issue of harmful materials that are leaked into the river and its sources will continue to be a problem as the area continues to grow in population.

Hackensack River Cleanup Event in River Edge

For Immediate Release

Contact: Gregg Ogden
Chairman, River Edge EPC

Hackensack Riverkeeper, Inc. Announces Latest River Cleanup Event; River Edge Environmental Protection Commission Pitches In On April 27

River Edge, NJ - Hackensack Riverkeeper, Inc. is once again partnering with the River Edge Environmental Protection Commission for their annual Hackensack River cleanup, set to take place on Saturday, April 27. The yearly event, allows River Edge residents to assist with the cleanup of their region of the Hackensack River. The 2013 cleanup will run from 10 am through 2 pm, beginning at Kenneth B. George Park.

Volunteers will work on foot to help remove trash and debris from the banks of the Hackensack River. Participants will also have the option to sail onto the river via canoes to removes debris from deeper portions of the water. Hackensack Riverkeeper, Inc. asks that each participant wears appropriate work attire. Canoes, paddles, hip waders, garbage bags, gloves and pick-up sticks will be provided to all volunteers. All paddlers must be 18 years of age or older.

Adults and children of all ages are welcome to give a hand at this free event. It is asked that children under the age of 16 be accompanied by an adult. Upon conclusion of the cleanup, Hackensack Riverkeeper, Inc. and River Edge EPC will provide refreshments to all who assist in the cleanup effort. For more information, please contact Gregg Ogden, Chairman of the River Edge EPC at gregosr1@optonline.net, or Sarah Menchise, Outreach Coordinator of Hackensack Riverkeeper, Inc. at 201-968-0808.

-- Anthony Smith

Decades After the War, Cleanup has Begun in Vietnam

By Jamie Bachar

Agent Orange was  used in the Vietnam War to kill plants and trees, instead it poisoned millions of people.

This past August, the United States started its clean up of residue of the chemical compound code named Agent Orange, more than 50 years after the spraying campaign began.  The cleanup at the former US air base in DaNang will cost an estimated $43 million and is expected to finish in 2014, according to CNN.com.

The use of the chemical by the U.S. military in Southeast Asia between 1961 and 1971 devastated large patches of Vietnam. As many as one million people in Vietnam have disabilities or other health problems associated with Agent Orange, according to Vietnamese Red Cross estimations.

Agent Orange has been an issue between Vietnam and the United States since the war because a contaminant in the herbicide mixture, dioxin, can linger in the environment for decades, entering the food supply.

In 2004, a group of Vietnamese citizens filed a lawsuit against companies that produced the toxic chemical but the case was dismissed, according to the Huffington Post. In the past, Washington took a defensive position on Agent Orange because no one had ever determined how much dioxin remains in Vietnam’s soil.

Congress set aside about $49 million for environmental remediation and about $11 million to help people living with disabilities in Vietnam  regardless of cause, the Huffington Post reported.

Meanwhile, 2.6 million U.S. military personnel are believe to have been exposed to the chemical and are still suffering from ailments today from their exposure, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs, reports CNN.com.

Hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans are still alive and eligible for treatment for Agent Orange related illnesses. The Department of Veteran Affairs has compiled a list of health problems that could be associated with exposure to the chemical, including, cancer, Parkinson’s and some heart disease.

Teaching Sustainability Essentials

April 17, 2013

Professor Michael Edelstein
(201) 684-7745

Educating for Sustainability: With the Brain in Mind

Mahwah, NJ- The last of seven presentations for the Creating a Sustainable World: Voices of Key Practitioners #2 at Ramapo College of New Jersey will be held Thursday, April 18 from 6-7 p.m. in the Alumni Lounges, 505 Ramapo Valley Road.
The event, sponsored by MASS: Masters of Arts in Sustainability Studies, will feature Jaimie Cloud, Ph.D and founder and president of the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education. The Cloud Institute has played an essential role introducing sustainability into New Jersey school curricula. Dr. Cloud will be speaking about sustainability education in schools.

The event is free and open to anyone interested.

-- Jamie Bachar

Vernon EarthFest Welcomes Nature Lovers Today

By Ashley Intveld

Vernon, NJ – Vernon Chamber Charities is hosting the annual Vernon EarthFest today (Sunday, April 28) at Heaven Hill Farm from 11 am to 4 pm. The Vernon EarthFest is New Jersey’s largest environmental education event. This family-friendly event is free of charge to people of all ages and will feature a variety of exhibits about wildlife, nature, and Native American history.

Exhibit presenters are from Delaware Raptors, a rehabilitation and conservation center for birds of prey; Lenape Lifeways, a Lenape organization; Richard Reiter, an African drum expert; Snakes-n-Scales, a reptilian rehabilitation center; Eyes of the Wild, wildlife animal experts; and Rizzo’s Wildlife, an organization that specializes in nature education events.

The Vernon Chamber Charities was organized in 2010 and dedicates their efforts to the education of the community regarding environmental issues both locally and worldwide. The VCC also offers scholarship opportunities to qualifying high school students involved with community service projects geared toward the betterment of the environment.

Heaven Hill Farm is located near the Appalachian Trail that leads to the Pinwheel Vista lookout. Locally owned and operated, Heaven Hill has been Vernon’s premier garden center and farm market for 30 years.

