Thursday, April 30, 2015

World as Classroom: Anthropological Trash in Parks

By Edith Carpio

To complete the course enrichment component of the environmental writing class I hiked two different parks in the New York and New Jersey area. I did this as part of a geology course, which required us to complete field labs after our hikes.

Our first hike was on Wed. April 8; we went right across the street from campus, to the Ramapo Reservation. As it is my first year at Ramapo College, I've never had the chance to go to the reservation before so I was looking forward to it. But I wasn't that excited because it was cold, and that reflected in my view of the park. I imagine it is beautiful in the summer time and fall, with colorful leaves on the trees. And although as of March 20th it is spring time, the gusts of wind and drizzling convinced me and my classmates otherwise.

While at the reservation we made seven stops, including the Ramapo river channel, which I noticed had garbage around it. Anthropologic effects on the park were rare but noticeable. As I walked through the county park, I noticed water bottles and wrappers on the ground from hikers. Other stops on the hikes included Scarlett Oak Pond, which is the pond on campus, a waterfall, a small boulder field, outcrops, and streams.

On our stop to see outcrop, we saw that there was graffiti on the rock. The whole rock was covered in graffiti, this made me keep an eye out for other rocks with graffiti on them throughout the remainder of my hike. After I noticed that one, I saw many more. People may not think they're doing any harm by drawing graffiti on rocks around the park but the chemicals on the paint may run when it rains, causing them to drip into the ground and harm any life on the ground.

On Wed. April 22, we went on our second hike at Nyack Beach State Park in Nyack, New York, just 35 minutes from campus. We did not do much hiking here, but we did walk around and observe a little. We observed a piece of outcrop and the "beach area" surrounded by boulders. From what I saw it was a lot cleaner and preserved than the Ramapo Reservation.

After going on these hikes for my geology class I am more interested in hiking. I look forward to going to other parks in the New York and New Jersey area this summer. After going on these hikes, I also realized it's important to participate in local programs and organizations that do park cleanups. So often, we see going to the park as a pass time and then just leave and forget about it.  We don't realize that there is important wildlife and vegetation that live there that rely on us to take care of the park.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Think California, Conserve Water

By Edith Carpio

Water is so readily available to us in the Northeast that we do not think about all the ways in which we are wasting it. The California drought makes the threat of running out of water very real.

California is having its driest year to date, causing California Gov. Jerry Brown to mandate that people ration their water usage, according to The New York Times. Although the drought directly affects the people and vegetation of California, it also affects people nationwide. 

According to a video report done by The New York Times, California provides 90 percent of America's tomatoes, 95 percent of America's broccoli, and 99 percent of America's almonds; this water crisis has caused the prices of produce to go up and they most likely will continue to go up.

California's drought warns that with climate change the rest of us also need to think of water conservation.

Here are 5 ways you can conserve water:

1. Turn off the water when not in use

We stand in front of the running faucet for about three to four minutes maximum when brushing our teeth and only need to use the water for one out of the four minutes. We can turn off the water when brushing. The same can be done when washing the dishes. According to you can save about four gallons of water for every minute you brush your teeth.

2.  Take shorter showers

After a long day at work or school, one looks forward to taking a long hot relaxing shower. But you really do not need to be in there for more than 15 minutes. even says that cutting your shower time to five minutes can save up to 1,000 gallons every month.

3. Check for leaks

You don't think that the few drops of water leaking from the faucets or shower heads in your house matter, but they do add up. Dust off the tool box, grab the wrench and tighten the shower heads and the faucets in your house. You can even check your water meter to make sure all leaks are accounted for.

4. Look for a water-saving friendly washing machine

According to there are specific types of washing machines you can buy that can save up to 20 gallons of water per load. Also, washing dark clothes with cold water will save water and energy.

5. Buy inexpensive water-saving devices for your home

The Environmental Protection Agency teamed up with WaterSense to make products that will conserve water and energy. The Watersense label can be found on toilets, faucets, dishwashers, and washing machines.

Why should you be worried about conserving water?

Not only will following through with these tips save you from having to dig deeper into your pockets, they will help ensure we have water for a long time to come. We do not want to see our water bills or produce prices increase, but we especially do not want to have to have to wait until we have to ration our water consumption to worry about water conservation.

For more tips on how to conserve water, head to

World as Classroom: Backyard Brook Cleanup

By Brian Writt

For my experiential work, I volunteered at the West Essex YMCA's Earth Day Cleanup in Livingston, NJ.  This was the 10th annual cleanup that the YMCA held and my first time ever doing it.  Many people from around town and Livingston High School's Environmental Club met at the YMCA and went into the woods in the back of the building with gloves and garbage bags, ready to clean up the area. 

There is a brook behind the building that gets filled with trash with all the people and constant traffic that passes by daily on South Livingston Avenue and neighboring streets.

All in all, we spent about four hours scavenging through the woods picking up trash that ranged from car tires to candy wrappers.  It really is amazing how an area humans rarely ever go to can be affected by us so much.  It really made me realize how selfish it is to litter, because the trash does not disappear.  It ends up in the woods and in waterways that hinder the wildlife that inhabit the area. 

I definitely will volunteer next year at the YMCA Earth Day Cleanup and will recommend to my friends and family that they also do the same.

Friday, April 24, 2015

NJ Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability Meets Today at Duke Farms


Contact: Julia Kruse

NJ Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability Annual Meeting

On Friday, April 24, the New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability will be holding their 2015 annual business meeting.  The event will take place at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, NJ from 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.  The event is open to all faculty, students, sustainability directors, facilities management, and administrators. 

One of the topics that will be discussed is “Campuses as Living Laboratories for Sustainability,” which will be followed by a “Student Symposium.”  Another topic that the meeting will focus on is “Hacking Sustainability: Using Research to Push the Limits of Sustainability on the Campus as a Lab.”

The schedule of the day’s events is as follows:

(10 a.m.) Student network session, covering student groups focused on sustainability on NJ campuses.  Moderator: Daniela Shebitz, Ph.D. Kean

(11 a.m.) Keynote Speaker: Forrest Meggers, Assistant Professor, Princeton University, School of Architecture and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

(Noon) Lunch

(1 p.m.) Open session (mixer with student groups)

(2 p.m.) Lighting Talks from the Front Lines of Campus as Lab Research and Innovation

(3 p.m.) Wrap up and Announcements

The event is free of charge but organizer are asking that participants please register at
-- Erik Lipkin

Green Festival Opens Today in NYC


Green Festival Opens This Weekend in New York City

Earth Day celebrations aren’t over just yet! America’s largest sustainability event is opening today in New York City, followed by runs in Washington, DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon.

Green Festival Expo will be taking place at the Javits Convention Center on April 24-26. Various companies and organizations will provide visitors with products and services that promote working green, playing green and living green.

