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 In addition, the executive order rescinded former President Barack Obama’s executive orders that focused on climate change preparation and mitigation.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.

A Brief History of Local Activism Shows Us Our True Potential

By Andrew Herrera

We sometimes feel powerless in the face of adversity from governments and corporations that seem intent on undermining our way of life for their own gain. Going up against sophisticated, well-funded, and well-connected interests, what chance might ordinary citizens have of stopping a major development plan or protecting a local wilderness? That’s what makes journalist Jan Barry’s book, A Citizen’s Guide to Grassroots Campaigns, so vital. 

Barry not only advises on the best techniques for organizing citizen groups, but also includes notable examples to demonstrate their effectiveness. He weaves in real grassroots campaigns throughout his book; environmental stories take the center stage in its third chapter, “Saving a Swamp and Other Landmark Campaigns.” In it, Barry zeroes in on one of New Jersey’s earliest and most famous grassroots campaigns: the fight to save southern Morris County’s Great Swamp from being turned into a new airport by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Driving to preserve the area at a time when the Port Authority had previously “bulldozed wherever it wanted…to boost the metropolitan region’s economy,” he writes, the Great Swamp campaign depended on many first-time citizen activists.

Barry includes just enough historical summary for the reader to glean useful tips on organizing. He notes that the Great Swamp organizers, inexperienced as they were, quickly learned how to properly coordinate a campaign by asking larger environmental nonprofit groups for guidance. One of the great advantages we as citizens enjoy in this modern era is the proliferation of connected and professional advocacy groups for any range of causes. Americans wishing to coalesce against threats to public and undeveloped lands can turn to respected organizations such as the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, and The Nature Conservancy among others for support. And there are statewide organizations as well that might be able to better focus on local issues. 

Through his interviews with leaders of the campaigns, Barry conveys to the reader just what the organizers did in order to succeed against a powerful agency. As one of the earliest leaders of the campaign, Helen Fenske, recalled: “We needed events that would generate news and project the different aspects of our story.” The campaign grew exponentially larger as advocates made regular citizens and organizations aware of the issue. Fenske also had useful advice on how to manage a group of citizen volunteers who are typically juggling other responsibilities: “make everyone feel that they’re important… [give] them credit.”

Of course, as with any success story, there are caveats. Working in the 1960s, the Great Swamp campaign preceded important scientific developments that guided later campaigns. In fact, the movement had initially lacked “any environmental data base.” As a result, while the organizers succeeded in saving the Great Swamp, its source waters—streams that feed into its wetlands—have been polluted and built over as urban sprawl continued unabated throughout the region. 

The hard-working organizers likely also benefited from operating in one of the wealthiest states in the nation. That probably abetted the fundraising process. Nonetheless, even though organizers like Helen Fenske might have altered their strategy a bit if they could do it over again, the Great Swamp campaign still serves as a model guide for future grassroots organizers. Its basic lessons on courting as much attention as possible whilst recognizing the contributions of everyone involved will continue to serve as the cornerstones of any great citizen movement.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Tackling Clutter in Our Lives

By Eileen McCafferty

Look at the belongings that line the closets, draws, and crevasses of your home. Do you ever feel that sometimes your belongings are way too important to part with or that your stuff makes you who you are? It’s common in society now to find our material possessions are taking over our lives since we are bombarded with advertisements of how owning a certain product is going to make us happy. And sometimes we can get addicted to collecting things. There is a state of mind, however, that one can apply to one’s life that might actually assist us in gaining back self-worth, create stronger personal relationships and make us value what we do have. That mind set is commonly referred to as minimalism.

Minimalists make decisions based on what they need instead of everything they want. This is not to say throw everything in your home away, and only keep food, clothes and a bed. But make purchases that hold a true purpose to you. There are many benefits that come when you choose to begin a minimal lifestyle: you free up space in your home, spend less money and time on stuff, and begin to realize what is actually important to you.

When you have an untidy room, you feel better once you have decluttered the mess and it can feel like you have relieved yourself of mental clutter, as well. With less belongings, tidying up your room no longer haunts your consciousness and gives you time to focus on family, friends, and YOU!

The products on the market also come from somewhere: The Earth. It takes resources to make, ship, advertise, and sell these products. If we were to buy less, less would be produced and fewer resources would be utilized. The reduction of the carbon footprint would be quite tremendous if we slowed down our incessant shopping patterns.