For more information:


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

2013 Ramapo River Watershed Conference

By Alexa Rivera

An extensive cleanup of contamination from Ford Motor Company’s former manufacturing plant in Mahwah will be a highlight of discussions at the 18th annual Ramapo River Watershed Conference on Friday.

The Ramapo River Committee and the Environmental Studies Program at Ramapo College are hosting the conference in the Trustees Pavilion on April 26 from 10 am-5 pm.

The purpose of the conference is to present important updates on watershed events including the Ford paint sludge remediation currently underway in Torne Valley in Ramapo, NY, news from the Ramapo River headwaters in Orange County, NY and an environmental impact assessment by Ramapo College students of the expanded natural gas pipelines under construction in the Highlands region.

At 2 pm, a report on "Assessing Cumulative Impacts of Gas Pipelines in the Highlands Region" will be provided by Ramapo College students in Professor Michael Edelstein's Environmental Assessment capstone course.

President Peter Mercer will be giving the opening remarks at the event, followed by the School of Social Science and Human Services (SSHS) dean, Sam Rosenberg.

Members of the Ramapo River committee including Chairman Geoff Welch will be speaking to update the community on what is happening across the region in New York and New Jersey.

The supervisor of the Town of Ramapo, Christopher St. Lawrence, will also be speaking about Ford’s remediation work, along with Chuck Stead, Cornell Cooperative Exentision Educator and Adjunct Professor at Ramapo College.

Another important topic that has been affecting residents in Pompton Lakes, NJ is pollution in much of the town from DuPont’s former explosives manufacturing plant. The event will also feature an exceptional variety of speakers on several other environmental and cultural topics pertaining to the Ramapo Valley in New Jersey and New York.

This conference is important to go to so the Ramapo College community and residents in surrounding towns know what is happening in our environment.

The event is free to attend, but registration is requested at: geoffwelch@gmail.com

For more information on the conference schedule:

This article also appeared in The Ramapo News

Highlands Conformance Ordinance Adopted in Lebanon Township

For Immediate Release

Contact: Steven Aliano

Lebanon Township Acts to Conform with New Jersey Highlands Master Plan

An ordinance regarding conformance with the Highlands Act was adopted by the Lebanon Township Committee after a public hearing on April 3.

Under the ordinance, the Hunterdon County township must "conform its Master Plan, development regulations, and all other regulations applicable to the use and development of land within the Planning Area of the municipality, to achieve consistency with the goals, requirements, and provisions of the Highlands Regional Master Plan."

The township's petition for plan conformance was accepted in October 2011 by the Highlands Council with certain conditions. Any other ordinances that are inconsistent with the Highlands Act will have to be repealed. Conformance makes Lebanon Township eligible for grants and other financial and technical assistance from the Highlands Council. The Council is expected to provide grant funds for all mandatory aspects of plan conformance and possibly for discretionary work. Conformance in the planning area is voluntary.

Most of Lebanon Township—20,264 acres—is in the Preservation Area and just six acres are in the Planning Area. The township previously “opted in” to both areas. In other business, introduction of an ordinance regarding affordable housing related fees was tabled for the second time in as many meetings.

-- Stephen Aliano

NJ Highlands Pipeline Reforestation Faulted

By Steven Aliano

An article in the New Jersey Herald details the faulty execution from the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. to properly reforest trees taken down to make way for their pipeline project completed in 2011 through Wantage, Vernon, West Milford, and into Ringwood. 

According to representatives of the state Department of Environmental Protection, the planted shrubs and trees were not appearing to be taking root, and while the hot, dry summer and deer foraging were partly to blame, the DEP concluded that Tennessee Gas did not do all of the replanting it was required to do.

DEP spokesperson Larry Ragonese was quoted as saying that when they allow companies the privilege of operating through the Highlands, they expect  the companies to replant whatever they have disturbed. Due to this shortcoming from Tennessee Gas, the DEP directed them to come back with a reevaluated reforestation plan.

A spokesperson for Tennessee Gas said that they have received the state order and are “reviewing” it but could not comment any further.

Here are the statistics: Tennessee Gas has said that they have planted 80,000 trees along the pipeline route. The DEP said that not one of the 1,440 required plantings were done in the Hamburg Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Vernon. Additionally, only 200 of the 2,500 plantings were done in the Bearfort Mountain Area of Hewitt State Park in West Milford, including a failure to use trees of the proper height and thickness.

In the revised plan, Tennessee Gas must indicate the number, size, and species of plantings when performed, in addition to benchmarked scheduling, completion date, deer browsing control element, and watering and monitoring element.

A recent walkthrough of the area by the Pipeline Walkers, an activist group, as well as a handful of Ramapo College students and New Jersey Herald reporters discovered that the perceived grassy meadow area had few saplings strewn about, some in weak condition while others appeared dead. Woodchips were also found in the marshy, wetland area adjacent to the pipeline area, as well as long, random stretches of tarp. The original plan also required Tennessee Gas to remove excess trash and debris from their workstations.

These lackadaisical efforts by Tennessee Gas really give them a bad reputation. It seems that any company of this magnitude never really keeps environmental efforts in mind when it comes to the rebuilding of nature in the areas of their construction, regardless of the fact that they are drilling through forests and wetlands areas. If they are going to go through with this giant, man-made scar in the middle of a natural preserve, the least they could do is rebuild once they are done, and follow the instructions by the DEP. The fact that they don’t, and don’t really explain why, is very annoying and frustrating.

