Saturday, March 1, 2014

Saving New Jersey Is Up to All of Us

Dear editor:

My name is Colin English and I am a graduating senior of the Environmental Studies program of Ramapo College of New Jersey.

At my college I am enrolled in a class named Environmental Journalism that is designed to develop the skills necessary to investigate and participate in how environmental issues are covered through various mediums and medias. We were encouraged to read Joe Tyrrell's article entitled "Global Warming Experts Paint a Bleak Picture of N.J.'s Future" (Nov. 30, 2011) and write our thoughts in regards to climate change and sustainability topics.

I would like to engage a discussion about media coverage of environmental issues and  corresponding issues. In your article, you mention several naturally occurring trends, events, and circumstances within New Jersey that will worsen over time in part by human activities and influences. The phenomena included in your listing, namely large weather events, flooding, air pollutant accumulation, and significant risk to agricultural processes, still do not fully encapsulate the dangers posed to New Jersey, nor do they explore the interrelated nature of social, ecological, and economic systems in the region.

Nearly three years after this article was published, super-storms such as Hurricane Sandy have devastated dozens of ecologically ignorant communities and dilapidated infrastructural systems, the 2013-2014 winter season has proven one of the worst in decades, the state has one of the highest amounts of Superfund sites, the Federally recognized areas of extreme environmental hazard and contamination, and almost all levels of media, the government, and the public lack a full understanding of how New Jersey is truly threatened.

Through the quotes you provide in your article, it is apparent that occasionally there is a bi-partisan acknowledgement that both the scientific community has prolifically exposed the hazards posed by our continued socio-economic attitudes and behaviors, as well as the general awareness that any meaningful effort to remove the barriers to action is continually ignored by our decision makers and leaders. The opinion of the politicians you quote is that with greater international involvement and an integrated enviro-economic venture that a gradual transition will suffice. As many before me have declared, the type and scale of action that your article alludes to supporting is not enough for the situation at hand. Cap and Trade, the buying and selling of pollutants, will not accomplish anything other than the widespread allowance of a broken system to continue.

The world cannot wait for a gradual transition; the communities of the Jersey Shore should not be told to rebuild using the same methodologies and locations that are susceptible to future, worsening hurricanes; the media should not endorse half-hearted attempts at bandaging the status-quo of perpetual ignorance; all members of civil society, all levels of government, and all people should grab a true stake in their future by caring about why beach communities will continually be razed by super-storm after super-storm, how media leads citizens astray by paying attention to all of the wrong things, and most of all, how each person has the responsibility and obligation to do better and be better.

I urge you to use the empathic nature of humanity to understand our interconnectedness to each other in New Jersey, as well as to the natural systems we intrinsically depend on. I implore you to take your responsibility to these communities and to yourselves seriously enough to make a difference that is tangible, impactful, and something you can be proud of.

-- Colin English

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