Tuesday, April 17, 2018

New Jersey National Parks

Trail sign in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
(Wikimedia Commons)

By Mary Waller

When parents think of spending the day with their children they generally play video games, go to the movies, play arcade games or anything that generally has children in front of some type of screen. Many children don’t know about the playground they can go to for free-- national parks. New Jersey has many national, historic and mostly free parks for families to go to for a great day.

The Garden State is home to some of the most beautiful, scenic places that are nearby to travel to and enjoy. One of those places being a portion of the Appalachian Trail. The 2,180+ mile scenic trail attracts thousands of visitors over the various states it crosses over, stretching from Maine to Georgia. After being completed in 1937, the trail is maintained by the National Parks Service, US Forest Service, numerous state agencies and thousands of volunteers. Traversing the northwest corner of the state, “the 72-mile New Jersey section gives a view and a feeling of what this area was like two hundred years ago,” states njskylands.com. 

Another national recreation area New Jersey has to offer is the Delaware Water Gap, where a portion of the Appalachian Trail draws lots of families for a day hike. The 70,000-acre park welcomes those who wish to paddle down the river or hike the ridges and valley. According to the National Park Service, the Delaware Water Gap “has known human hand and voice for 10,000 years.”

One of the most historical and significant places New Jersey has is Ellis Island, the first thing that 12 million immigrants stepped onto when they arrived to America between 1892 to 1954. Situated in New York Bay next to the Statue of Liberty and the Jersey City shoreline, Ellis Island offered these immigrants a gateway to a new home, a new start and a new life. The stories of these immigrants are still told today in the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration and welcome those willing to listen.

Canoeing in New Jersey Pinelands
(photo: Pinelands Preservation Alliance)

The New Jersey Pinelands is classified as a United States Biosphere Reserve and in 1978 was established by Congress as the country’s first National Reserve. The Pinelands combines over one million acres of farms, forests and wetlands that also house 56 communities that have over 700,000 residents.

Those are just some of what New Jersey has to offer. But why should families spend more time outdoors? There are new scientific studies and research that show how nature and the outdoors help improve a child’s growth and development.

There are clear physical benefits for children spending time outdoors, such has helping fight obesity, but there are underlying benefits as well. A May 2010 Report to the President from the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity states: “Children’s level of physical activity has been shown to increase when they participate in environmental education programs that promote outdoor activity,” according to the National Recreation and Park Association.

Children who spend more time outdoors are also overall healthier, happier and have better social lives since outdoor play allows for children to play in unstructured and creative play. 

New Jersey is home to so many outdoors treasures that can help a child grow into a more well-rounded and happier person. So when families want to spend time together, take a day trip to a national park and enjoy the natural wonders New Jersey has to offer.

Grab & Go Green: Sustainable Habit Fest

By Kristie Murru

Grab & Go Green was an on campus event that my Senior capstone group hosted on Thursday March 29 at the Ramapo College Student Center. This event was designed to provide students an incentive to practice sustainable habits by rewarding individuals that had reusable mugs or bottles. With the assistance of the on-campus organization 1-STEP, we were able to ask the school for money to fund this event. The coffee and iced tea were catered by the food company Sodexo.

In addition to the on campus provider, we partnered with the Ramapo College Bookstore. The director of the store provided a 25 percent discount on all reusable items and mugs that students purchased that day. The idea then became that if you want to participate in a campus event like this one, you should either bring your reusable mug if you already have one or make the investment at a cheaper cost by purchasing one.

Using person-to-person face time, we were able to engage roughly 70 Ramapo students and staff. At the table members of my group handed out stickers with the Ramapo Green logo and displayed a compost container that participating dorms present to students that live there. One of our members answered any questions that students had regarding what to do or what not to do with the bins.

In addition, there was a Single Stream recycling sign on display that students and faculty can expect to see over campus-wide recycling bins. The sign details what can be placed into a recycling bin on campus and what can’t. Both paper and plastic bottles can be recycled, but what a lot of people don’t know is that if any sort of liquid or food is put into the recycling bins, the whole thing becomes contaminated. The entire bin load can no longer be recycled. With a wider range of knowledge on this occurrence, I believe that it can definitely prompt people to become more conscious of their actions.

This tabling event was a great way to explain these things to people face to face. A lot of educational outreach struggles to gain footing because a lot of the information is too much to process. Speaking directly to people and gauging their knowledge is very beneficial research.