Speaking of scars, in this article was a photo from Vernon of the meadow-like strip area explained previously. The caption reads that local residents call it the “scar,” where Tennessee Gas has cleared nearly 53,000 trees. It’s such an unnatural looking arrangement, and it is truly sickening to watch this all unfold. 

Wilderness Hiking Safety Tips

By Ben Reuter

Many people see hiking as an easy way to get active and enjoy the outdoors. Hiking is a fun, light hearted activity that allows people to exercise and enjoy the outdoors, but it is also a time of danger for the inexperienced hiker. 

There are numerous accounts each year of casual hikers getting lost in the woods and end up meeting a horrible end. Accidents while hiking are due to inexperienced hikers who do not prepare for their adventure into the wilderness. I say wilderness because hiking is entering nature and exploring its unknown areas, and with these unknown areas comes danger. Danger can come in many shapes and sizes, but if you follow my advice you will be safe and have a wonderful adventure with Mother Nature.

Hiking clothing should be light and loose. The reason for light and loose clothing is to keep as light and maneuverable as possible and for it to be loose enough for you to move around. However, if your clothing is too loose, it will become a hassle and hinder your maneuverability. I will give you my typical list of clothing for hikes, but keep in mind these are all weather permitting. 

The hotter the temperature, the less I wear, and the colder the temperature, the more I wear. Clothing is the most important item on your hike but footwear is the most important clothing item. You are going to be on your feet the entire hike and the footwear that you wear will determine if your hike will be enjoyable or not. The shoes you choose must fit your feet right. If they are too big or too small your feet will not be held properly within the shoe which enhances the chances of foot or ankle injury.

The clothing you wear while hiking is an extremely important part of being prepared for a hike, but so is the supplies you bring. Any physical exercise depletes your body of energy and water. To combatant this, you should bring at least one bottle of water and some sort of light weight food. If you are going on a longer or more strenuous hike, the more water and food you should bring. An example of what I bring when I am hiking is two bottles of water and three or four granola bars. In my opinion granola bars are the easiest to travel with but other great ideas are nuts, fruits, and Meals Ready to Eat (MRT).

Now you have the basic supplies that are needed for a successful hike, the next thing you will need is simple, awareness of the area you are hiking. Look at a map before leaving the house or bring it with you. Here is a list of important points to look for on a map that will make your hike easier and safer.
·        Note the colors of all the trail markers you will be following
·        Check to see how far the nearest housing development, or in-use roadway is from your hiking area
·        Calculate the distance and time of the hike you are planning.

Bringing a map with you is the best option in case you get lost or need to check back on your information. Even a five second overview of the map before leaving your house is better than not looking at all. Along with knowing your location, basic survival techniques are necessary when venturing into the wild, Fire, Shelter, Signaling for Help, First Aid. Knowing the basic aspects of these survival techniques can come in handy and save your life in a sticky situation. 

The last survival technique I will leave you with is this; In case of an emergency remember these two words, STAY CALM. Staying calm is the greatest advantage you have in an emergency situation. If you are not calm then you will not think clearly which will lead you to make rash decisions further putting you in peril. Stay calm, think clearly and you will create opportunity for rescue. 

You have read the basics about hiking safety and survival; are you ready to start your next hike? Stop and ask yourself for each item, what purpose does this serve? And will it hinder my hiking in any way? Refer to a map before leaving and remember to think clearly, stay calm, and above all else use your new skills in hiking to enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer.

For more information:
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

Highlands Pipeline: Fight for the Forests

By Ben Reuter

Judy Sullivan, the president of the Ramapough Conservancy, recently gave a presentation to our class about the pipeline that is being upgraded in North Jersey. The pipeline is a natural gas pipeline that is an extension line for Tennessee Gas, which is a subsidiary of El Paso Pipeline Partners, a major pipeline company that has laid hundreds of miles of pipelines across the North east.

Much of the natural gas that is being pumped through these pipes is gas that has been drilled through the uses of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ that is taking place in Pennsylvania. Fracking is an enormously destructive way of drilling, but the new surge of gas presented by this awful drilling technique means there must be an expansion in the infrastructure designed to distribute the gas. The pushes in upgrading pipeline have caused major environmental devastation to the forested areas and watershed areas all along the New Jersey Highland Area. 
The pipeline that runs West to East across the northern part of New Jersey is already in place and has been for a number of years, but the new construction that is currently in the works is a whole new pipeline that is being laid down. A much larger diameter pipe is being laid alongside the old pipe along the same clear cutting that runs through the forests in North Jersey like a highway. Even though the new pipe is being set along the same path as the old pipe, there is still major amounts of new clear cutting of trees and vegetation that has to happen. Due to the addition of pipe, they need to have room for large construction vehicles to maneuver and travel along the pipelines in order to lay them down.
The destructive clear cutting and construction that is taking place with this new pipeline project is causing wildlife problems as well as pollution problems, Sullivan said. The use of so many large construction vehicles are a concern due to the amount of pollution from the exhaust and any gas or oil leaks from the vehicles right in the heart of some of the most pristine and preserved forests in New Jersey.

