Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Closer Look at Sustainability Improvements on College Campuses

Dear editor:

College students are all about up and coming trends, like who the next big singer will be, the next fashion trends and now how to be more green on campus. Many college students still don’t truly understand the sustainability issues college campuses face and think that since they can’t see the issues means that they’re not directly impacting the students.

In reality, every day we produce enough trash that’s equivalent to the weight of the Empire State Building. Simply recycling one ton of paper saves 17 trees, two oil barrels, 4,100 kilowatts of energy and 60 pounds of air pollution, according to a USA Today report. These are just a few stats that impact society and whether you see it or not, it’s happening and something has to be done to help protect Mother Nature.

So how can college students help out?

Certain cafeterias use lunch trays to carry plates.  Trays do make it more convenient for carrying plates, utensils and cups but they do mean more soap and water are needed to clean them and people may load up more food than they can eat. Skip the tray and use average sized plates, making you more selective of your food and less water used for washing. The EPA estimates that more than 34 million tons of food is wasted each year, contributing to landfills and making food waste the largest component in landfills.

Using reusable water bottles is a big way to help. The average reusable water bottle is $20 and can last for years, making it sustainable and a money saver on water! Walking or riding bikes to classes is another way to help prevent CO2 emissions from your car, plus walking and riding your bike is a nice way to exercise before heading to class.

A more fun way to help sustainability issues is by thrifting. Instead of spending $55 on a brand new shirt, you can by quality clothes for around $15 by shopping at thrift stores. “Americans still throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year,” according to That’s a lot of fabric to waste, so thrift stores are a great way to help save clothes and money.

These are just some ways that college students can directly help, but how are college campuses encouraging this behavior?

Ramapo College of New Jersey, located in Mahwah, NJ, has recently been making an effort to help sustainability issues in the area and on the campus. Ramapo College dedicated its staff and students to make environmental issues a bigger priority, described on the college’s website, found here.

On this website, the college describes how they are improving the campus’ recycling program by recycling glass, metals, plastics and paper. The campus has also been reducing the energy consumption on campus by having energy efficient lighting and using alternative fuel vehicles. Not only has the college made steps to improvements but they also have Ramapo Green, which is the environmentally friendly club on campus, and give students the chance to sign a sustainability pledge, found here. Along with this they offer more tips and tricks for students and staff to help sustainability issues on campus, in the community and nationally.

Ramapo College is one of thousands of college campuses that have been going more green, like those listed in The Princeton Review's Green Guide, helping lead the way to solve sustainability issues that society faces.

Mary Waller
Ramapo College, Class of 2018

For more information:

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Across the World, Young People Are Getting into Environmental Politics

By Andrew Herrera

America’s young people have a proud history of protest and civic engagement. The 1960s were marked by famous anti-Vietnam War demonstrations on college campuses and, in some cases, high schools throughout the nation. Young adults also volunteered and campaigned for civil rights in that decade, and continued to champion such important causes as the end of apartheid in South Africa in the 1990s.

Young people creatively pursued boycotts, sit-ins, and college endowment divestment campaigns as their means of influencing politicians who might otherwise ignore their interests. With few young adults represented in the federal and state governments, we have had to engage in protest actions. And we have generally accepted that government positions in the United States are held by older adults. But does it have to be that way? My recent trip to the United Nations headquarters in New York perhaps suggests otherwise.

I went to the U.N. as part of a small group of Ramapo College Honors students who had received the special opportunity to attend the United Nations Economic and Social Council 2018 Youth Forum. The Youth Forum was a gathering of representatives from throughout the world sent to open a dialogue on young adults’ role in helping the U.N.’s member states achieve the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the organization set for 2030. Numerous countries, such as Brazil, Thailand, and Canada were represented by young people, in addition to adult professionals and United Nations officers.

The Sustainable Development Goals range from stable employment to fair governance, and they also include environmental objectives such as wildlife conservation and investing in renewable energy. Going into the Forum, I was expecting to hear about strategies for young people to advance sustainable causes by the familiar means I mentioned earlier. Instead, I learned about how different countries’ governments address young people through environmental education and outreach programs. Such initiatives hold critical implications for the future of environmental sustainability; as can be seen in the United States, young people tend to be more keenly aware of the severity of problems such as climate change.

It should be noted that several of the representatives were speaking on behalf of developing countries that still need to enact more substantial youth programming if they hope to approach the educational achievement of a country like the United States. Our education system, serious warts and all, is still superior to many throughout the world because of our country’s high concentration of wealth and skilled professionals. But the discussions had me wondering what steps the United States is taking to improve young people’s commitment to sustainability.