The expo is an affordable opportunity to discover how to experience a healthier, eco-friendly lifestyle. Tickets start at $12, depending on the type of pass that is purchased. Get yours now at

Don’t miss out on the chance to be part of a community that strives towards creating a Green America!

-- Brianna Farulla

Monday, April 20, 2015

Nine Reasons to Shop at Local Farmers' Markets

Jersey Fresh         (photo: Jan Barry)

By Samantha Bell

Which of these two scenarios sounds more vibrant for overall quality of life and health?

1) The wind on your face, the sun on your skin, you talk with a local farmer about the size and taste of this year’s harvest of peaches, as you pop a slice in your mouth. After tasting several different varieties, you choose your favorite one, walking away with a great memory of the farmer in your mind.

2) You stand shivering in the freezer section at your local mega-mart, your eyes beginning to glaze over from the halogen lights and the neon-colored cardboard boxes containing substances claimed to be food products. You decide on the one with the least amount of additives and make your way to the self-checkout line, excited to get in your car and out of the supermarket.

Clearly, most of us would agree that the first scenario, at the local farmers' market, is much more appealing than a trip to a big chain grocery store. But what, besides the aesthetic factor, are some of the other benefits of supporting your local farmers' market?

From savoring produce at the peak of freshness to meeting the people who grow your food, there are countless reasons to support farmers markets. Here are just a few!

1. Buying Locally

Buying from your local farmer allows you to support local agriculture. This means that the food you are eating comes from nearby, and does not require wasting lots of energy and petroleum to ship the food halfway around the world. You are eating food in your own environment, where it has perfectly created nutrients for your specific climate and region. You are also supporting the environment by reducing the usage of fossil fuels.

The fruits and vegetables you buy at the farmers' market are the freshest and tastiest available. Fruits are allowed to ripen fully in the field and are brought directly to you—no long-distance shipping from across the country, no gassing to simulate the ripening process, no sitting for weeks in storage. This food is as real as it gets—fresh from the farm.

2. Enjoy the Season

The food you buy at the farmers' market is seasonal. It is fresh and delicious and reflects the truest flavors. This is another great way to increase your overall health. Supermarkets offer too much variety and the food is often picked before it has ripened, decreasing the vitality. The body does not need to be eating imported pineapple in the dead of a New Jersey winter!

Shopping and cooking from the farmers' market helps you to reconnect with the cycles of nature in your region. As you look forward to asparagus in spring, savor sweet corn in summer, or bake pumpkins in autumn, you reconnect with the earth, the weather, and the turning of the year.

3. It’s Healthier

All food loses nutritional value over time. As a consumer, you have the luxury to be more strategic and thoughtful about your purchases if you want to get the most bang for your buck.

Locally grown and raised foods are often considered superior when it comes to higher levels of protein, vitamins, and minerals. According to Kathleen Frith of the Harvard School of Public Health, locally grown food “ensure[s] maximum freshness, flavor, and nutrient retention” by significantly minimizing the processes of conventional practices.

Farmers' markets are local and direct, and produce is usually offered within 24 hours post-harvest, at the climax of maturity and therefore with the highest level of nutrition.

4. Support Family Farmers

Family farmers need your support, now that large agribusiness GMO food companies dominate food production in the U.S. Small family farms have a hard time competing in the food marketplace.

Buying directly from farmers gives them a better return for their produce and gives them a fighting chance in today’s globalized economy. Your belly will remember the farmer’s smile as they handed you that juicy peach.

5. Protect the Environment

Not only are you doing good for yourself by frequenting farmers' markets, you’re making a positive environmental statement and impact.

Buying local is better for the environment simply because there’s significantly less energy and environmental degradation involved in the production, distribution, and sales of any particular item.

Food in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate, according to the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA). All this shipping uses large amounts of natural resources (especially fossil fuels), contributes to pollution, and creates trash with extra packaging.

Compared to big corporations, buying local requires less fuel and produces less CO2 emissions.

In the food you purchase at farmers' markets, there are zero (in the case of Certified Organic) or a minuscule amount of preservatives, chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers that can penetrate the soil, destroy the biodiversity of the land, and contaminate water supply through run off.

By buying your produce locally, you’re doing more than making a healthy choice; you’re supporting sustainable and local agricultural practices, which in turn helps to save the earth.

6. Nourish Yourself

By now, we all know that the processed options we find in the supermarkets are not the best choice for our health. Most food found in grocery stores are highly processed and grown using pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and genetic modification. These practices may have negative effects on human health.

Fresh, whole foods are the way to go and the farmers' market is where to find them with the least amount of mass production. Shopping at the farmers' market leads us to food at its seasonal best, and without so many temptations to impulse buy nutritionally devoid junk.

7. Discover the Spice of Life: Variety

At the farmers' market you find an amazing array of produce that you don’t see in your average supermarket: red and yellow carrots, a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes, purple cauliflower, stinging nettles, wild spinach and other greens, green garlic, watermelon radishes, mini squash, and much, much more. It is such an amazing opportunity to see what our unique planet has to offer.

8. Know Where Your Food Comes From

A regular trip to a farmers' market is one of the best ways to connect with where your food comes from. Meeting and talking to farmers and food artisans is a great opportunity to learn more about how and where food is produced.

9. Connect With Your Community

Wouldn’t you rather stroll around the outdoor stalls of fresh produce on a sunny day than roll your cart around a grocery store with artificial lights and piped in music? Coming to the farmers' market makes shopping a pleasure rather than a chore. The farmers' market is a community hub—a place to meet up with your friends, bring your pets, or just get a taste of small-town life in the midst of a big city.

For the health conscientious and informed consumer (you!), farmers' markets are a readily accessible opportunity for wellbeing and development. Nutritionally, educationally, socially, and environmentally, there are so many benefits to shopping at your local farmers' market.

So what are you waiting for? Get down to your local farmers' market pronto; it’s time we give back to the real food industry, the one that has our best interest (and the planet’s) in mind.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Earth Day: Ramapo College Hosts Author and Students in Campus Sustainability Talks


Contact: Ashwani Vasishth

Ramapo College to Hold Campus Sustainability Convergence

On Wednesday, April 22, The President's Committee on Campus Sustainability at Ramapo College in Mahwah, N.J. will be holding a discussion for students focusing on how to encourage sustainability around campus. The Earth Day event will take place in the H-Wing Auditorium from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Speaking at the event will be Dr. Mitchell Thomashow, an expert on campus sustainability. He will talk about his book, The Nine Elements of A Sustainable Campus.

The event kicks off with a presentation at 4 p.m. by the Environmental Studies Capstone Class on the results of their Campus Sustainability Assessment Project, followed by Dr. Thomashow’s talk at 5 p.m.