Along with pollution during the project, a part of the pipeline is to be laid on the bottom of the Monksville Reservoir, which is a major source for drinking water to millions of people in New Jersey. The pipeline does not have any fail safes in case of a pipe break or rupture. This means that if this pipe, full of unrefined natural gas, breaks near the banks or under the Monksville Reservoir then millions of people in New Jersey will have poisoned drinking water.
The pipeline cuts through the Monksville Reservoir and continues its path through the Ringwood State Park, which is a local heaven for nature enthusiasts. The pipes then continue through the Ramapo Reservation in Mahwah, which is another beautiful forested area that is becoming tainted by the construction of the new pipeline.

The local people in these North Jersey communities are outraged that oil and gas companies can plow through their forests and drinking water holes in order to give the companies a bigger shot at distribution centers. The gas companies have been advertising the positive effects of their actions by explaining the ‘good’ the new gas will do for the American public. However, the environmental damages that their actions have caused are going unnoticed or are pushed aside. 

More and more people are being brought to attention of this fight for the forests and are pushing the cause for no more pipelines in this area. If you live in North Jersey or if you have any love for the natural beauty of North America’s forests, then spread the word against new pipelines through our region for the sake of our own healthy drinking water, as well as the preservation of this beautiful landscape.

New Jersey Highlands Natural Gas Pipeline Update

By Nick Bower

The New Jersey Highlands and the natural gas pipeline that is being built through it by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company have made headlines in the past few weeks. The pipeline, which is part of a project called Northeast Upgrade, is intended to pump natural gas from Pennsylvania to the East Coast.

In March, the metering station constructed by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company in Mahwah was in the news when hikers complained of a rumbling coming from its direction. The company admitted that the station needs an upgrade; a month has gone by with no repairs to the metering station.

Also in March, two local residents were arrested in Ringwood for attempting to halt the construction of the pipeline and the deconstruction of the forest. The two men locked themselves onto a tree that was set to be cut down to make way for the pipeline. They were eventually removed by police and arrested.

The most current and noteworthy news is that the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company is being sued by the state of New Jersey for not reforesting sufficiently enough in the Bearfort Mountain area in West Milford.

“It sounds like finally the state has done something to make them comply and do the right thing,” Stephen Sangle, the head of the West Milford Environmental Commission told northjersey.com. The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company was supposed to plant a total of 3,940 plants and shrubs combined in the West Milford and Hamburg area, and planted a total of 200.

“Their plantings were too small and just not acceptable,” Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese told northjersey.com

The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company is currently reviewing the claim and must submit a corrective action plan on how they will fix it. The company has received breaks from the state of New Jersey before to minimize impact on forests in the Highlands. West Milford is planning to apply to the state for money that the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company gave to New Jersey to allocate for residents affected by the construction of the pipeline.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Experiential Journal: Addressing the Fossil Fuel Mess

By Lisa Quaglino

For the first part of my CEC requirement, I watched the documentary Frontline: The Spill, which covered the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Through a series of interviews with employees and government experts on safety regulations, investigators were able to show the many missteps inside the BP corporation that lead to the tragic spill. The documentary states BP’s rise in power caused them to overlook the safety of both workers and their equipment in order to quickly find more oil and begin drilling.

Similar to the Ford paint sludge incident, BP’s goal was to make as much money as possible, in the cheapest way possible, and that meant ignoring environmental regulations. The film discusses BP’s numerous statements about promises to fix its flaws, and shows their inability to deliver on these promises. The spill, which took place on April 20, 2010 was caused by an explosion of the Deep Horizon, a drilling rig, is said to have leaked around 210 million gallons of oil during the time it took to cap the wellhead. Investigations of the incident show that BP was to blame for defective cement work on the well. The explosion also killed 11 employees.

Further investigations during the Frontline documentary travel to BP’s other sites in Alaska and Texas, showing a large number of safety violations within these refineries as well. It was stated that workers knew profits came first, and the company’s main goal was to make money. Had they taken precautions, followed safety regulations, and learned from past mistakes, like an explosion at their Texas City refinery, it is possible that the spill could have been prevented. Also, similar to the Ford Plant incident, had someone been making sure that BP was keeping their word and working to prevent future environmental disasters, the spill could have been avoided. They did, however, get involved with the clean up and are responsible for payouts to those who suffered due to their lack of safety regulations and enormous environmental impact.

After watching the film on the oil spill, I researched similar topics through the Society of Environmental Journalists website. Multiple articles appeared about other events which involved the spilling of oil and harm to the environment, such as an event in Arkansas where an Exxon pipeline began leaking during a transfer of crude oil to Canada. Thousands of barrels of oil are said to have spilled, similar to a spill by the company in 2011 in the Yellow Stone River. The company faces millions of dollars in fines, just like BP for their spill in the Gulf, but these spills continue to happen, showing that fines may not be an effective form of punishment or regulation.

Many other articles discuss the difficulties associated with oil, not only in the case of spills, but also acquiring fossil fuels. Until we can figure out a way to slowly reduce our dependance on oil, there must be harsher regulations to put an end to spills and their environmental impacts.