An official from the African nation of Cameroon noted that it has begun incorporating the Sustainable Development Goals into its education programs. Cameroon works with multiple partners in order to advance SDGs in its society, including its young adults. Through a partnership with the youth-run nonprofit AIESEC, Cameroon has recently begun a drive to encourage youth participation and entrepreneurship in helping the country attain the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Unlike the United States, Cameroon also has a national council of youth consisting of young officials popularly elected by youth groups and organizations.

Cameroon’s youth council has been criticized for being yoked too closely to its national government to effect any meaningful policy. And many of its partnerships with global nonprofits in service of sustainable development and youth empowerment remain focused on small problems. But these are nonetheless exciting developments. And they make one wonder how they might impact participation among young adults in Cameroonian politics. If the partnerships and the youth council manage to truly transform the civic engagement of Cameroon’s young adults, perhaps inspired young people here in the United States will want to push for similar projects.

Works Cited:
United Nations. Global Registry of Voluntary Commitments and Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships. Partnerships for the SDGs. (n.d.). Cameroon. Retrieved from
Youth Policy Labs. (n.d.). Cameroon. Retrieved from
Youth Policy Labs. (n.d.). United States. Retrieved from

A Response to “Climate Change: An Economic and Financial Perspective”

By Andrew Herrera

There was a strange feeling in the room Monday night, as I and many other environmental studies students and faculty gathered in Ramapo College’s Friends Hall before the night’s speaker was set to begin. His name is Dr. Robert P. Murphy, chief economist for the Institute for Energy Research, and all we knew about his presentation was that he would be discussing climate change from an economic perspective, as the title of his talk suggested. We had been warned by faculty beforehand that he was a “climate denier” of some sort, and that we had best be prepared to ask him tough questions. Personally, I was somewhat nervous before the event began. Climate change deniers often rely on narrow and technical arguments, and climate science is so multidimensional, I have a hard time responding to their points.

What actually happened was a different sort of discussion that provoked many thoughts on the nature of climate change and humanity’s responsibility to address it. As I had thought, Dr. Murphy wasn’t a typical climate denier. He repeatedly stated that he was not challenging the science of anthropogenic climate change. He was instead, as had been advertised, applying an economic perspective to climate change. He used economic models to argue first that global warming, if not excessive, would help grow the global economy, and second that burdensome regulations meant to control carbon emissions would cost more economic growth than the future impacts of climate change, as defined by the value of the social costs of carbon.

It’s frustrating that this country is still divided over the science of climate change when most of the world has moved on from that. We have to worry so much about proving climate science that it can be difficult to prepare for other sorts of conservative arguments against taking political action. Dr. Murphy had thoroughly conducted his research and was reasonable in his discussion. But his presentation also helped me realize how limited the economic perspective can be in understanding a wicked problem such as climate change. As other students rightfully pointed out, regardless of early economic benefits, climate change threatens to drive many vulnerable species to extinction, which ought to be seen as an intrinsic loss for the planet, not merely a blow to the economy.

I also questioned Dr. Murphy’s use of “net” global economic benefits, because that implies that while certain populations will be devastated by climate change, such as the many tropical island nations that will be inundated, the Middle Eastern countries that will be scourged by oppressive heat waves, and the many coastal cities that will be ravaged by stronger storms, that doesn’t matter as long as temperate countries like Canada grow their economy. Dr. Murphy argues that governments should not attempt to curb carbon emissions, but how can we expect corporations to do anything if the economics of the moment don’t support it? Climate change is a complex problem; like education, health care, and environmental protection, viewing it in terms of dollars obscures its true significance.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Is Public Opinion Change on Climate Change Too Little, Too Late?

Dear Editor:

In response to Livia Albeck-Ripka’s “How Six Americans Changed Their Minds about Global Warming” (Feb. 21), it’s fitting that I find this interesting piece on American perceptions of climate change on a February day in New Jersey that has shockingly reached temperatures of 80 degrees. That said, I’m not reacting to this article in a sardonic way. It profiles six Americans from across different walks of life who have all gradually accepted the reality of climate change and the importance of stopping it. It’s simultaneously worrying and encouraging. Worrying because it not only affirms problems surrounding how people respond to climate change I had been aware of, but also new social issues I myself have never encountered.

Conservatives still fear climate change as an impetus for more government intrusion into their lives. One of the skeptics interviewed, a salesman in Seattle, dismissed having a responsibility to help mitigate climate change when the politicians, businessmen, and celebrities who advocate for sustainability likely contribute to greater greenhouse gas emissions than he will in his lifetime. So that disconnect between Americans of different social classes on climate still exists.