Through survey research at the event, we asked questions to determine the scope of students' knowledge regarding how much plastic is thrown away. For the most part, students seemed to have an overall understanding of how much plastic is used only once and thrown away. The interest in having events like Grab & Go Green was confirmed by 42 percent of participants. This information is great to know going forward so that more people can become engaged in sustainability related events on campus that will continue to be put in place by 1-STEP, The Garden Club and Ramapo Green.

Recycling Even When It’s Inconvenient

By Chris Bernstein

Reduce, reuse, recycle. It’s a phrase almost everyone has heard before, but does everyone truly take the time to think about its meaning and actually do what the last word is saying to do? Recycling isn’t always convenient, there’s no denying that. There isn’t always a recycling bin around and when there is, they’re sometimes confusing to understand what kinds of waste can truly be recycled. Here are three scenarios to help you when you’re faced with an inconvenient decision of whether to recycle or not.

1) That one water bottle really does add up

So, you’re out for a walk in your neighborhood and you brought with you a plastic water bottle. First off, reconsider doing that on your next walk. Bring a reusable water bottle that you can refill instead. (They’re pretty cheap on Amazon.) You finish the water bottle and you’re sick of carrying it around with you, but there are no recycling bins around – only a trash bin a few feet ahead. Don’t think to yourself “it’s only one water bottle, so what if I throw it away?” Instead, think about how many times someone has been in the same position as you and have thought the same thing. The best thing you can do is hold onto the bottle until you get home where you can properly recycle it. 

2) It’s not really empty

You’ve bought a cup of coffee at school and you’re taking the last few sips. You have class in a few minutes and you’re about to throw away the cup in a nearby recycling bin. However, what you may not know is that by recycling that cup of coffee, the cup with a small amount of liquid left inside, you could be preventing an entire bin full of recyclables from being properly disposed of. Instead of simply saying “oh well, I guess there’s nothing I can do about it”, go over to the nearest bathroom or water fountain and quickly rinse out your cup. It may seem weird and a waste of time, but by doing this you’ll be saving an entire bin worth of recyclables from being thrown out. This isn’t something that many people don’t know about but can really go a long way in helping reduce waste. 

3) No, that’s not actually recyclable

Everyone’s faced this problem at some point or another; “do I throw out this take-out container or can I recycle it?” Luckily, there’s an easy solution to this so that you’ll never have to wonder again. The best thing you can do is educate yourself on the best practices regarding recycling. If you’re unsure if object A or B is able to be recycled, simply look it up online. There’s lots of information right at your finger tips that can tell you so much about one thing. Instead of questioning it in your head and simply throwing it away, take a minute to find out if you should be throwing that object away or not. By taking a few minutes to learn about what materials can be recycled, you’ll help cut back on waste and know you’re helping the environment.

These three simple tips may seem a bit too simple, but it’s important to know that these small actions go a long way towards helping the environment. As mentioned in tip number two, educating yourself is the best course of action to making recycling part of your everyday life. By understanding a bit more about the recycling process, you’ll think twice about tossing that water bottle in the trash can.

Ramapo River Watershed Conference Presents News Updates

Ramapo College students present report on DuPont contamination
in Pompton Lakes  (photo: Geoff Welch) 

By Eileen McCafferty

The Trustees Pavilion at Ramapo College hosted roughly three dozen people for the afternoon session of the Ramapo River Watershed Conference on April 13. Everyone was there to discuss several issues in relation to pollution, cleanup, and current news about the Ramapo River watershed.

Following a presentation by two Bergen Record reporters on their “Toxic Secrets” investigative report on DuPont pollution in Pompton Lakes, Pompton Lakes native Jefferson Harman Lasala talked about his involvement with community groups affected by contamination from the former Dupont explosives manufacturing plant. He was followed by a panel of four students from Professor Michael Edelstein’s 2018 Environmental Studies capstone class, who highlighted their research on the Dupont case. A third presenter was Professor Chuck Stead, who spoke about his efforts to clean up the Torne Valley of paint sludge dumped by Ford Motor Company.

Jefferson Harman Lasala spoke about being a lifelong Pompton Lake citizen who was forced to move due to concerns about DuPont’s contamination and the decline in price on the house that his grandfather left him and his brothers. Since the house is over an area of contaminated groundwater, they had to sell the house for a fraction of what its normal market price would have been. Lasala stated he is part of two groups that bring the community together in efforts to combat the pollution issues that DuPont has caused to their town.

Lasala highlighted that Pompton Lakes residents have been fighting for years to get the contamination cleaned up. He stressed that the DuPont contamination is the poster child for issues like this nationwide. Dupont has 169 other contaminated sites in the nation. Even if the pollution is in one area, he noted, we are not aware of who else might be getting affected downstream.