Through the documentary and my research, I have learned that there is much that needs to be done in order to reduce environmental risks within oil companies. It is said that many of these incidents could have been less severe, or avoided completely, had safety and other regulations been up to standards. Our society needs to find a way to safely extract and use fossil fuels while simultaneously searching for ways to become less dependent on them. With combined efforts in both of these areas, it is possible that we can find a way to use our resources, both natural and renewable, in a way that puts little to no strain on the environment, ensuring a clean and productive future without fear of major environmental disasters.

The Essentials: H2O

By Ashley Intveld

It’s summer. The sun is shining, the sweat is sticking to the backs of our knees and the creases of our elbows, our eyes squint to block the brilliant rays. We kick our feet up, take a swig of a Belgian ale, and let the droplets from the sprinkler tickle our toes with each rotation. These are the luxuries that come with the dog days, but they wouldn’t be possible with one essential element; an element that’s going without notice as it slowly but surely depletes in both quality and quantity. Without water, summer would not be summer the way we know it.

According to The Record’s article, “Highland streams provide area jobs,” local economies rely primarily on the availability of water from the Highlands. Companies like Mountain Creek, High Point Brewing, and on a larger scale, Anheuser- Busch, who brew up to 7.5 million gallons of Budweiser each year, depend primarily on water. On an even larger scale than beer and water parks, water itself is an essential element of life, last time we checked. For a resource that was once solely a health essential, it has become the backbone of our economy’s well-being, and the supply is suffering immensely from that notion. If the supply suffers, we too will suffer.

The article refers to a deliberation that is being discussed by the Highland Council that may issue new taxes that will limit and regulate water consumption from local business as a means to preserve the precious resource. The first tax will be applied to water-use that will fund key watershed lands. The other is a legislative bill that will permit taxing water users statewide as a means to improve system improvements. Currently opposed by the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, the taxes are being conceived as another burden for small business-owners who claim to already be bombarded with taxes as is.

Although some businesses have taken measures toward conservation, there is one perspective that must be switched in order to truly conserve the water of the Highlands region: money is not essential. Money keeps the economy running. Money allows us to buy a beer and drink it by the pool at summer time, but we cannot survive off of money alone. Without water, the things that make us money are impossible to produce, and so a conservation tax is a viable option. The alternative, thus, is to have no business at all.

Water is a readily-available aspect of the American lifestyle. We turn the faucet on and water is literally at our fingertips. It has become an expectation, rather than a privilege, to have water available for our use. The prospect of taxing it, then, becomes an absurd thought- what’s next, taxing air? The issue is this: our businesses do not revolve around the money that comes in. Instead, the money revolves around the availability of water. Water, thus, becomes the primary focal point in this issue.

Pipe Up for the Pipeline

By Jaimie Moscarello

Tennessee Gas Company and Algoquin Gas Company are expanding their gas pipelines across the Ramapo Mountains, taking public parks in the Ramapo Mountains for their own private use.

A pipeline is a gathering system. It collects natural gas or oil that is produced underground and carries it out in large pipes. Then, the oil gets sent to a refinery and processed into gasoline, diesel, home heating oil, jet fuel, and raw materials that make fertilizers, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and plastics. Finally, the material ends up in distribution centers, like gas stations or other stores.

The Ramapo Mountains are the oldest rocks in the nation. They used to be the tallest, but have eroded over the years. In the past few months, miles of trees have been cut down to make room for the pipelines.

Tennessee Gas Association began working on their expansion in March 2011 through 23 miles of New Jersey and 105 miles through Pennsylvania. The pipeline crosses through the Appalachian Trail, Monksville Reservoir, Ringwood State Park, and the Ramapo Reservation.

Algoquin Gas Transmission has over 1,000 miles of pipeline that brings natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico to New England. Each year, it transports about 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

Spectra Energy and Algoquin Gas Transmission are both owned by the same company, Texas Eastern Transimission. Spectra Energy is working to check the areas where companies want to construct pipelines. They’ve hired Public Archaeology Lab (PAL) to look for artifacts that will show the history of the mountains. In accordance, companies won’t be able to come in and take the cherished land. So far, two shoeboxes are filled of artifacts, including buttons from Civil War uniforms and a 17,000-year-old arrowhead-like instrument.  The artifacts have been donated for the Ramapough Conservancy. 

The Ramapough Lenape tribe has a burial ground that takes up a section of the mountain. Chief Perry of the tribe says it may be the largest cemetery in the country, with over 1,000 bodies. There aren’t any headstones to show exactly where the bodies lay.

“Everything in the environment depends on everything else,” said Judy Sullivan, president of the Ramapough Conservancy, last week at a guest lecture at Ramapo College. She said that one person driving an ATV up the mountain disrupts the environment. When trees are cut down to open up the woods, some birds won’t cross over.

These events don’t seem like that big of a deal to us, but we really have to think about the impact we’re making on the environment when we install pipes to drill oil.

What do we do when technology fails us? What will happen if there’s a leak in a pipe?

We have to think about the impact we make on the environment.

The Ramapough Conservancy is a nonprofit corporation. Their mission statement is “We aim to preserve and restore the historical significance to the Ramapo Mountains and the people that enjoy its beauty.” Judith Sullivan and Monte Marfilius founded the Ramapough Conservancy. Since August 2011, the Ramapough Conservancy, Inc. has been a public charity.