At the same time, new climate activists have only become involved as the impacts of climate change have generated unexpected new social ills. A community leader from a poor neighborhood in Miami has essentially been forced into climate activism because rising sea levels have encouraged wealthy property owners to move into her native Liberty City, which is further inland, and increase housing prices. I first learned about environmental gentrification--when pollution cleanups and greening programs drive up housing prices—last year, and now I have to consider climate gentrification, too. We see again and again that even in a wealthy nation like the United States, those most affected by climate change will be the working class.

But the article is also encouraging because it touches on an important theme I learned at a conference for climate-minded folks in the higher education community: people can change when they are given the right opportunities. Evangelical Protestants make up a large number of politically active Americans. Anyone who has paid attention to an election cycle, especially a presidential one, has noticed their influence. So it feels quite promising to read of a growing movement of evangelical members and priests who are committed to living more sustainably and slowing down climate change. The individual profiled, the Rev. Jim Cizik, mentioned that he was ostracized by the evangelical community for his progressive views on climate change in 2002, but the impression of the article is that those views might slowly be changing. I particularly liked Cizik’s comment on changing his mind about climate change: “If you’ve never changed your mind about something, pinch yourself, you may be dead.”

I’m not sure how I felt as I finished the article. Its message seems to be that more and more Americans are starting to understand the imminent threat posed by climate change. But they have only started considering that as those threats have materialized in their lives. One North Carolina woman started to reconsider her climate skepticism as roads near her seaside home flooded more and more often. A former mayor of Miami became convinced partially because of his son’s diligent prodding, but also after the city was struck by harsh floods after Hurricane Irma. I worry that it might be a case of too little, too late: despite changes in opinion, the federal government seems poised to continue exacerbating the issue. Still, sitting in a 75-degree room on a day where the heat has not been turned on once, I can only hope that these thought-provoking weather patterns will be able to convince people like no politicians or television personalities could.

Andrew Herrara
Mahwah, NJ

For more information:

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Holy Sigil of the Hominids

By Nick Sammartino

cry thanks to the snail-god,
a spiral shell         a maze in a mirror,
contemplate the snail-god,
contemplate the orange burden……

 heavy round star
    resting on the head
of a being
                 made mortal
         through self-spun enfeeblement….

it must be a matter of stupidity
       for the snail-god
to hear our
songs and sad
litanies to the
    man-god - 
            the snail-god:
      “what can a missing man-god
do for a man
                  that a man cannot do
                                    for himself?”...

    watch them
          befoul thumbprints with disinfectant,
                holy sigil of the hominids -
   a shell in                         a mirror veiled
downward spiral                     by a maze,
            contemplate the snail-god,
            contemplate man’s burden……….

“look on your finger and find the maze,
       show the maze to a mirror
and in the reverse of the maze
    you can see the spiral of the shell
                        of the snail-god”...

cry thanks to the snail-god
      who carved into our fingers and toes
a liquid map to mark the way - 
 and we call these jagged gifts:
     the twins
credit and blame,
the man-god
   did not even stick around
long enough
     to ponder any purpose
for us
     beyond “ye be mine own manikins”…..

we love
      to leave oil paintings behind -
               and there will always be this trail
                            to trace back
                                    through the maze, 
a haemal gallery hall
of limitless length
of ceaseless splendor
         cradling ten thousand trillion canvases
     upon which we spread our
moments and memories
in vivid grease….

indeed the snail-god
“after all the stars
            have ridden the rainbow
                        of nuclear effulgence,
                             the stillborn darkness
will still be able to feel
your ancient knotted scars”...  

    the snail-god became small
                          but stayed with us,
                                   we who were
                                   demented by freedom,
       and became legion,
            spreading out across the world
to watch
 our towering arrogance
from below -
while the man-god
     walked away
on legs
                 like those forced on humanity…

I will never forgive the man-god’s vanity - 
I will never forgive the absence of my shell.

Ask Young People for Our Views Too

Dear Editor, The New York Times:

I wish to provide some perspective regarding the article, “How Six Americans Changed Their Minds About Global Warming” (February 19). I really appreciated this article and the analysis on how various people altered their perspectives on human induced climate change.  I enjoyed learning about the perspectives of people located all over the country, and thought it was interesting how each person interviewed was over forty years old; half of them being Republican.  Realizing their ages and political stand made me more hopeful regarding the spread of awareness and action taking place to prevent this epidemic from increasing.
I would suggest asking one or two people from younger generations to gain their insight and allow them to be part of this discussion.  Those in younger generations may feel that they are not allowed to take a stand on important issues or that their opinion is disregarded.  I also suggest that those who are interviewed provide insights on how people can change the minds of even more residents of the United States, because this issue is being suppressed by those in governing power.