Michael Edelstein’s capstone classes create a consulting firm to assist clients on environmental issues. This year’s class created the Turtle Clan Consulting Firm and their research was broken into three phases: an assessment of the history of the cleanup and those affected, comparing Dupont to similar cases in the area, and indicator impacts with a focus on the social, ecological, and physical impacts.

For the social part of the research, the students met with members of the Pompton Lakes community to hear their stories first hand. Many citizens have cancer or some form of severe ailment, the citizens cannot afford lawyers to take on the numerous Dupont lawyers, and their homes are becoming devalued due to hazardous volatile organic chemicals in the groundwater under their neighborhood.

Ecological studies showed the chemicals destroy the local flora and fauna, in addition to affecting local residents. The students found that plants are more susceptible to VOC poisoning from vapor than from groundwater. The students also found that a New Jersey health department study found men in the community had high levels of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and women had high levels of kidney cancer.

The physical indicator presentation talked about how climate and energy are being affected as well. The students found that in Pompton Lake with vapor mitigation systems installed by DuPont or other contractors in the basements of affected homes, 1,131 kWh of energy was being consumed annually per home. In three hundred and thirty five homes, nearly 400,000 kWh was being consumed per year. Pompton Lakes is utilizing 12% more energy than it should be using just because of the vapor mitigation systems installed in the homes. Furthermore, the student research found that this process sends the toxic vapor into the air around the houses.

Professor Chuck Stead then took the podium and spoke of his efforts to have Torne Valley’s paint sludge issue eradicated. Ford Motor Company had contractors dump paint tainted with lead and chemical solvents from their factory in Mahwah into the area, which is near public water supply wells along the Ramapo River in Hillburn, New York. Several areas of buried paint sludge found and mapped out by Professor Stead and Ramapo College students have been excavated by Ford contractors in recent years.

Describing a recent visit to an area of buried paint sludge along Torne Brook that two of his students found, Professor Stead said the smell of the paint is a “sweet industrial aroma.” The crew of Ford contractors who went out with him said that the paint must have been “scattered around by someone” because they weren’t finding concentrated areas of paint sludge. Professor Stead insisted they keep looking. He was not convinced they had found the end of the contamination. Sure enough, they found the buried “flow” of paint. What looked like a rocky boulder was broken open and a mass of red paint poured out.

Not far away, near an Orange and Rockland Utility transformer site, Professor Stead found more lead paint sludge and industrial trash sticking out of the ground. He said the Ford contractors plan to start a cleanup of that area in June.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Great American Cleanup, Rockland County Branch Looking for Volunteers

For immediate release

Contact: Eileen McCafferty

Come volunteer with your neighbors, friends in Keep Rockland Beautiful’s Spring cleanup event!

From now until June, Rockland County’s very own environmental, non-profit Keep Rockland Beautiful is hosting their annual Great American Cleanup, a smaller sector of the national community improvement program Keep America Beautiful’s Great American Cleanup.

Keep Rockland Beautiful is a proud source that educates and empowers the members of the Rockland family to care and protect the immediate surroundings in our corner of New York State. We ride our bikes on these streets, we play in these fields and woods, and we enjoy the natural waterways that create the ecosystem of our county.

Registering for this two-month, weekly event gets you out into the community and creates a greener environment for all to enjoy. It’s a great way to connect with neighbors, get out into nature, and obtain community service hours. Every year, KRB has over 4,000 volunteers come together every weekend in various locations to clean up the litter within our neighborhoods.

The Great American Cleanup has cleanups at least once a weekend until the end of May, with some weekends holding multiple cleanups on both Saturday and Sunday. From Piermont to Haverstraw, Sloatsburg to Nyack, there are so many different towns to get connected with. The volunteers do cleanups along the sides of highways, local streets, and various waterways in Rockland.

Register now at www.keeprocklandbeautiful.org for any of the listed dates. Or if you have a date and location you would like to work on, call Keep Rockland Beautiful with the details. Get your friends, neighbors and local community members to become volunteers.

For further information, email Kevin Lowenwirth, the Cleanup Coordinator at cleanups@keeprocklandbeautiful.org or Jennifer Longo, the Administrative Officer, at jennifer@keeprocklandbeautiful.org .