The Ramapough Conservancy:

Sierra Club:

New York-New Jersey Trail Conference:

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission:

Highlands Coalition:

Tennessee Gas:

Spectra Energy: Use the link here to follow the pipeline:

Algoquin Gas Transmission:

Silent Spring: The Solution Is in Our Hands

By Adriana Cappelli

The main theme of Silent Spring is the destruction of the balance of nature by the extensive use of pesticides.  Rachel Carson carefully explains what the balance of nature really is. She describes the balance of nature of the soil, of the earth’s waters, and the organisms of the earth that is needed in order for the environment to be hazard-free. Then she informs the reader of the ways chemical substances upset that balance and thereby kills life.

Rachel Carson did an excellent job in this book, mainly because of the tone that she uses to inspire the reader’s admiration for the beauty and harmony of nature. She also inspires the reader’s dislike for the reckless destruction caused by chemical pesticides. 

It frustrates me because I don’t understand how even though we have the solution in our hands to protect our lives and the environment; we do nothing to stop the destruction. By using all natural products to produce harm-free pesticides we can save the soil. I really can’t understand the idea behind all these pesticides companies and the government; I guess they would rather make money than protect people’s lives and the environment. If you ask my opinion regarding these pesticides companies and the manufacturer of harmful products, I would say that I would rather not make as much money and protect my life, other people’s lives, and the environment.

I am seriously concerned that our future will be even worse than our present! Something has to be done.  People have to realize that environmental issues can be life threatening. They must stop being greedy and understand that life is more important than generating a profit.

Turning Garbage into Gardens

By Adriana Cappelli

Shabazz Jackson and Josephine Papagni through their company, Greenway Environmental Services, have worked to unite the concepts of permaculture and zero waste.  In their work, materials are recovered and cycled back to be used in the home, in the community, and to restore and enhance public environments. They recently spoke to Ramapo College students about their business of recycling food waste into garden soil.

According to The Valley Table Magazine, “For nearly 35 years, Jackson has been acting on a single mission-how to deal with the consequences of waste from our over-packaged, over-producing and overly consuming culture.  Jackson has led his own non-profit, worked for local government and run his own business.  He was a pioneer of the early recycling movement and later found a niche remediating environmental contamination in the Hudson Valley.”

I believe Jackson and Papagni are an inspiration and an example to follow.  Their dedication and love for the environment are greatly appreciated by those who are conscious about the importance of saving our environment. 

Jackson’s proposal about how to utilize our food waste to fertilize our backyards is simple and efficient.  By doing this process we will contribute to securing a clean and safe future. 

The United States is known for it’s high demand of food production and consumption, which leads to having an incredible amount of “waste.”   People may think that just by throwing out their garbage it will be gone once garbage companies collect it. Once it gets into the garbage dump though, a long process must occur. Even now the garbage isn’t completely gone because all the pollution is in the air. Everyone must do their little part in recycling and reuse their waste just like Jackson and Papagni.

Permaculture and Zero Waste Tackle Student Trash

By Katie Attinello

On April 4, the Thursday evening lecture series hosted by the Ramapo College Masters in Sustainability Studies Program welcomed Shabazz Jackson and Josephine Papagni of Greenway Environmental Services. The program they presented was titled “Zero Waste: A Permaculture Perspective on Waste Management.”

Greenway, based out of Poughkeepsie, NY, has centered on a zero-waste philosophy since its creation in 1996. The company collects and transports waste suitable for recycling and processes it into reusable, high-quality compost. The system of permaculture utilized by Greenway Services costs about half as much as a landfill, and can be replicated for around $50,000 for any new, interested companies.

Greenway currently operates as one of the area’s largest topsoil and mulch providers. Urban planning projects and institutions like Marist College (which owes its excellent common green to Greenway) have utilized the company’s products and services. Another soil they provide was used to plant trees in road medians, due to its ability to restrict root growth from damaging pavement over time.

While a portion of Greenway’s involvement in higher education is through this type of sustainable business, they’ve also had a hand in altering the mindset and design of the university waste management system. When Jackson decided to expand the community-setting success he’d had with zero-waste management, he “knew we had to start with the colleges.”

After tallying the waste output from nearby Vassar College, Jackson found that their small student body was producing nearly as much as a town of several thousand residents. In an attempt to demonstrate how colleges can be serious about environmental consciousness while still making a profit (and even saving money), Greenway paired with Vassar's vegetarian housing for a trial recycling program. They then moved on to help the school’s dining services to alter the way they discard their scraps and recyclables.

Not only did Greenway help to reduce Vassar’s overall ecological footprint, but also raised student awareness and desire to be involved. Students at Vassar helped to create a man-made wetlands area, which mimics the natural wetlands’ ability to filter toxins and impurities from collected water.

Jackson and Papagni have also contributed to the sustainability movement through Gardening for Life, encouraging both urban and suburban youth to learn the power of sustainability through horticulture. Their work with schools and youth rehabilitation programs has been very successful. Projects have included allowing young adults to create a community space and children to tend a dome garden in their school’s courtyard.

In the future, the Greenway team hopes to provide more resources and services to the private homeowner who wishes to begin an efficient composting system in their own backyards.