Dominique Otiepka
Ramapo College of New Jersey

Uranium Mining Boosted by Trump Administration

By Dominique Otiepka

I was researching various topics regarding the environment, and found one in particular that interested me because it was a continuation of previous discussions in some of my classes last semester at Ramapo College. I enjoyed being able to follow this topic and learn what is happening regarding this issue. On The New York Times website, I was looking through the Climate section and found an article titled, “Uranium Miners Have Pushed Hard for a Comeback - They got Their Wish” by Hiroko Tabuchi. This informative article is about future plans to expand uranium mining in the Monument Valley area in Utah, and throughout the Bears Ears Monument region. It provided insights and background information about uranium, its importance, and its potentially catastrophic implications. 

Uranium has helped cement America’s status as a nuclear superpower and fueled its nuclear energy program for years.  President Trump no longer wants to rely on other nation’s uranium supply, and is pressing for mining in areas adjacent to the Grand Canyon watershed and alongside Bears Ears Monument.  Bears Ears will be significantly reduced in size by 85%, which opens more than 1 million acres for mining, drilling and other industrial activities. The Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, states that there are no mines within Bears Ears, although Utah’s Bureau of Land Management states that “there were over 300 mines inside the monument area.” Upon the shrinkage of Bears Ears, mines will technically be in the surrounding areas outside of the reduced monument. 

It has been reported that the United States uranium industry has declined by 90% since 1980, and supporters of this new plan claim that it will make the U.S. a larger player in the global uranium market. This plan, they argue, would expand our energy independence from Canada, Kazakhstan, Australia, Russia and others, which supply most of the United States nuclear fuel. 

Energy obtained from uranium is known as nuclear energy, which is a clean energy type, meaning that it emits zero pollutants associated with contaminated air. Domestic uranium would move this industry toward clean energy, according to John Indall, who is a lawyer for the company, Uranium Producers of America. This extraction may result in harmful consequences, however, potentially poisoning water supplies in surrounding communities. As workers began drilling in a mining area described by the New York Times, they interfered with shallow groundwater, which resulted in the flooding of the mine’s shaft. This forced workers to pump the radioactive runoff into open ponds, which contributes severely to the contamination of surrounding water.

Energy Fuels, the company that initiated this drilling, knew that contamination was to be expected, though it rejects concerns of this contamination spreading, The Times reported.  With the ground water flow, the region is too complex to rule out the risk of contamination, an environmental engineer with the United States Geological Survey said, adding that there are too many unknowns regarding cultural, biological, and water resources that are not being currently investigated.  Protests and appeals against this drilling have been ignored by the Trump Administration, as they continue to reverse environmental regulations.

Water contamination was found in a community near this drilling activity, the Navajo town of Sanders, Arizona.  Hundreds of people were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation in their water supply for years and were not told when this was taking place, the New York Times reported.  Families and schools vented that they feared their drinking water and cannot fathom an industrial activity that risks the health of hundreds of people.

The Trump Administration dismisses environmental hazards and favors large corporations and their financial growth.  Those who are exposed to such contaminants are being forgotten, as well as the history of mining.  It is important for people to be aware of this issue, be proactive in investigating information and adamantly take action against such hazardous activities.            

America’s Toxic Legacy

By Dominique Otiepka

The “Toxic Legacy Report”published by the Bergen Record highlighted the history of the Ramapough Lennape tribe and how ostracized they have been over the centuries. These people are seen by the larger society to be barbaric and are not provided basic human rights. The way they are viewed by others is sickening and it is difficult to continue learning about their daily struggles and continuous life threats.   

The racism that is still so prevalent in America is astonishing and is a serious issue that needs to be discussed. I feel that this society is too afraid to talk about people’s differences or embrace them; too often, too many people ignore the issues and chose to take detrimental actions that ruin the lives of marginalized people and strips them of their culture. 

The Tribe’s trust in the government is no longer in existence.They have been promised cleanups of the land in Ringwood that holds the paint sludge, but five of them have already taken place, and the Tribe continues to find more of the dumped sludge in numerous places. It is said that native tribes are a nation within a nation, meaning that perhaps the government does not believe they need to be taken care of. Consequently, their mistreatment prevails.  

It is disturbing to wonder how the first people on this land are not appreciated for their discoveries.  The United States is a leading nation that completely ignores its Native people. The Ramapough Lennape continue to suffer through such heartache, but they are so drawn to their land and its protection.They have survived through such destruction, which makes me look at this Tribe in awe, after learning all they have experienced. 

The poisoning of the mountain area where many of them live is evident within its people. The cancer rates and number of illnesses that they have is disheartening; these people are not even treated like other people. From the continuous exposure to lead, all aspects of the Tribe’s life are impacted. Younger people are dropping out of school because of learning disabilities, which therefore influences their job opportunities drastically. Generations are impacted in several different ways, though somehow, they continue the fight against the injustices done to them and remain hopeful. 