Minimalism is almost defined by each person who practices it and it is not to say that you can’t hold onto various things. If you love to read, keep your books. If you love music, keep your CDs or your records. If it makes you happy, those items serve a purpose. To start moving into a smaller collection of stuff, look at each item and ask yourself a couple questions:

1.  How frequently do I utilize this?
2.  Does this hold sentimental value to me?
3.  Do I have a real plan to use this?
4.  Am I holding onto this to fix, utilize, or wear in the future?

Minimalism brings you back to focus. In life there are essentials such as food, water, clothing, shelter. After that, you can take matters of the heart into consideration: family, relationships, friendships. If we focus more on buying the latest and greatest new gadget or knickknack, we are depleting ourselves of valuable time. You cannot bring your stuff with you when you die, but the memories you make will last forever. Less love for your stuff means more love to give to the people in your life, yourself, and to the Earth.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Toxic History

By Kristie Murru

Anemia, slowed growth, lower IQ and hyperactivity are just a few of the side effects experienced by children exposed to lead, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Lead is just one of the toxic metals and chemicals that the people living in a former iron mining community in Ringwood were and still are exposed to due to the Ford Motor Company’s illegal dumping in the region from 1955 to about 1970.

The social preconceived notions about the people who did not have a say in Ford’s dumping in their native lands are always negative. The argument becomes that somehow the children and adults dying of rare diseases and cancers are suffering in part by what they do in their everyday lives. Ford’s dumping may have played a part but the illnesses they claim to have are simply just an exaggeration. This is clearly not the case, and I found that argument to be completely outrageous. Upon further research, as seen through a Google search, the amount of stories that pop up surrounding this topic is proof enough. The lead, benzene, 1,4 dioxine and other chemicals that can be found not only in Ringwood but the surrounding towns of this Superfund site is inexcusable and completely unavoidable.

When The Record began this story the federal government even reported that the sludge that had been dumped posed no threat to the health of those that live yards away from the dumping sites. These statements were not based on actual evidence or health reports of those living in the area.  In “The Toxic Legacy,” the writers interviewed Myrtle Van Dunk who questioned “how can they tell us how sick we are when they haven’t even sat down to talk to us?” The government’s blind eye in the 1960s is what allowed Ford to take advantage of the indigenous people from the area. That, along with the fear of retaliation kept the people quiet. Living in a society that allows big companies to dump toxic substances into the ground with little to no thought of the repercussions is disgusting.

In 2007 John Holl, author of The New York Times article “Don’t Eat the Squirrels? It’s no Laughing Matter,” interviewed Wayne Mann from the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation. The residents of Ringwood were ridiculed and taunted on television shows for eating squirrels after news organizations reported that test results found the animals were contaminated by lead. Due to the proximity of the Ringwood Mines and Landfill Superfund site to state forest land, a squirrel was found to be contaminated by the hazardous substance. After the state Health Department circulated these results, the people of Ringwood were outraged. Mann stated, “it’s a food source for us. And you know, there are many other cultures that eat things that aren’t found in the general consciousness, and there is nothing wrong with that.” What should have been seen for what it is, the fact that the wildlife around the area are contaminated, was turned by news stations and the general public into ridicule of the dietary choices the Native American people of Ringwood practice as forms of tradition.

The dump area is often neglected and yet the fact that it had been removed from the National Priorities List for Uncontrolled Hazardous Waste in 1994 and put back on in October 2007 shows that the site is contaminated. The environment has a natural predisposition to right itself when contaminated, but it will take lifetimes to ever potentially right itself after Ford’s dumping of 6 million tons of paint sludge into the area. The only hope is that this topic continues to receive publicity so that the Ford Motor Company and officials continue the clean up.

Ramapo College SGA Passes Bill Banning Styrofoam Usage

By Lily Makhlouf

In a room filled with student government leaders and student environmental leaders, a bill was passed unanimously by the Ramapo College Student Government Association (SGA) on January 29 to ban the purchase and usage of Styrofoam products within its organization. The success of Bill 2018-01, introduced and proposed by SGA Senator Ryan Greff, signals a great step forward for Ramapo College’s ongoing efforts to properly regulate and reduce campus waste.

 The bill prohibits “the direct purchase and direct usage of all Styrofoam products” by SGA and its body of members. This legislature marks the first time the SGA has taken measures to regulate Styrofoam purchase and use.

Styrofoam, the colloquial term for polystyrene products made by Dow Chemical Company, is made of styrene, a potential carcinogen, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Acute exposure can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, and upper respiratory tract. Long term, chronic exposure can also lead to problems related to the nervous system and kidneys. People who work in polystyrene manufacturing are at high risk of exposure, however consumers of these products are also at risk of exposure to chemicals in the product.