Jackson and Papagni have high hopes for the power of permaculture over the landfill. Their success with Greenway and Vassar College makes a strong argument, both financially and ecologically, in favor of zero-waste sustainable alternatives on a larger scale. Jackson hopes to see a zero-waste system implemented at Ramapo College, noting that his preliminary research showed available space on campus for its creation.

For more information:

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring Still Relevant

By Katie Attinello

Though nearly fifty-one years have passed since the first publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the ideas and stories included in its pages ring true for every year since. Even today there is little to make the severe precautions in her book outdated. On the contrary, the numerous toxins Carson names as infiltrators of our natural environment have only been—ironically—concentrated, if you will, to dangerously high levels. Our modern chemical practices and wasteful choices are blatant disregard for Carson’s written labor of love for the human race.

Even as a child, I can recall insecticides misting down over the river adjacent to our property on late spring evenings, a small plane skimming low on the water in hopes of eradicating the gnats eggs that would later swarm in a haze around residents working outdoors. And though the spraying has long since been suspended, it was my understanding that this choice was not out of heeding the mountains of research against these practices that Carson understood even before writing Silent Spring, but because the state funding had dried up. Oddly enough these years later, the gnat population seems to have done the same without any interference from man.

Yet was it the long-term effects of spraying that caused these gnats to never repopulate to their once unbearable numbers? As Carson so astutely points out at several moments in the text, the effects of our decisions over the course of time has been a subject of little importance. The mindset she warned against—to utilize a product with seemingly unmatchable strength without a thorough investigation of its effects over the course of time—can and does often lead to human and environmental harm of unanticipated proportions.

Her ideas and detailed explanations should serve as a model for the development of safer practices now. We cannot wait for “in the future” any longer. Scientists should not be developing alternative ways to protect crops to be implemented in the future. They should be working towards installing trial methods of new, environmentally conscious ways of farming, city planning, building infrastructure, etc. today. And while that is occurring in many places, it’s often by small operations. 

Carson’s vision was for this earthly awareness she wanted all to understand to become the foundation for our whole way of existing—big businesses, small business, and citizens’ efforts altogether. It should be the mission of the next wave of young environmentalists to keep pushing this to become a reality.

Highlands Pipeline Update

By Jamie Bachar

It’s been over a year since the New Jersey Highlands Council approved the installation of a natural gas pipeline that would stretch 7.6 miles across the Highlands Preservation Area in Bergen and Passaic counties.

Work began on the pipeline segment to that will come to Mahwah on Feb. 6 when contractors for Tennessee Gas began cutting down trees in Ringwood State Park. The pipeline will be drilled under the Monksville Reservoir and will cut through some of New Jersey’s forests. The pipeline expansion will stretch from West Milford into Ringwood and end in Mahwah.

Pipeline opponents argue that too many trees are going to cut to make room for the natural gas line. So far 16 acres of forest have been approved as well as the temporary removal of another 86 acres of forest during construction. 

The pipeline construction is a $400 million project which connects to a 40-mile pipeline expansion called the Northeast Upgrade running from northeast Pennsylvania to Mahwah. It will run parallel to a older pipeline that is transporting hydraulic fractured gas from Pennsylvania.

There has been considerable opposition from Bergen County residents and environmental groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Recently there has been some disturbance to the Highlands pipeline work site. Tires were slashed and a hydraulic line was cut on tractors used by workers back in February, according to NorthJersey.com. So far there are no suspects or clues as to who might have vandalized the construction site or why.

Residents living near the construction site have also shown concern over the amount of noise. Bergen County officials are demanding that upgrades be made to a metering station in Mahwah to reduce the noise that is disturbing residents and hikers. Native Americans whose ancestors have lived in the area for generations worry that the construction will disturb their burial grounds. People have even chained themselves to the trees in the last few months in an effort to halt the pipeline. 

Those in favor of construction of the natural gas pipeline have noted the 700 new jobs during construction and the $36.5 million in income for local labor that the Tennessee gas has projected.

New Jersey Highlands Water Protection

By Lisa Quaglino

One environmental concern that never seems to disappear is the issue of clean water. Water is involved with nearly all of our everyday activities, even when we don’t realize it. The issue of water has become especially relevant in Northern New Jersey. The clean water supply from the New Jersey Highlands has been supplying multiple businesses in the area, such as Budweiser, without receiving much in return.

With all of these businesses, and the use of the Highlands streams by residents themselves, there have been times when the water supply has been overused, and its resources stressed. Up until around the mid 2000’s, few concerns had been raised about the state of the Highlands water supply.

Finally, in 2005, ideas for a master plan where developed in hopes of finding a way to use the Highlands water supply to its fullest potential, while keeping the water clean and at a healthy level.

By 2008, the New Jersey Highlands Council set the Regional Master Plan in place, and began to take input from both the local community and businesses in order to make sure everyone’s needs were met while also ensuring the safety of the water sources.

The Highlands water supply is known to be of higher quality than other water supplies in the state, which is why so many businesses have depended on it in order to successfully make and sell their products. This is also the reason why so much is being done today in order to preserve the water and protect its quality.

There is much to be learned from the example set by the New Jersey Highlands Council and their efforts to protect the regional water supply. Today, they are taking in consideration all possible threats to the water, like an increase in population, or dry seasons, and making sure that these threats do not permanently damage the Highlands water supply.