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Ode to a Season Late in Coming

Spring Thinking

By Kathryn Brennan

A field of bluebells
drenched in the early morning mist
A blossom loosening wind
scattering colorful petals about
A single rosebud unfolding
after a morning rain shower
A single strand of spider web
dancing in the breeze
The hum of honey bees
in search of pollen
Jasmine growing
on honeycomb lattice
Colorful butterflies
leaning into the wind
A walking path
covered in wildflowers
A new crop of stones
in the vegetable garden
A closed fist
sowing seeds into the earth
of runaway dandelions
Snow white daffodils
fluttering in the breeze
Wild mushrooms growing
on mossy trees
Morning Glory's
climbing backyard fences
Sparrows singing
sunrise melodies

Melting Ice Impacts Polar Bears

High-tech collar worn by adult female polar bear enabled researchers
to study movements and foraging success of bears on the sea ice.
(Photo by Anthony Pagano, USGS)

By Kathryn Brennan

Ever since I was a little girl, polar bears have been my favorite animal. Polar bears no longer look the same as they were when I was little. What’s changing about polar bears is that their lush white fur coat is becoming dull and sagging. Polar bears are now becoming close to skin and bones. Scientists have been looking closely at many species that are endangered and in danger of becoming endangered. The polar bears are one of the many species that scientists have been tracking.

Recently Anthony Pagano, who’s a wildlife biologist researcher, put cameras on some polar bears. The footage from these polar bears is deeply disturbing. It shows the polar bears scavenging for food. Polar bears naturally burn a lot of fat. Burning fat cells and constantly being in motion is causing the polar bears to change drastically. Polar bears seem cute and cuddly from afar but they’re very dangerous. The polar bears are naturally that way because they’re hunters.

When polar bears hunt they’re constantly moving. The movement decreases their energy and ability to survive if they don’t receive the proper nutrients. In most cases while the bears were being tracked there wasn’t much footage of the bears eating many meals. The polar bears never gave up an opportunity to catch a seal or whatever they could for a decent meal, but it was few and far in between. The polar bears began to change their natural strategies to adapt to the lack of food and winter sea ice they had as their habitat.

From the footage, the polar bears appeared to be lazy in contrast to their typical behavior. It all makes sense because if the polar bears don’t receive the proper nutrients they can’t act to their fullest potential. I’m concerned to see what will come from this problem.

With food becoming scarce will the polar bears find new ways to continue to adapt or will they become an extinct species? As the polar bears continue to lose their environment they continue to lose the ability to survive.

For more information: https://news.ucsc.edu/2018/02/polar-bears.html

Arbor Day Offer: Free Trees Available to New Jersey Residents


News Release

Contact: Kerry Hadrava

DEP Urges New Jerseyans to Plant Trees

Throughout late April into early May, The Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Parks and Forestry is making upwards of 90,000 free tree seedlings available to New Jersey residents through the New Jersey Tree Recovery Campaign.

Registered towns and cities will be receiving up to 2,000 seedlings for distribution to residents. Each resident is eligible to receive up to five free seedlings.

The seedlings available will be strategically chosen to reflect what grows best in that distribution site’s area. The Northeastern part of the state may receive sugar maple or black oak trees while in the South they may see something more along the lines of white cedar.

According to DEP Acting Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe, “Trees provide habitat for wildlife, clean the air we breathe, provide shade, reduce the damaging effects of wind, limit erosion and contribute to a healthier environment. Equally important, trees beautify our communities and improve our quality of life in the Garden State.”

For a full list of distribution sites and important dates, please visit www.nj.gov/dep/newsrel/2018/18_0022.htm

Celebrating the Earth Down Under

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mary Waller

Australia International Compost Awareness Week

April is the month known for Earth Day, but environmental events that happen internationally take place throughout the year. From May 6 to May 12, Australia is acknowledging environmental problems by hosting International Compost Awareness Week Australia (ICAW).

The week is filled with activities, events and publicity to help promote awareness of compost. Compost is an organic resource that ICAW wants to promote the reduction of carbon pollution by avoiding organic materials and helping build healthier soil.

ICAW Australia is a part of the Centre for Organic Research & Education (CORE). CORE is a non-profit organization that conducts year-round research on organic initiatives, education and awareness activities.

CORE also helps organizes National Organic Week Australia (NOW). NOW is a week of locally-held events to help promote the benefits of growing and purchasing organic products and farming services in the Australian community and environment.

ICAW’s motto is “Better Soil, Better Life, Better Future.” The non-profit promotes the importance of healthy soil and why we need it.

They offer ways to get involved by “Joining the Competition”, ”Registering your Event” and mentioning that “We are Social.” ICAW’s competition is for the greenest and most sustainable garden for 2018.