Some Tribe members want to stay true to their land and not leave, while others feel the need to leave immediately. Learning about their situation and spreading awareness can help with what this Tribe is dealing with, and let them remain in the land they are fighting for. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Time for Deodorant Chemicals to Pass Inspection

To the Editor:

Re “Want Cleaner Air? Try Using Less Deodorant” (news article Feb. 19), I found it incredible that perfumes and lotions have the potential to cause more harm to our air than cars, according to a report in the journal Science. As the technology to do such studies becomes more advanced, fossil fuel burning cars are no longer the defining factor when it comes to climate change. Tests for pollutants in other products must become more widespread as cars are clearly not the only contributors. 

Wanting cleaner air must now take into account so many products that are purchased with little to no regulation. Over the years, as it became clear how detrimental the burning of fossil fuels could be to the ozone, regulations were put into place in order to filter the pollutants that were emitted through the cars’ exhaust.

A few months ago, I encountered this problem. I drive a 2001 Nissan Pathfinder that has terrible gas mileage and did not pass inspection due to the car’s muffler not being up to pollution standards. As a college student who commutes, I rely on my car to get me to school. I don’t have the funds to buy a new car. Because my muffler was not up to standards, I had no choice but to get it replaced. State regulations such as the one that prevented my car from passing inspection are what enables change to be possible. Now that cars have become more efficient, the same must be said for household products and hygienic products. While they have become a part of our daily routines, their chemicals are detrimental to the air we breathe and we aren’t even aware of it.

Kristie Murru
The writer is a student at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

Natural Remedies for the Flu Season

By Mary Waller

The flu has been spreading this winter at such an alarming pace it even made the news. Nobody likes to go to the doctor, but many people are feeling run-down, tired and just overall sick. Even with the flu shot, people are still feeling sick. Before heading to the doctor’s office or spending money on medicine try some natural, home remedies to help get back on your feet.

The best thing to do is flush out your illness, so drink lots of water; it’s a key ingredient to help fight off a cold.

Raw Garlic
Over 5,000 studies have been conducted that support the idea of raw garlic aiding the body’s natural recovery ability. One way to take it is to mince it and drink it in water; you can also add honey, maple syrup or food to help tone down the taste.

Different herbs help different illnesses, so here’s a quick list of herbs that help heal illnesses:
  1. Ginger: Ginger helps congestion and sinus issues; by putting it in hot water or in warm baths can help decongest your sinuses and most body aches.
  2. Peppermint: As an antimicrobial and antiviral, peppermint can helps lower fevers and digestive issues. It can be put in tea, baths, or rubbed on skin.
  3. Yarrow: This legendary herb helps the endocrine system and is great for the kidneys and liver, so adding yarrow to tea will help soothe the body.
  4. Elderberry: As a natural immune support, elderberry can be store-bought or homemade, with the recipe here.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is one of the best things for you when you’re feeling sick. It’s always good to have on hand in juices or tablets and keep a constant flow in your system.

Chicken Soup
Whether it’s grandma’s homemade soup or from a can, chicken soup has been found to help upper respiratory infections; low-sodium soup has great nutritional value and keeps you hydrated.

The best thing to do for yourself when you feel run-down is to rest as much as possible.

These are just a few natural remedies; there are many others that can help combat cold and flu symptoms. If you still don’t feel well after trying natural remedies then you should see your physician, especially if it is an emergency, such as a high temperature.

For more information:

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Some Questions about Delivering Packages by Drones

To the Editor:

I’m writing to respond to your article, “Delivering packages with drones might be good for the environment.”

I must agree with your take on how drones could have a beneficial effect on the environment. More than being a “cool” way to have our packages delivered right to our door, I believe there are many benefits to using electric drones, or any electric form of transportation as a means to replace machines that have a harmful impact on our environment.

However, after reading the section of your article about how using more drones to deliver packages would require bigger warehouses to be built, I can’t help but get stuck on that. Is the amount of carbon that would be kept from entering the environment from the reduction of machines offset the amount of carbon that would come from these warehouses? Lots of research and testing would need to be conducted before making such a drastic change in how deliveries are made, but I think the bigger picture needs to be looked at as well. As you mentioned, it is clear that small drones would be much healthier for the environment than delivery trucks are now, but another question comes to mind when we face the dilemma of large packages (too large for drones to carry?) that need to be delivered. Are drones still less harmful if they need to become bigger and stronger, thus using more energy or electricity?

I also agree with you that the implementation of delivery drones are really going to vary on location and the amount of existing carbon output that exists in various locations. For example, California is much more congested than Missouri, and as you mentioned in your article, the use of bigger drones was a drastically better option in California because of the higher amount of carbon there, but it used more resources in Missouri where there is much less carbon input. So the question needs to be asked whether or not delivery drones will be beneficial across the country, or in specific areas? 