Polystyrene products are problematic for the environment as well. While some recycling companies accept Styrofoam through special programs, many will not recycle it. Contamination from food, drink, and other materials often prevents Styrofoam from being recycled, so the product ends up in the trash where it makes up 30% of total landfill volume. State and local government’s have decided to act on this issue by creating restrictions on usage of polystyrene products. Cities in several states including New York, California, and Massachusetts have passed legislation banning polystyrene products within businesses and public spaces.

When asked why he chose to push forward with this bill, Greff, a finance major, stated, “I was inspired to regulate the use of the material due to the long term economic impacts from the disposal of Styrofoam. This could eventually cause the cost of living to be higher for people, including graduated Ramapo College students. Furthermore, Styrofoam presents a big danger to plant and animal life. I spent a great deal of time in the outdoors as an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. As a result, I grew to appreciate nature. Therefore, I thought it was best to stop SGA's monetary transactions and uses that would go to supporting the Styrofoam industry.”

In terms of SGA’s budget, Greff said that “each year the SGA spends roughly $50,000 on large events and activities (ex: Founder's Day) put on for the entire campus. Prohibiting the purchase and direct use of Styrofoam for these kinds of events would be a great way to protect the planet. With the bill passed, roughly $1,000,000 has the potential to be used in a more environmentally friendly manner over the course of the next 20 years.”

Ryan Greff has been working closely with members of the President’s Committee on Campus Sustainability to help improve Ramapo College’s progress in sustainability. In the Fall Semester of 2017, he, along with student environmental advocates were successful in passing a bill that regulates proper recycling in SGA funded events with organizations across campus. This legislature comes at a time of pressing concern regarding the environment. Improper waste disposal and consumption of environmentally detrimental products are major contributions to environmental issues.

Ramapo College is working towards a zero waste goal in sustainability—one that aims to inform and educate its community on waste reduction and conscious consumption. While this process is certainly a great undertaking, victories, like the regulation of Styrofoam, are moving the college closer to its goal. If this legislation proves to be a positive feat, the plan is that it will later expand to encompass a greater circle of organizations across campus.

Understanding a Local Environmental Issue & Taking the First Step Towards Change

Superfund site near homes in Ringwood, NJ
 (photo/Jan Barry)

By Chris Bernstein

Ringwood, New Jersey is most well-known for its rich history, stunning old mansions, and beautiful state parks full of wildlife and picture-perfect plants and nature. Many do not know what lies beneath the surface and the anything but lovely legacy that has been left for one section of town.

Years ago, toxic lead paint, and other destructive materials were dumped in the woods of a local community of Ramapough-Lenape Indians. This location is located on the northern end of Ringwood where a small yet active tribe of Ramapough Indians live. This dumping of toxic waste has left a severe and harmful mark on this section of town and is something that many residents still face consequences from.

What one would see on the surface as they drove down the main road is a much different and fake story than what lies beneath the houses, roads, and nature that consume the neighbors, family, and friends. The toxic paint sludge seeps into the soil below and has caused many residents much suffering. Who would do such a thing? Ford Motor Company—the car and truck brand that everyone knows about—is trying to cover up and diminish an “incident” that cannot be simply pushed aside. The Superfund site in an old iron mining area of Ringwood has only been scratched at—there are still parts of the neighborhood that need to be cleaned up. Ford has made a significant effort to clean up another dump area in Torne Valley in Hillburn, New York—just a few miles away from Ringwood—but they have yet to complete the cleanup in the Upper Ringwood neighborhood.

Many people (especially residents of the towns) do not care to get involved in the efforts of creating a solution to the contamination Ford has caused. After listening to a presentation by Chuck Stead, a major activist in the effort to get Ford and New York state and local officials to take action in cleaning up the pollution in Torne Valley, you’d realize just how twisted this issue is. It shouldn’t be complicated to run a successful cleanup of toxic pollution in one of North Jersey’s most beautiful locations, yet it is. It’s not difficult to hear and sense the passion Stead has for this issue, and if there were more people like him in charge of these cleanup projects, the town of Ringwood and the Ramapough Indians may not have had to face as much hardship still.

As a Ringwood resident, I have known about the Ford Superfund site for quite some time, but never fully understand what it was about and the fact that it still is a major issue for the people that live in and near it, as well as the effort that is currently going on to help solve these environmental issues. I believe the most valuable lesson that can be learned from hearing someone like Stead speak is to understand that when you know about an issue going on in your community, particularly an environmental one, don’t simply sit back and watch it happen. Get involved, talk to people who understand it, and see how you can help. Sometimes you don’t have to go very far to make positive change. In fact, change can be made just a few miles away from your own home.