Unlike many other environmental issues, the water in the Highlands was protected before any serious damage could be done, and long before the damage became irreversible. Consideration is being given to tax water users as a way to fund the protection of the water.

Of course, there is always room for improvement, specifically in areas of conservation. While some local businesses in the area have taken the initiative to decrease the amount of water they use yearly, some have made farther strides than others. Once these businesses can find a way to decrease the amount of water needed to produce their products, it is possible that the Highlands Council can turn its attention to other areas of  the environment.

New Jersey Pipeline: Approved, but not Welcomed

By Bill Pivetz                                       

The issue about the natural gas pipeline that would tear through the New Jersey Highlands has been up for debate for a couple of years. The pipeline will stretch 40 miles from Milford, PA across the Delaware River into northern NJ. One of the areas the pipeline is planned to cut through is the critically sensitive body of water, the Monksville Reservoir, which provides clean drinking water to millions of New Jersey families. 

This pipeline has been met with a lot of protest from environmental groups and residents of the neighborhoods that would be affected. Some of the protest groups include the New Jersey Highlands Coalition, Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch and Franciscan Response to Fracking. According to Don Webb of the West Milford Messenger, members of these groups “gathered together at the end of East Shore Road along Greenwood Lake Turnpike for the peaceful ‘Stop The Tennessee Gas Pipeline’” held on January 19.

He spoke with members of the groups, along with West Milford Mayor Bettina Bieri. She said, “West Milford officials have expressed concerns about this project all along, but federal approvals to proceed were already granted before it was brought to our attention.” She continued by urging any stakeholders to withhold any further approvals for the pipeline expansion.

An article published on NJ.com by Ben Horowitz on Feb. 16 provided an update about the pipeline. “The state’s Highlands Council gave its blessing tonight to construction of a gas pipeline stretching 7.6 miles from West Milford to Mahwah” by an 11-2 vote. This was a shift for the council who voted 8-5 last month in favor of delaying the project. “Bergen County Surrogate Michael Dressler, who had led the move to table the project last month, voted in favor of the pipeline tonight, even though he said he ‘hated it.’”

There will now be two pipelines running through northern New Jersey. The article states that this pipeline would run adjacent to an existing one and would be part of the 40-mile expansion between Pennsylvania and Mahwah. The Tennessee Gas company, the company backing this pipeline expansion, would permanently remove 16 acres of forest to build this pipeline. “Its plan would permanently preserve 157.6 acres, including 50 acres of forest —10 more than required,” Horowitz wrote.

There has been some animosity between residents of the affected areas and those opposing the pipeline and the Tennessee Company and the town governments. With previous disasters with pipelines, their concern comes with reason. There have been four pipeline accidents already in 2013. The most recent occurred in Oklahoma on April 4. There was an explosion and fire at a gas compressor station. According to the report, there were no injuries.

It’s because of accidents like these that residents and environmental groups are opposing the pipeline. The fact that they are knocking down acres of forest for the construction is bad enough, but if a pipe bursts and gas spreads into the wells and drinking water, there could be a bigger problem.

For more information:

Agent Orange Legacy

By Katie Attinello
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. chose to implement herbicide spraying to obliterate heavy jungle foliage obscuring the American troops’ view and aiding the opposition’s ability to hide and utilize crops to feed their men. Among chemicals used was “Agent Orange,” dubbed thusly for the orange stripes that marked its storage drums. Its effectiveness and unexpected repercussions were devastating.
Over five decades since the chemical first rained down over the Vietnamese landscape and her residents, science and medicine are still working to identify exactly what Agent Orange does to harm the human body and the environment.

The findings are clear: Agent Orange causes severe health problems for both the living and the developing. How that occurs and to what extent is sometimes still difficult to pinpoint. Soldiers have most likely been exposed to many elements that can cause illness in their lifetimes, at home or abroad.

Yet, strong cases for the dangers of Agent Orange are still surfacing, urging scientists and doctors to continue working towards treatments and explanations for those affected. A creative non-fiction piece by writer Ben Quick, published five years ago in Orion Magazine, details the kind of far-reaching effects the chemical still has on the descendants of Vietnam veterans.

Quick writes boldly about his own birth: “…there was something else as well, something curious: although in every other way I fit the normal profile of a baby boy, my left hand was almost round, and at first glance, fingerless…one could see that there were indeed fingers in the flat bell of flesh and bone, but no space between them, and the bones were either misshapen or missing altogether.”

Quick’s father had served overseas during U.S. herbicidal operations, bringing home with him a little more than the inescapable psychological traumas of a soldier’s tour—“a rash that covered his back, raised hivelike splotches that didn’t go away for five years—until I was nearly three.”

The rest of Quick’s article details AO history and a brief part of his trip to see the retired warplanes that dispersed the chemical that literally made him. He admits to not knowing exactly what he hoped to find, suggesting the historical and psychological effects of this herbicidal disaster have seeped into the fabric of our nation’s identity and self-awareness.

The physical traumas of toxin exposure have been heavily reported on in this case, but journalism like Quick’s offers a slightly different perspective. How do we begin to accept the decisions of generations past, when those choices seem to have ignited and fueled a chemical lifestyle we cannot wholly give up today? And if the American descendants of this war are still coping with the ripple effect of Agent Orange, are the children and grandchildren of the Vietnamese experiencing the same, or worse?

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