Dr. Thomashow devotes his life and work to promoting ecological awareness, sustainable living, creative learning, improvisational thinking, social networking and organizational excellence. Currently he is engaged in teaching, writing and executive consulting, cultivating opportunities and exchanges that transform how people engage with sustainability, ecological learning and the arts.

He is the author of three books. His latest book, The Nine Elements of A Sustainable Campus (The MIT Press, 2014), provides a framework for advancing sustainable living and teaching in a variety of campus environments. Currently he is working on The Ecological Imagination, a project that brings together artists and writers, information designers, media innovators, computer programmers, social entrepreneurs and global change scientists.

The President's Committee on Campus Sustainability was formed by President Peter Mercer to help Ramapo College meet its obligations to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, and to mobilize a campus sustainability movement within the College. The committee defines sustainability as meeting the needs of the present without compromising environmental quality and the well-being of present and future generations.

Ramapo College has a clear commitment to sustainability. The college has made strides to include “green practices” such as renewable energy, pollution control and elimination. Ramapo is dedicated to creating a more sustainable campus.

For more information and to register for this event:

-- Samantha Bell

Fracking Chemicals Found in California Farm Area's Water Supply

By Brian Writt

In the case of the environment, fracking has been a very controversial topic among many people in the United States.  Unfortunately, not a lot of people have a great understanding what fracking actually is.  Fracking is a type of drilling technology that is used to dig deep into the ground to access natural gas resources that had been impossible to access beforehand.

At first glance, many people could make the argument that this is great for the US to access natural gas domestically, rather than relying on Middle Eastern suppliers, not only becasue it will lower the price of gasoline in America, but also becasue of the rising tensions in Middle Eastern countries, thanks to ISIS and other militant groups.  The problem is that fracking is extremely hazardous for the environment.  For example, there are studies being done in California that have confirmed many environmentalists' concerns that the waste from fracking is contaminating water supplies.

To unleash the oil or natural gas from the ground water, sand and various chemicals are needed to be blasted down into the drillholes.  The toxic water that's been used by the fracking machines have been injected back deep underground.  The chemicals found in the water are known to be extremely toxic and often lead to cancer. 

Many environmental groups such as the Environmental Working Group have put out documents proving the dangers of such chemicals being inserted back into the ground, but many oil and gas corporations are fighting against these reports.  There are laws in place that force the fracking companies to test their waste for any hazardous chemicals before putting them back into the earth, but there still have been many instances in which these chemicals have been discovered at alarming rates. 

In October of 2014 there had been many discoveries of oil and gas companies knowingly injecting three billion gallons of waste water back into the ground, which has found its way into California's drinking water and farm irrigation aquifers, according to an MSNBC report. 

The state was forced to shut down 23 of the couple hundred injecting sites statewide.  Aside from the public health scare that the wastewater has brought upon the citizens of California, fracking has also been linked to heightening the chance of earthquakes in the regions that they occupy since the rocks that they are drilling become unstable.  The dangers of fracking should emphasize the importance of the United States trying to discover alternatives to natural gas.  Not only is it hazardous for the people as a whole, but for the generations of humans that will inhabit the unstable surfaces that fracking is creating.

For more information:

Science Report: Antarctica's Ice Shelves Melting at Faster Pace

By Matthew Salerno

NBC News’ website in the environmental section reported on a recent study published in Science magazine about Antarctica’s floating ice shelves. The study states that in an 18 year period, from 1994 to 2012, the massive floating ice shelves in Antarctica decreased at a quickening rate; some shrank nearly 18 percent. According to the study, during the first half of the 18 years, there was not much change to the floating ice shelves’ total mass, however, in the last nine years the effects were significant.

While the study states it does not alone prove the cause of the melting, it can be assuredly assumed that rising global temperatures is the issue. Global warming from the burning of fossil fuels has increasingly been taking its toll on our environment in recent years, with no foreseeable solution at this point. If ice shelves continued to melt at its current pace, excluding the possibility that they could melt faster, entire ice shelves in Antarctica would be gone by the end of the century, barely a generation or two away.

The floating ice shelves themselves do not directly relate to sea level, but could indirectly have an impact on such. The shelves act in a way that help ice on continental Antarctica stay put; however, if they melt the continent’s ice fields will be free to flow into the ocean and disintegrate, thus raising sea levels.

I believe that this is a problem that is too often overlooked and left for the next generation to deal with. Global warming has been denied for too long, and it could already be too late, but waiting another generation would be catastrophic. Unless we make drastic changes during our lifetimes, our children and grandchildren will be left with a crumbling environment and a planet with temperatures rising out of control

For more information:

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Global Warming is Real Even When It's Freezing Here

Dear Editor,

As a student at Ramapo College, I am taking an Environmental Writing course that has had a tremendous impact on my views.  I come from a family where one side is conservative so I have never thought too much about Global Warming or its possible impact on us in the near future and for the generations to come.  But what I have come to learn has really disturbed me and shown me the importance of taking action sooner rather than later, because if we as humans wait too long it may be too late.

Many people argue, "if Global Warming is real then why does it get so cold during the winter?"  Those people do not truly grasp the true meaning of global warming.  Although we still experience very frigid temperatures here in New Jersey, the poles are heating up.  This is causing many of the ice caps to melt and glaciers to drift.  We are already feeling the effects of this with its impact on weather. 

We have experienced some truly devastating natural disasters over the last decade, which we have not seen in our region before.  Many towns in New York and New Jersey are still feeling the lasting effects of Hurricane Sandy, which wiped out many towns especially by the Jersey Shore.

If Global Warming continues, these storms will likely become more and more frequent with the severity increasing with every passing year.  The damage caused by Sandy has resulted in lives being lost and millions and million of dollars being spent in order to recover.  These efforts to rebuild after the storm will have been for nothing if more storms, stronger storms, wreak havoc on our area in the future.

We are setting our children and our children's children up for disaster, where New York and New Jersey as we know it can be completely different.  Many scientists have already predicted that New York, as soon as the 2050s, will be a city of ruins.  Water will have flooded the streets and temperatures can possibly jump an average of 4.1-5.7 degrees.  By 2080 it's possible that it can increase by 8.8 degrees hotter than the average.  This will result in an increase of precipitation and significant rise in the sea levels.  The floods that we experienced during Sandy would be nothing compared to what we face if this does indeed happen.

Mayor de Blasio has already made an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the city, but this can't just be a one man effort.  Everyone has to make the effort to save the environment or else the next generations will be thrust into a "Day After Tomorrow"-like disaster.

I hope that everyone can now see the danger that we face.