I learned from your article that an idea such as this one may sound great and have great benefits, but it’s important to fully research and understand an invention before fully implementing it into everyday life—especially when it comes to matters dealing with the environment. Nevertheless, I’m happy to know that there are other options than harmful machines being considered in-order to help our reduction of carbon. This is an important topic that needs to be discussed more often.

No matter how great of an idea using delivery drones would be, I think that it would need to be taken in strides. Overall, drones can be an incredibly beneficial product to the environment, and I only hope that more inventions like this continue to come to surface over the next few years. Even more so, I hope that such inventions become real enough for people to see the effects of environmental issues such as climate change diminish.

Chris Bernstein

Monday, February 19, 2018

Tesla: Revolutionizing the Future of the Auto Industry

To the editor:

Between their flashy and sophisticated features such as autopilot to their sleek and classy design, there is no doubt that Tesla is tremendously revolutionizing the automotive industry. One of the most notable features Tesla brought about was the increasing electrification of auto vehicles. Tesla utilizes a state of the art, high-performance battery that is rechargeable, completely eliminating the need for fossil fuel. This significantly reduces the amount of CO2 emissions generated by the car.

Tesla's Model S can go up to 337 miles on a single charge, according to Car and Driver. With over 1,100 supercharging stations nationwide, Tesla owners are able to conveniently and quickly recharge their vehicles during trips. Supercharger costs are considerably less than current gasoline prices, Tesla states.

Tesla's great success in attracting growing numbers of car buyers has paved the way for other automotive companies to push forward in the advancement of their electric vehicles. Analysts predict that by 2040 as much as 54% of all cars sold on the planet will be electric, The Verge reported in “How Tesla changed the auto industry forever.”

Kerry Hadrava

Fossil Free Citizen Action

By Lily Makhlouf

A day after President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on January 30, The Action Network, along with numerous partners like and the Sierra Club, held Fossil Free Fast: The Climate Resistance in Washington D.C. The event was live streamed across the country with over 300 viewing parties in attendance. The close proximity between the State of the Union and the Fossil Free event was no coincidence—climate activists are acting in response to climate change threats that relate to the Trump administration.

Since President Trump was elected in 2016, there has been a strong resistance to his pro-fossil fuel executive actions. Shortly after taking office, in March 2017, Trump signed Executive Order No.13783 titled “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.” The order calls for executive agencies to “review existing regulations that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources” specifically in regards to “oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources.” In addition, the executive order rescinded former President Barack Obama’s executive orders that focused on climate change preparation and mitigation. This included revoking Executive Order No.13563 titled “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change.”

Trump’s executive orders have created a storm of criticism and resistance at the political, academic, scientific and, most importantly, the grassroots level. Citizen led groups across the nation are organizing and calling for change within our energy system. During the Fossil Free event, a number of speakers from different backgrounds shared their stories and reasons for their commitment to a “fossil free” future.

Senator Bernie Sanders was among the first speakers of the night, inciting his audience to political action at the grassroots level saying, “short term profits are not more important than the future of our planet” and “it is imperative that we bring people all over the world together.” Sanders has been a vocal proponent of combating climate change by transitioning away from the fossil fuel industry.

There were also a number of diverse grassroots guest speakers. Jacqueline Patterson of the NAACP spoke about how environmental justice needs to be at the forefront of this conversation as the effects of climate change and the fossil fuel industry disproportionately affect many people of color. Tara Rodriguez Besosa of the Puerto Rico Resilience Fund spoke out about the struggles of many Puerto Ricans following the wake of Hurricane Maria. With the lack of aid from the U.S. government, many Puerto Ricans are taking the matter of resilience into their own hands by implementing sustainable food projects. Following Hurricane Maria, food dependence in Puerto Rico increased from 85% to 98%. Many Puerto Ricans are hoping to gain food and energy independence from the U.S.

One of the highlights of the event was a message from New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, who announced that the city had joined other U.S. cities in suing the five largest oil companies and would divest 5 billion dollars in pension funds from the fossil fuel industry.

Despite the fact that the federal government’s current policies favor the fossil fuel industry, the U.S. can expect to see a steady transition to renewable energy resources in the coming years as state, local, and grassroots levels have taken the initiative to transition to cleaner energy into their own hands.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Nature Deficit Disorder: A Walk in the Woods Is Good for Us

By Eileen McCafferty

There is a commercial that shows a group of boys excitedly playing a video game when, suddenly, the power cuts out. One boy stands up, opens the curtains and allows a sunny day to pour into the dark room. He shrugs and suggests that they should go play basketball instead. The screen then cuts to the mother at the house circuit board; she had cut the power to trick them into thinking their only option for entertainment was going outside. This advertisement is for the Let’s Move campaign, aiming to get the youth active and outdoors. This should seem unnecessary that parents must trick their children into wanting to go outside--right?