Their website shares their latest tweets and upcoming events with hopes that people will follow their news and attend, or consider, the events they will be hosting. ICAW calls attention to the fact that environmental issues last longer than one month or one day, but rather a lifetime. 

For more information on ICAW:  www.compostweek.com.au/core/.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Jamapo Green Celebration of Earth Day

For Immediate Release

Contact: Lily Makhlouf

Celebrate Earth Day with 1STEP April 22 at Jamapo Green!

1STEP (Students Together for Environmental Progress), Ramapo College’s student run environmental club, is hosting Jamapo Green, a BBQ event in celebration of Earth Day, on Sunday, April 22 from 12-4 pm in the Laurel Courts. The event is open to all members of the Ramapo community and will include several activities and great food, of course!

1STEP has been working hard to organize an Earth Day event that is both fun and educational, promoting environmental awareness. We hope that by hosting this event, we will create a fun space to share our love and knowledge of the environment that is Earth! Some of the day’s activities will include tie-dying, screen printing, a clothing swap, yoga sessions, Frisbee games, music, and vegetarian and vegan food.

The highlight of the event will be the unveiling of the “Trashzilla” sculpture, designed and created by Ramapo students who used materials collected from trash clean-ups around campus to construct it.

This event will be a great way to meet other people who are passionate about protecting the environment and want to share this with the Ramapo community. If you have any questions reach out to cbernyk@ramapo.edu or akhairul@ramapo.edu for more information.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Senior Capstone Group to Host Campus-Wide Cleanup


By Chris Bernstein

Senior communications capstone group, REALIZE Your Environmental Impact will be hosting a campus-wide cleanup at Ramapo College of New Jersey on Saturday, April 14. The clean up, which will be co-hosted by MEVO (Mahwah Environmental Volunteers Organization) is part of a bigger initiative by the capstone group to raise awareness of the sustainable initiatives going on around campus and to educate both students and faculty on how to live a less wasteful life.

All volunteers interested in attending should meet at the arch at Ramapo College at 9:50 am. Gloves, rakes and cleaning supplies will be provided. For questions and information, please email cbernst1@ramapo.edu.

The event will seek to clean up several high-traffic areas around Ramapo’s campus and hopes to get rid of much of the waste that is littering several wooded areas that surround the school. Ramapo’s campus is known for its beautiful location in Northern New Jersey in the foothills of the gorgeous Ramapo Mountains.

Members of the capstone group understand that events such as this cleanup are crucial to keeping the campus clean and beautiful. Group member Kristie Murru says, “We love our campus and take pride in it being different from other colleges in the state. We hate seeing trash littered around pathways and buildings, so this cleanup is a push to take care of that.”

Cleaning up the campus isn’t the only goal of the event. The presence of MEVO is a significant one, as they have been a key leader in the efforts to cleanup waste in several areas across Northern New Jersey. In addition to hosting cleanups, which have generated hundreds of volunteers, the non-profit organization’s core focus is to create and maintain a fresh roots farm in Mahwah, New Jersey. This farm is an organic farm operation for locally grown vegetables, fruits and bees that produce honey. The farm continuously gives back to the community by connecting community members and families with sustainably grown food.

The campus cleanup will take place from 10 am – 2 pm and will cover several key trash areas such as the Village Apartments, wooded areas along pathways leading to Laurel Courts, pathways located near the Student Center parking lot and basketball court, wooded areas along the path around the lake and areas near the College Park Apartments. Everyone and anyone is welcome to volunteer.

Volunteers will receive a unique opportunity to help in cleaning up the college’s campus as well as learn how to properly dispose of trash they produce. In addition, the cleanup will provide an example of how anyone can lead a cleanup in their own communities and help in creating a cleaner environment for everyone to enjoy.

DuPont Pollution forces Residents from Homes

By Dominique Otiepka

An African American community in West Calumet, Indiana, has been told to leave their homes due to the toxic soils they are living on, The Guardian reports.  The apartments in which they live are being torn down, because city officials feel that remediation of the soil will cause too much air pollution.  Residents have been given housing vouchers to relocate, though the number of property owners who accept such vouchers is limited.  There are 357 families who live in this housing project that must be evacuated to another area. 

The soil is contaminated with lead and arsenic, which the residents were informed about years after the initial hazardous release from a lead smelting plant.  Many residents claim that they were unaware of this situation, and needed to be tested for contamination in their blood levels. Some tests have showed high levels, which can cause a variety of diseases.  Health issues from living in such areas include a variety of cancers and diseases such as neuropathy and glaucoma.