Brian Writt

Environmental Professor and Earth Poet

Howard Horowitz  (photo:

By Edith Carpio

A recent speaker in environmental writing class was Howard Horowitz. Horowitz, a New Yorker, has taught at Ramapo College since 1982. Over the years he has taught physical geography and environmental history. On this Thursday he came in carrying big posters, which I thought were filled with information and statistics on environmental problems like climate change, negative effects of pesticides, etc.

The posters turned out to be his original collection of word maps. Word maps are poems in the shape of the topic of the poems. From his collection Horowitz shared his poems on Manhattan, Oregon, and Idaho. He's currently in the process of working on a word map on the Ramapo River. What stood out about his word maps is the lengths he goes to write them. He only writes them if he is entirely knowledgeable on nearly every detail of the geographical location his poem is about. It is no surprise that his word map of Manhattan was featured in The New York Times in August of 1997. Horowitz's other styles of writing include scientific reports and articles in scientific journals, which makes his passion for poetry more surprising.

"Whitewater" by Howard Horowitz

As Professor Horowitz entered the classroom I was sharing my research assignment with the class. It was on the topic of pesticides which were recently declared as "probably carcinogenic" by the United Nations and the International Agency for Research on Cancer in late March. I did not know much on the topic besides the dangers they pose to the environment. He mentioned that he knew much about pesticides and the problems surrounding them because of his experience in grassroots campaigns and from his time working at the Environmental Protection Agency.

As soon as he mentioned that he worked for/with the EPA, I imagined he was strictly business. Although Professor Horowitz was clearly very educated on most things of the environmental realm, he was not 'strictly business' -- this was proven by his word maps. Horowitz is a full time college professor, but although unknown to his many students he also is a  part time poet. His full time job does not allow him to share his passion for poetry as much as he'd like. He was excited about having the chance to share his poetry with our small class. Along with his word maps, he brought a book that he published, Close to the Ground, a book of tree planting poems.

His nearly silent love for poetry made me wonder about other professors who are secretly talented at other things besides the things they teach. Something they are passionate about that their students would never expect from them. It was extremely refreshing to see a new side of a professor, a side that probably exists in other professors as well.

As a full time college student and part time preschool teacher's assistant who is constantly drowning in stress from assignments, tests, quizzes from professors, it is difficult to think of certain professors as people who aren't just there to teach and test us. Besides providing people with poetry that promotes environmental appreciation and awareness, Professor Horowitz serves as an example for other professors and people in general who should also look to find and pursue their passions.

Ford Should Thoroughly Clean Up What It Dumped Along Ramapo River

By Matthew Salerno

I found an article from approximately a year ago about the Ramapo River in relation to the cleanup by Ford that Chuck Stead and Geoff Welch spoke about in class. The article is featured on and has several references to and quotes from Chuck and Geoff about the problems with the Ramapo River.

According to the article, as well as Chuck and Geoff’s presentations, due to erosion from Hurricane Irene, paint sludge was discovered in the Ramapo River near areas where Ford dumped paint sludge decades ago. The article states that the sludge originated in Rockland County, NY but has migrated down the river into Bergen and Passaic counties in New Jersey, which could be dangerous as it potentially could contaminate a North Jersey water supply.

At the time of the article, Ford had not committed to doing any testing or cleanup of the Ramapo River despite calls from Chuck and Geoff about the possible dangers that the contamination posed to the population.  While it is positive that Ford is cleaning sludge up from parts of the river banks, there could be extensive damage done and more to come in the future if the site is not properly cleaned up. 

The Ramapo River really should be looked into to determine the extent of the pollution and Ford should take responsibility for the illegal dumping it did decades ago.  The damage that Ford did to the environment in both New York and New Jersey with its dumping more than thirty years ago is still being felt today by people who lived near the dumping sites and potentially the larger amount of people that are drinking water that comes from the Ramapo River.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ramapo River Watershed Conference 2015 at Ramapo College


Geoff Welch
(845) 712-5220

Website for the conference is:

Ramapo River Watershed Conference April 24 at Ramapo College

Mahwah, NJ – The 20th annual Ramapo River Watershed Conference will be held Friday, April 24, at Ramapo College of New Jersey from 10 am – 5 pm in the Trustees Pavilion, 505 Ramapo Valley Road, also known as Route 202. Presented by the Ramapo River Committee and the Institute for Environmental Studies at Ramapo College, the event features a variety of speakers on environmental topics focusing on the Ramapo Valley region in New York and New Jersey.

The event is free but registration is requested at or (845) 712-5220. The conference will include an update on Ford Motor Company’s latest paint sludge clean up in Torne Valley, a report on how the Ramapo River is changing from a freshwater stream to a waste water-dominant stream, the proposed Pilgrim pipeline, and a number of other topics.

 9:30 am - Coffee and Bagels

10:00 - Greetings: Ramapo College President Peter Mercer

10:10 - 20 Years along the Ramapo, A Retrospective: Geoff Welch and Howard Horowitz

10:35 –Sterling Forest vs. the Genting Casino: Rodger Friedman Co-chair, Sterling Forest Partnership

11:00 - The Proposed Pilgrim Pipeline: Threats to the Ramapo River and Aquifer: Matt Smith
Regional Organizer, Food & Water Watch

11:25 - The Controversial Case of a Proposed 204-Unit Ridge-Top Housing Complex near the Oakland-Wayne Border: Jeff Tittel: Executive Director of the NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club

11:45 - The Rockland County Water Management Task Force: How it was formed, its mission, composition, committee work and where we are with regard to meeting Public Service Commission goals: Harriet Cornell, Chair of the Environmental Committee of the Rockland County Legislature

12:15 pm – 1:30 pm LUNCH

1:30 - The Ramapo is changing from a freshwater stream to a wastewater-dominant stream, with an emphasis on how the Ramapo Valley Well Field and downstream well fields in NJ and reservoirs are impacted: Robert Kecskes, Retired from the NJDEP where he was responsible for state and regional water supply planning in New Jersey

2:15 - Torne Brook, Phase two of the Ford Motor Company Paint Sludge Remediation in Torne Valley, NY: Dr. Chuck Stead, Adjunct Professor, Ramapo College

2:45 - Ramapough Mountain Indians People, Places and Cultural Traditions: Edward Lenik is a past president of the Archaeological Society of New Jersey and author of many books including a series on Indian Rock Art in the northeast and the well-known "Iron Mine Trails" from the NY/NJ Trails Conference.

3:30 – What’s at Stake with the NJ Exxon Deal? An update from investigative journalist Bob Hennelly on the controversial settlement by the Christie Administration with Exxon-Mobil to settle close to $9 billion dollars in natural resource damage claims for less than 3 cents on the dollar. Bob Hennelly is the political analyst for WBGO, NPR in Newark, and is a regular contributor to Salon, City and State and City Limits. 