Unfortunately, this movement is necessary because as our technology expands, we become disconnected from reality, people around us, and nature. Someone glued to their XBOX or their iPhone is less likely to play and explore the outdoors because they have created a relationship with these machines--especially young children. But the point that a lot of people are missing is that Mother Nature is crucial to an individual’s overall well being and we have created a disconnect from our true life-source.

Nature Deficit Disorder is a term that is used to describe this disconnect, which can bring about behavioral problems and health concerns. First and foremost, the youngsters who stay indoors do not have an appreciation or respect for the immediate natural surroundings. They do not realize the tree in their front yard provides the oxygen that they breathe, or that the earthworms in the ground break down the organic matter. They are taught to be afraid of honey bees who pollinate our planet and are brought up to believe that insects in general are gross and serve no purpose.

Attention disorders and depression can also come from lack of nature. A child sat in front of a television should be encouraged to run outside and climb a tree. Without exercise, these kids are more likely to become obese. But how does an entire society go back to nature? How do we bring our children to love the bugs, the trees, the fresh air instead of being hypnotized by the “blue-light” of their cell phones and the violent video games?

There is an obvious answer to the problem many youngsters and some adults are facing--Shinrin-yoku! It is a Japanese term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” Believe it or not, just taking a walk through a park when a person experiences a bad mood can leave them feeling better. There is a reason why sometimes when people argue, they walk out and say “I’m going to get some air” -- because taking in some fresh air, some green scenery calms them down. It changes their entire mood! If we were to experience more time outdoors, we will notice that we feel mentally clearer. Our doctors would even notice that we are healthier and less stressed.

Forest bathing has been scientifically researched and this research shows the following benefits from daily natural exposure:
  • · Reduced stress levels and elevated mood
  • · Improved sleep and energy levels
  •  Accelerated ability to focus- pertaining strongly to children with ADHD
  • · Reduced blood pressure
  • · Increase in Vitamin D levels from the sun- which combats depression
  • · Deeper intuitive thinking and overall happiness
And the biggest bonus of all is that you get to behold nature and all its beauty and marvel in it! The natural world is our life source, and we owe it respect; it is not there to serve us. With all these benefits to going outside for 30-40 minutes a day, it seems unnecessary for Let’s Move and other campaigns that promote getting outside more often. If our society can get back to the original roots of our species, we’d be happier all around: physically and mentally.

Reforestation: When will Habits Change to Help the Environment?

By Kristie Murru

The term reforestation suggests images of healthy budding forests filled with wildlife and the idea that nature is the main focus. When there are forest fires, the term reforestation is used to describe restoring what had been damaged. In other words, the forest must literally be replanted. Unfortunately, this is not the only case where the term is used and it holds a commercialized connotation. Lumber companies use it as a way to refer to the planting of trees after having cut down forests for business.

In the United States and other countries, reforestation is a way for lumber companies to make a profit from selling harvested trees cut down in large areas and maximizing every square foot of land. In these situations, herbicides were and are used in order to target plants for potentially threatening to shade out the trees that are replanted. According to Professor Howard Horowitz, who worked as a tree planter for many years in the Pacific Northwest, herbicides were used to target not only invasive plants but those that were natural to the habitats. Precautions can be taken to limit where the herbicide is sprayed, but the chemicals are still able to seep into the soil and spread to other shrubs, he said, as well as get on tree planters.

What I found interesting about his account is that an alternative to using chemicals as a means to target the shrubs was manual removal. Instead of having workers pull or cut the shrubs out, the companies chose possibly the cheapest route, spraying herbicides. This decision obviously stemmed from the companies wanting to avoid potentially having to pay their workers more money for the physical labor that manually removing the shrubs would entail. All it would take to replace the use of herbicides is physically fit, younger workers in order to remove the plants. This reliance on hazardous chemicals as a way to maximize profits is not a good thing. It promotes a society that is reliant on an easy fix to a potentially larger problem.

The use of chemicals is even more disheartening considering that approximately 15-20 percent of trees were actually being affected by the shrubs, Professor Horowitz said. Meaning that about 80 percent of the forest was filling back in with healthy trees, a number that is still statistically good when factoring in a potential profit. And so, realistically there is no valid reason for chemical interference other than greed.

Another interesting point that Professor Horowitz made was that the workers would be given directions to plant trees extremely close to one another. This does not take into account that trees need room to grow and become healthy. That process in and of itself played into a potential loss in profits for the lumber companies because the trees, in such conditions, are not given the opportunity to truly grow in a proper habitat.