4:00 - 5:00 - Reception

Planting Trees: Earth Day Event by Ramapo College Students


Contact: Edith Carpio

Ramapo College Students to Plant Trees on Earth Day

On Wednesday April 22, the Civic & Community Engagement Center (CCEC) at Ramapo College in Mahwah, N.J. will be planting trees in honor of Earth Day. The event will take place outside of CareOne Nursing Home located on Ridgewood Avenue, in Ridgewood from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The CCEC is a philanthropic group made up of students whose mission is to blend awareness, education and action to create a movement of students of all classes working to reach a higher goal. They plan events and gather volunteers to aid community success and growth.

Earth Day has been celebrated worldwide every year since April 22, 1970. It was started by Sen. Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin. He created the holiday to raise environmental awareness. According to, Nelson's intention was for environmental awareness be spread in the classrooms of students of all ages. Nelson wished to bring important environmental problems, such as pollution in the water and air, to light which would lead to awareness of other environmental issues.

The CCEC holds other many environmentally-friendly events throughout the academic year. Some upcoming events include: Mahwah Environmental Volunteer Organization Farm Clean Up on April 27, and Ramsey Day Clean Up on Saturday, April 18, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information and other upcoming events go to or visit CCEC’s office in SC-213 Monday through Thursday: 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., Friday: 11:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

NJ Highlands Council Full of Lame Ducks under Governor Christie

By Candace Mitchell

This year will be a crucial one for the New Jersey Highlands Council as they prepare to update the 464-page Regional Master Plan. This is one of many big moves the Highlands Council has made with Governor Chris Christie in office.

Under the Highlands Act, the governor has a large hold over the Council. The governor nominates all 15 council members, two of whom are at the recommendation of the Senate president and Assembly speaker, according to NJ Spotlight.

Governor Christie’s involvement with the NJ Highlands Council came early in his first term. When he took office in January 2010, four seats were vacant and six were holdovers, members who are serving beyond their terms, allowing Christie to fill 10 positions, according to

All 14 members currently on the Council are holdovers, according to NJ Spotlight, and most were appointed by Christie. The holdovers could be replaced at any time, but they would have to be approved by state Senate Democrats, so many speculate that Gov. Christie will not replace any council members.

In the past, Christie criticized the 2004 Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act, a law affecting towns in seven counties that is implemented by the Council.

The update to the Regional Master Plan, set to occur this year, will offer guidance on building in the extensive area hosting reservoirs and water supply streams stretching from the Ramapo River in Mahwah to the Delaware River in Hunterdon County.

With another big move coming up for the Highlands Council, the importance of Governor Christie’s control and decisions regarding the council will become more and more noteworthy.

Environmental Impact of Creating an Island in South China Sea

By Matthew Salerno

For my assignment this week, I chose to look at an article I viewed on the front page of the New York Times. The article is about how China over the past few months has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea along Mischief Reef, less than 200 miles from the Philippines.

While the article took more of a diplomatic view on the topic, I saw this as an environmental topic. Since January, China has been using heavy machinery and moving around hundreds of tons of sand in the submerged reef along the Spratly Islands. While the New York Times article talks mainly about border issues and political topics between China, the Philippines and the United States, I believe that news organizations should be looking into the environmental impacts of what China is doing to marine life at such an important reef.

I did some digging on the Internet to try and find an article that views this subject from an environmental point of view and was able to find a few articles on the website for The Institute for Maritime and Ocean Affairs. The Institute has written several articles on the status of the reef and has noted that the Chinese Government has deposited over 200,000 tons of fish into the area to try and make up for the displaced population.

Although from my research, it seems that China has made it look like they care about the environment, the effect on the environment will be too great in the long run to just fix by dumping fish into the area. Another article from the Institute details how more than four other islands besides Mischief Reef have been artificially created by China over the last year for primarily military use.

The amount of sand from the ocean that China is moving artificially must be having a great impact on the marine environment in the South China Sea. All the marine life in the area has been displaced from a reef that supported such a complex ecosystem, thus affecting the surrounding area. No doubt much of the fish population in the area has either died or moved, which might make other areas overpopulated.

Another environmental issue with the island is the contents that lay below the seabed. According to the New York Times article and several online articles, it is rumored that a large amount of oil and natural gas lays beneath Mischief Reef, making it quite lucrative for the Chinese Government. Besides the initial impact of artificially creating land, the fracking and mining of the oil below what was once a natural reef would destroy the environment of a once beautiful reef.

Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange in Recycled Airplanes

By Edith Carpio
It was used as a warfare technique during the Vietnam War. Today, even 40 years after the war ended, people continue to suffer because of it. American planes dropped a total of 19 million gallons of the toxic herbicide called Agent Orange on forests, fields and American military bases in Vietnam to eliminate areas that might have hidden, housed and fed Vietnamese armed forces fighting against US military operations. The main toxic chemical in Agent Orange is dioxin.

Veterans of the Vietnam War suffer from diseases due to exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used in the war. Exposure to Agent Orange has been linked to numerous diseases including diabetes, Parkinson's disease, prostate cancer, and many more. American veterans are not the only ones who were affected by Agent Orange. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese have fallen victim to the herbicide, including children who are born with birth defects, according to the History Channel.

Over the years, the controversy of its use and effects has undergone legal battles. American veterans who fought on Vietnamese soil were given compensation or health care by the Department of Veterans Affairs for their exposure to Agent Orange only in recent years. Not all veterans were given this compensation. Veterans who were known as the "Blue Water Navy," who were based in deep sea vessels, had to fight harder to get compensation compared to those who fought on Vietnamese soil.

Today, Americans are still fighting for compensation. Some served stateside after the war, such as 69-year-old retired Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Silverman. He is one of 2,100 group members who have been on and flown C-123 transport aircraft from 1972 to 1982.

They were told the airplanes, which transported Agent Orange, were properly cleansed and  disinfected after service in the Vietnam War and before they were returned to the United States air bases located in Ohio, Pittsburgh and Massachusetts, according to a recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Silverman and others were never convinced of the safety of the planes and unfortunately now have diseases that prove they were right to be doubtful. Their diseases were confirmed by the Institute of Medicine to probably be the result of exposure to Agent Orange's most toxic chemical, dioxin residue in planes they were on.

Silverman and others have been awaiting recognition and a statement from the Department of Veterans Affairs. This statement was supposed to give them the same benefits that veterans who fought in Vietnam that suffer from the same kinds of diseases they have, because of exposure to the same thing. The awaited announcement was supposed to be released weeks ago but then got delayed another week. Another week passed and again it was not released because the request was still being considered. No one knows exactly when or if they will receive their compensation at all.

Hopefully Silverman, along with other crew members like nurses, mechanics, and pilots are given the attention and reimbursement they require. They are not a group of people who deserve to be overlooked because safety measurements were not taken seriously when the C-123 airplanes were not properly decontaminated.

For more information:

Food, Race and Class: Eating Healthy Is Hard for Poor People

By Yovanna Garcia

A growing food movement exists that urges people in developed countries to support sustainable eating by foregoing greasy cheeseburgers and eating fresh produce at local family farms instead, but how often do we look at the intersection of food, race and class when considering what people eat and do not eat?

Vegetarians and vegans often critique people who are overweight and/or frequent consumers of fast food restaurants for their unhealthy eating habits, but fail to acknowledge how skewed — and privileged — their own eating habits are.

In developed countries, namely in the United States, there is a divide between what food is accessible and affordable to members of different races and class statuses.

Low-income people and communities of color usually have the short end of the stick when it comes to going green and eating healthy since buying and preparing fresh produce is not often a feasible option for working class people who may not have the budget or hours in the week to prepare home-cooked meals.

According to the Food Research and Action Center, approximately 49.1 million, or 16 percent, of Americans struggle to provide their families with enough food, let alone healthy, nourishing food. More than half if these struggling families, or 52.6 percent, are Latino or African-American.

Even government assistance programs limit people's dietary options. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides benefits and helps millions of low-income Americans put food on the table — and even then, a family of four, on average, is only allotted about $649 for food per month, which is extremely limiting for purchasing fruits and vegetables.

Recently, a Republican state lawmaker in Missouri is said to be pushing for legislation that would limit what food stamp recipients can buy. The bill being proposed would ban food stamp recipients from buying steak and seafood.

When burgers cost just $0.99 at fast food chains and salads start at $4.99, it is no wonder that many low-income families and poor people opt out of eating healthy, when it comes down to the choice of eating whatever is cheapest and available or not eating at all. Even local farmers' markets are not so local for urban neighborhoods where a majority of the African-American, Latino/Hispanic and Asian population do not have access to clean water, let alone a basic food basket.

It was not until last year when I attended a workshop on food politics at the National Conference on Race & Ethnicity, or NCORE, that I realized food justice is racial justice. This means that you cannot claim to be an advocate on race issues without mentioning a lack of basic civil and political rights, such as food, among different races.

This workshop helped illustrate the intersection of race, class and food dynamics in America, going beyond the labor practices that disproportionately affect people of color.

According to, “A large percentage of factory farm workers are people of color including migrant workers from Mexico and other parts of Latin America,” where employers will often recruit undocumented workers since they are less likely to complain about the low wages and exploitative working conditions.

Of course, you rarely hear about this issue from the very same people — usually white, upper class vegetarians and vegans — who urge others to eat healthy at any cost.

As a woman of color from an urban neighborhood, I have seen food injustice and systemic racism my entire life through my own experiences and those around me, but I was only able to put a name and social theory to it after I had developed the social consciousness to understand how it has affected me throughout my life.

I can finally understand why my family only ate fruit when it was in season, since it was cheapest, why I never knew that so many vegetarian or vegan people existed until college and why I never had access to a farmers' market until attending college in a predominately white community.

While the emphasis on going green is admirable, it tends to overlook differences in the identities of those who can actually participate in the sustainability movement. The capitalistic food industry is an abomination and this is a fight that many vegetarians and vegans know all too well, but they cannot expect poor people of color to choose to focus on this fight with all other issues that disproportionately affect them.

As with any social justice movement, food justice is an issue that needs more voices. The voices of those who are most affected by the systemic injustice need to be heard, but that can only happen when upper class white people realize their place and privilege in the movement. Instead of shaming others for their eating options and habits, they should instead educate themselves about their own privilege.

A version of this article also appeared in The Ramapo News

How to Build Sustainable Campuses is Focus of Earth Day Talk


Contact: Ashwani Vasishth,

Earth Day Talk on Sustainable Campuses

Dr. Mitchell Thomashow will be giving a talk titled “Nine Elements of a Sustainable Campus” at Ramapo College on Earth Day, April 22 from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in H-wing Auditorium. The presentation is part of RCNJ Campus Sustainability Convergence, hosted by The President’s Committee on Campus Sustainability.

Dr. Thomashow’s work focuses on promoting ecological awareness, sustainable living, creative learning and improvisational thinking. His current focus is writing and teaching, executive consulting, creating new dialogue and ways for people to engage with sustainability, ecological learning and the arts.

He is the author of three books, Ecological Identity, which outlines an approach to teaching environmental education, Bringing the Biosphere Home, a guide for learning and viewing global environmental change, and The Nine Elements of A Sustainable Campus, a book providing suggestions on how to incorporate sustainable living and teaching into campus environments and the focus of Dr. Thomashow’s talk.

In the past, Dr. Thomashow has served as the chair of the environmental studies department at Antioch University New England (1976-2006), and more recently as the president of Unity College in Maine (2006-2011).

-- Candace Mitchell

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Geography Professor Paints Landscapes in Poetry

"River" wordmap by Howard Horowitz

By Brianna Farulla
Learning of environmental issues can be a bit frightening and even discouraging at times. Eventually, it begins to feel as if the world and our bodies are deteriorating due to the toxins that we’re surrounded with. At first, I assumed that Professor Howard Horowitz was going to provide us with more negative facts followed by an addition of substances that we’re unaware of that are taking years off of our lives. His opening speech about Diquat, the herbicide, nearly confirmed that thought for me. However, I was surprisingly proven wrong.

I walked away from Horowitz’s presentation to our Environmental Writing class feeling good, rather than worrisome about what I’d consumed throughout the day. After he got the serious topics out of the way, he decided to share his passion of poetry with us. Most of his students are under the impression that he’s a typical science professor, but don’t know that he has a way with words. I was impressed to discover that he even has a book published consisting of a compilation of tree planting poems that had sold out at the time. I see trees everyday and take how they got where they currently stand for granted. At one point in time, men had gone around planting the trees that we admire today. Therefore, hearing their stories and learning of what was happening while they were doing so from a firsthand perspective is rather interesting.

What I was most impressed by was Horowitz’s ideal style of poetry, which is writing in a map format. His finished pieces seemed to be his most prized possessions, which shows the amount of time and effort that was put into each one. The amount of intricacy and thought behind the maps amazed me. What’s even better is that most of the ideas came to him on a whim while in the shower or even in the middle of the night. He really paints a grand scene with his words and goes into detail about each area. He did well enough to get featured in The New York Times.

After hearing of all the turmoil that the world is in, it’s often difficult to keep a positive outlook on aspects of the environment. I begin to think of paint sludge when I hear of water and of chemicals when I think of air. However, Horowitz was able to reinforce my old love for the planet. He made me remember wildlife, streams, etc. I began to picture the environment, not as a terrible place any longer, but as a sanctuary. I recalled how I can sit at the Ramapo Reservation for hours and get lost in the natural charm of the great outdoors and everything that it consists of. Horowitz reminded me that Earth really is a beautiful place after all.