It is known that mixed forests tend to be the healthiest, Professor Horowitz said. So, the lumber companies that only wanted certain trees planted in forest areas that had been clear cut were more concerned with quick profits than in allowing healthier forests to regrow. As the climate changes, and large companies continue to operate in ways that were once common, the question that rises is at what point will individuals realize that habits too must change?

Sustainability: What Does It Really Mean?

By Chris Bernstein

I’m a college student attending a ‘sustainable’ school. We have signs around campus telling students what to throw away and what to recycle, we have an environmental club that holds events on how to live a less wasteful life, and I’m personally involved in a campaign to raise awareness of these sustainable initiatives we have going on at our school.

However, many students and adults, including myself, still don’t know the true meaning of sustainability. According to, there are two definitions of the term. The first is “the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed.” To most anyone, (including myself) this is a complicated definition and one that does a terrible job at clearing up what sustainability is. The second definition is “Environmental Science. the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.” The second definition isn’t too clear either but does a good job at including terms that relate to the subject of sustainability. After reading these definitions, it makes sense why many don’t understand sustainability. The problem with these definitions is that they both use words that are not used in people’s daily lives.
There is no scientific formula for saving the planet—it’s about doing your part, no matter how big or small that part may be, to help our environment in the long-run.

A simple explanation of the term “sustainability” is the ability to live an eco-friendly life, but there is so much more to sustainability. There are many factors that go into living “sustainably” and it’s important to note that being aware of the environmental impact one makes doesn’t have to be complicated. Instead of dedicating a large portion of time trying to figure out what exactly sustainability means, put time towards taking action and finding simple ways you can reduce your environmental footprint. By doing a simple Google search, one can find dozens of articles full of great ideas on how to live sustainably. I think it’s easy to get put off by ‘fancy’ terms like sustainability or ecological balance and give up trying to live a no-waste lifestyle, but there is no scientific formula for saving the planet—it’s about doing your part, no matter how big or small that part may be, to help our environment in the long-run.

What’s the bottom line? Don’t complicate things. Think of sustainability as anything that helps save our planet’s resources and puts less stress on our ecosystems. If cutting out plastic bags in your daily life is your definition of sustainable, then go at it full force. When it comes down to it, sustainability can have multiple definitions but the most important one is how you define it and show it.

How to Run an Environmental Campaign for Climate Change

By Mary Waller

From the polar ice caps melting to natural disasters growing more dangerous, climate change is impacting our daily lives whether we notice it or not. Just look at the record-breaking temperatures recently, with 2016 being the most record-breaking year in recorded history. Think about why 97 percent of researchers believe global warming is happening, and it’s probably because of human activity. Yet many people don’t believe that global warming is the biggest issue society faces, being only third behind terrorism and poverty, according to polls.

How can we change this? Here’s one idea: starting a community environmental campaign.

Think of an environmental campaign like a political campaign; you need to have something for people to stand behind and fight for. For starters, environmental campaigns are a type of citizens’ campaign, which usually start small but with enough effort can grow into real, progressive change. To be a successful campagin there must be three overall aspects to the campaign: the field operations, the media operations and the fundraising operations. You have to have people in the field doing the actual campaigning for the cause, the people in the media who cover and spread the word of the cause and those who are asking for donations to help support the cause. 

Key tools include brainstorming sessions, deciding whose strengths would be best used where, and creating a step-by-step government action plan. Another key tool is providing concrete, reliable and concisely written materials when presenting facts. In a citizens’ campaign, the most important ingredients are volunteers willing to donate their time to support the cause.

Volunteer time and energy is the root of a citizens’ campaign.

Next step is getting people to care about the topic of climate change. First, you should start the citizen’s campaign to show climate change is an important issue and that more has to be done about it. So, find people who believe in the cause and start creating a well thought out plan. Get as many people involved as you can, discuss and decide who should do the groundwork, such as creating posters to hang around town and talking to those in neighboring towns to get support, who should handle social media and who should conduct fundraising.

If there is a local issue that is relevant, such as increased flooding or droughts, use that to help strengthen your argument, making the problem more localized and giving the issue a more personal touch to help persuade others, whether it be volunteers or government officials, to join the campaign. 

Once you have a set plan on how to tackle the issue, get to work! Looking back at successful citizens’ campaigns, such as the Ringwood Action Committee or the Great Swamp Campaign, can help develop new ideas and tactics to use that have been proven to succeed.

When things get tough, don’t back down. If the grassroots support for the campaign is still there, despite the pressures backing the status quo, don’t give up. Like the climate, change is possible, but can only happen with enough support and voices willing to speak out.

For more information on how to run an environmental campaign:
Barry, J. (2000). A citizen's guide to grassroots campaigns. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.