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Chris Christie’s Stance on Environmental Issues

By Candace Mitchell

All eyes are on New Jersey as speculation continues as to whether or not New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will run for president in the 2016 presidential election. His stances on various issues have been magnified in the media, so where does the potential 2016 presidential candidate stand when it comes to the environment?

Since considering a presidential run, Governor Christie has made moves to the right on a few issues, including climate change. In New Jersey, this debate is mostly centered around the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is aimed at reducing global warming pollution from factories and power plants.

Christie made the decision to withdraw New Jersey from the program in 2011 and twice vetoed the state legislature’s bipartisan vote to rejoin the RGGI, according to MSNBC. Christie later stated in a news conference that New Jersey would not rejoin RGGI “on [his] watch.”

More recently, Christie’s administration drew attention for its decision to settle a multibillion-dollar pollution lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corporation for just $225 million, about a fraction of what the state originally aimed for, according to The New York Times.

Chris Christie has done some good for the environment, mostly due to his interest in protecting New Jersey’s beaches, one of NJ’s biggest tourist draws. In August 2011, Christie expressed opposition to off-shore drilling, citing its potentially negative impact to the New Jersey coastline, according to a gubernatorial press release.

“As stewards of the environment, it is incumbent that we take all necessary measures to protect these treasures and to sustain our coastal communities and the diverse economies they support,” he said.

In August 3, 2011 he also signed a series of three bills that made $157 million in funds available to protect the Green Acres open-space acquisitions and expand and develop state parks, forests and wildlife management areas, according to a gubernatorial press release.

However, it seems as though Governor Christie may be retreating from these types of moves as he inches closer to a potential bid as a Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Factory Farming Creates Noxious Odors and Dangerous Air Pollution

By Samantha Bell

Imagine driving through the rolling, green pastures of central Pennsylvania. Surrounded by wide open fields and mountains in the distance, you are taken in by the immense natural beauty. Then it hits you, like a thick wall of putrid bricks: the smell of manure. Next thing you know, you’re gasping for air and high-tailing your way out of there.

Something we haven’t all quite grasped yet is the real impact that all of these smelly farms are having on our air quality. Around 99 percent of all farm animals are raised in one of the 20,000 factory farms in the U.S, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Concentrating millions of animals on to factory farms has a number of negative effects.

Crowded by the thousand into small sheds and stalls, these animals know nothing but fear and stress during their severely shortened lives. Starting with animal cruelty, the harmful repercussions of factory farms radiates to the surrounding environment.

Livestock in the U.S. produce 500 million tons of waste every year, according to the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. This amount is more than three times the sewage produced by the entire U.S. human population. This is also way more waste than factory farms could ever redistribute as fertilizer, so the majority of waste is left to fester in massive, open-air waste lagoons, according to the National Association of Local Boards of Health. In effect, this waste is a pollutant, not a productive farming tool as some might believe, according to New York University.

When you’re driving through the countryside and smell manure, it is likely coming from one of these lagoons, but the smell is really the least of our worries.

Toxic Gases from Factory Farm Waste

The mountains of manure from factory farms can release around 400 different harmful gases into the atmosphere, according to the Farm Safety Association. Some of these gases include nitrous oxide, methane, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Because animals are kept by the thousand, the concentration of these gases can be extremely dangerous to the local community. Many of these gases also influence greenhouse gases that contribute to environmental damage and climate change.

Health Concerns

If you have ever used products containing ammonia, you know how overwhelming the smell can be. It is for this reason that opening windows and ensuring proper ventilation are always recommended when using anything ammonia-based. But when thousands of tons of ammonia are being released directly into outdoor air, how is one supposed to escape the irritating effects of this gas?

The sad answer is, you can’t. That is what it is like to live near a factory farm.

Around 80 percent of ammonia emission in the U.S. come from farm animal waste. This noxious gas can cause a variety of harmful health effects, including dizziness, eye irritation, respiratory illness and nausea, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

In addition to ammonia, factory farm waste releases dangerous levels of hydrogen sulfide. Exposure to this gas, even in small doses can cause sore throats, but more troublingly, seizures, comas and even death, according to the NRDC.

While adults are highly susceptible to these gases, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), children, who take in 20-50 percent more air, are at extreme risk. As a result, children raised in communities near factory farms are more likely to develop asthma or bronchitis. Low air quality can stimulate asthma symptoms, making living near these farms even more dangerous.

The CDC also states that mental health deterioration and increased sensitivity to smells can occur in people who live near factory farms.

Having to live with the smell and the harmful gases released by farm waste can ruin not only people’s health, but their entire lives. Sadly, many communities located near factory farms fall below the poverty level, meaning people cannot afford to relocate – even if their family’s lives depend on it.

Environmental Impact

Factory farms emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere just as readily as industrial smokestacks and tailpipes. Globally, 37 percent of methane emissions come from livestock production, according to Methane can trap up to 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a five-year period. But methane is hardly the only damaging gas released by farm waste.

Topping out methane’s powerful global warming potential is nitrous oxide. This gas is about 296 times more potent than carbon dioxide. When nitrous oxide mixes with ammonia, it creates nitric acid, which causes acid rain, according to the EPA. Acid rain not only causes statues to deteriorate, but it sucks minerals from soil, destroys forest ecosystems, and can cause massive fish kills.

What Can You Do?

Avoiding air pollution from factory farms is no easy task. While you could carry around protective facemasks with you everywhere, this hardly solves the root of the problem. One of the best things that you can do to help lower the amount of air pollution produced by factory farms is to stop supporting them.

Factory farms only exist to meet high demands for meat, dairy and eggs. When we lower demand for these products, factory farms begin to lose their value. Switching to a plant-based diet is a great way to achieve this, but even if you reduce your consumption of meat and other animal products, it will slowly make a difference.

Silent Spring: Rachel Carson Illuminates Dangers of Toxic Pesticides

By Edith Carpio

In Silent Spring, author Rachel Carson pointed out that humans have taken power over everything; commercially, industrially, etc. But we, I at least, have never stopped and thought about exactly how much power we have. We have so much power that we even have control over the environment. The way that we treat our environment, which is very poorly, is the way the environment is going to react. We put extreme amounts of toxic chemicals into the air and our environment responds with problems like climate change.

Carson also points out that the poisons that we put into the environment, such as strontium via nuclear explosions, are forever. They stay in the chemical makeup of grass, corn, wheat, and in human bones, forever. I never realized that some of the poisons we put out there have no expiration date.

The way in which Rachel Carson writes is very entertaining. There was one point where she wrote when talking about insecticides, they should not be called ‘insecticides’ but biocides, because they kill every living thing. I don’t think she meant it to be humorous but she made a bold point and at the same time it entertained the reader. Which is why I think her points are more than just points, she says them in a way that the reader will remember them and not just read and forget about it seconds later.

Carson writes about chemicals existing everywhere, which gave me a new sense of paranoia I didn’t know I could have. I was aware that chemicals are in the environment but I never really thought they could be in me. After she pointed that out, I questioned why people with actual power aren’t taking more action; after all, isn't the people’s health the main priority? If the detrimental state of the environment is not important enough for people to care about, how about the possible dangers these chemicals pose to humans? Shouldn’t that be a call for action?

I think a lot of threats that insecticides pose go unnoticed by the public for a reason. People of power in the agriculture industry who do the massive amounts of spraying of insecticides do not want the threats to be known to the public. They keep the problem from the public by throwing millions of dollars into protecting the pesticides industry from government regulations. These threats should be announced to the public. I think that if the public knew about it, we’d realize that more than just insect life is being harmed and then we’d do something about it. I don’t think people are knowledgeable enough about the topic to care about it.  The way that Carson writes about environmental problems is the way people should learn about them.

The thing about Carson is not only is she educating readers about environmental problems that need more awareness, but also provides historical and biological facts about the things she defends such as soil, birds, insects, vegetation, etc. Her style of writing is unique and has caused me to think differently about the environment and the necessary measures to protect it from ourselves.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Ramapo River Clean Ups Need Sustained Public Involvement

By Vanna Garcia

In Mahwah, the first two weeks of June are the focus of an Eagle Scout project intended to clean up the Mahwah portion of the Ramapo River. This grassroots campaign aims to help preserve the river, hoping to remedy pollution and flooding issues for the benefit of all surrounding communities.

In order for any and all action to help the situation, however, proper knowledge and awareness of Ramapo River issues must be brought to local residents’ attention and that of policy makers. Though it may very well be a very expensive project, the consequences of not treating this as an important issue can have severe consequences for the river’s daily consumers.

The Ramapo River made headlines in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in 2011, an event that started a conversation on flooding and pollution by environmentalists and local residents.

The river is approximately 30 miles long in southern New York and Northern New Jersey and provides drinking water for over 200,000 residents. Despite this fact, the river has been under threat of contamination for years. The water pollution has been accumulating due to storm water overflow and the residual toxic waste from the Ford Motor Company’s plant that closed in 1980. The Ramapo Landfill Site, just off the river in the Town of Ramapo, was found to be a source of contamination for ground and surface water pollution in the area with organic compounds, heavy metals and phenols, according to the EPA.

Since the Ford Motor Company’s dumping of paint sledge in and around the watershed over 40 years ago,  contaminated soil and water have spread over miles in the river watershed. There have been efforts to clean up the residue, but a considerable amount of damage has already been done.

In fact, even just large storms cause the Ramapo River to flood, causing severe damage. Due to this, a flood protection program has been initiated to monitor the river during storms. To eliminate or reduce flood damage, the project area includes channel modification of 5,800 feet of the Ramapo River and the relocation of the Doty Road Bridge in Oakland. These changes reroutes water to stop water buildup from occurring in some residential streets.

Major flooding is not a new phenomenon in New Jersey. Residents of the state who live along the Pequannock, Ramapo and Pompton rivers in northern New Jersey, know to expect flooding after heavy rains. Many times, when forecasters expect floods days in advance, Governor Christie will declare a state of emergency to ensure the safety of at-risk locations.

While significant efforts have already been instated, a lack of coordination between levels of government and money has inhibited plans for development that will protect local watersheds. The Journal News has reported on what has been done to fix the flooding problem, but despite the response of governments at all levels, projects remain poorly funded.

If not enough people are properly educated on the issue at hand, the less likely it is that conservation projects will be financed and taken seriously by all parties involved.

Not many people believe this problem affects them in their everyday life, but protection of the Ramapo watershed should also be of strong concern to local residents because of the aquatic life, drinking water and recreational use that the water is used for. Further contamination can pose a public health risk that could potentially make many residents physically ill.

Conservation Campaigns Need Outreach to People of Color

By Vanna Garcia

In the 1960s the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, known for its development of infrastructure that has historically increased the metropolitan region’s economy, had plans to build a major regional airport to supplement three other airports in the metropolitan area.

The land they sought for this project was 30 miles west of New York City and less than 20 miles from Newark Airport, and consisted of 7,768 acres of land that was home to hundreds of wildlife creatures including birds, fish, frogs, deer, and fox, among others.

This sought-after land, located in Morris County, N.J., is the Great Swamp—and it pitted local residents against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who wished to develop the land.

Among some of the initial allies in the grassroots campaign to save the swamp was Helen Fenske, a stay at home mom who lived in an old farmhouse on the edge of the swamp. She was appointed secretary of the campaign and ran the meetings from the corner of her kitchen, since there was not much money to run the organization, according to "Saving a Swamp and Other Landmark Campaigns" in A Citizen's Guide to Grassroots Campaigns..

With lack of funds, the Great Swamp supporters raised awareness of the wetlands as a national wilderness area by holding an event that labeled it as such. This tactic ensured the safety of the area and encouraged counties like Morris and Somerset to construct county parks and environmental education centers.

Through the legwork of many allies, the organization was able to give talks to conservation groups, increase the diversity of their audiences and set up displays at the Short Hills Mall. Soon enough, they gathered enough public attention and eventually saved the swamp.

The Great Swamp salvation was the start of many other environmental projects. The chapter goes on to discuss the Farny Highlands, some of New Jersey’s most threatened and endangered rural lands, and how they have been able to survive industrialization.

Residents of these communities learned how to reach out to their neighbors, to residents of neighboring towns, to regional conservation groups, to local officials and to county, state, and federal officials. They even reached out to experienced advocates like Fenske for guidance.

It is no surprise that more progress is made when grassroots campaigns expand to include diverse audiences into their initiatives. When more people are involved, there is a greater chance of being heard by those in positions of power that can actually enact political change.

But since the staffs of many large, mainstream environmental organizations have been historically white, it is not very common that people of color are included in community discussions on new developments or environmental issues. I would even go as far as to say that the traditional environmental movement has a diversity problem.

There is a clear disconnect between the leadership at highest levels of grassroots organizations and people of color, who you do not often see in environmental group leadership positions. Clearly, there is a misguided perception that people of color do not care about the environment or that they do not have the skills and academic background to hold reputable membership positions in these organizations, but that perception is simply wrong.

If only more grassroots organizations expanded their outreach to make all community members, especially people of color, a part of the discussion on wildlife preservation and other environmental issues, change would be more evident.