This group of people have lost all trust in their government, since there have been concerns about lead contamination since at least 1985.  Soil tests were not released for years.  By 2011, there were a number of blood tests with a declining number of children with elevated lead levels in their blood, and it was concluded that there was no longer a public health concern.

The EPA did not take quicker action with prioritizing remediation or testing the soil until an agreement was made with the polluting companies, DuPont Chemical Company and Atlantic Richfield Company. This issue was made public in 2016, which parallels what has been in the spotlight regarding the DuPont contamination in Northern New Jersey. 

The people in Indiana, like those in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, are enraged.  It is shocking that this chemical dumping has happened in a local area, and disturbing that it occurred in yet another.  Lead and arsenic contamination can spread throughout the soil and make its way through surface water locations, causing the spread of contamination and increase in health concerns.  

The impacts that DuPont has had on a variety of communities is disheartening; it has resulted in people losing loved ones due to diseases caused by such toxins.  Pompton Lakes has been under investigation to bring awareness and prevent another catastrophe, which has been occurring in this community for decades.  Knowing that a similar contamination occurred in Indiana deserves further investigation, as well as other areas that have been contaminated that have yet to be remediated.

For more information: 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Nature: The Best Playground

By Emily Shovlin

Reminiscing on childhood, many people reflect on the time they spent outdoors: from bike rides with friends and soccer in the backyard to secret conversations in the tree house and sleepovers in a tent pitched out back. For decades, days spent outside shaped young children, providing an outlet for energy and stress relief, and allowing them to improve their imagination and social skills. Today, children predominantly play indoors, using technology that did not exist twenty years ago. Since the technology boom in the mid-1990s, time spent outdoors has decreased significantly while the number of cases of anxiety, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and obesity amongst children has increased. Although not recognized by medical journals, many people have referred to this phenomenon as “nature-deficit disorder.”

This term first showed up in Richard Louv’s bestselling book, ​Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder​. Louv describes nature-deficit disorder as “[T]he human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses. The disorder can be detected in individuals, families, and communities. Nature deficit can even change human behavior in cities, which could ultimately affect their design, since long-standing studies show a relationship between the absence, or inaccessibility, of parks and open space with high crime rates, depression, and other urban maladies.” Parents, researchers, and psychologists have shown a lot of respect for Louv and his term, and have done extensive research on technology’s negative impacts on children since the book’s publication in 2005.

The decline is quite clear: when taking a walk outside, it’s now rare to bump into many people. When you do, it’s commonly adults, whether they’re walking their dogs or taking a stroll with their spouse. You no longer see children playing rounds of Capture the Flag at the local field, biking around with friends, or jumping through sprinklers in their front yard. The few times you do see children outside, their heads are bowed over their phones, texting to meet up with other friends, playing Pok√©mon Go, or snapping pictures to post on Instagram. Louv and other researchers of nature-deficit disorder put a lot of emphasis on the benefits of spending time in nature, and children of this generation are missing out on these advantages.

In writing his book, Louv spoke with multiple parents who told stories of their ADHD children having significant positive changes in their ability to focus. Some of the children play seasonal sports, but it was the connection to nature that made the difference – one family is even considering moving to the mountains! Studies have found that spending time in nature can bring children and adults peace and concentration, and even enhance a child’s cognitive, social, and physical characteristics. A study conducted by Aric Sigman found that children who spend time in nature score higher on tests, that outdoor time improves their cognition by improving their awareness and reasoning skills, and that gardening increases a child’s self-esteem.

If the visible benefits of nature for children isn’t enough to convince parents, nostalgia for yesteryear should do it. The memories and experiences of a childhood spent outdoors are irreplaceable. Sure, a kid may remember reaching the highest level of a game or completing a difficult quest; but the fond recollections that our planet can provide – scraped knees from climbing trees, splashing through a chilled river on a muggy day, and scrambling up the tallest rock – will be embedded in their minds as the bliss of childhood. Nature is a playground, and it’s demanding to be played on.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Creating Sustainable Habits for the Future

By Chris Bernstein

 “The goal of sustainability is to leave future generations with more opportunities and fewer problems,” says Ximing Cai, associate director for the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. This is something that needs to be understood at all U.S. colleges and universities. Luckily, there are universities like this that are making major advancements in the field of sustainability on campus that teach students why protecting the environment matters.

The University of Illinois is known as a gold-level sustainability campus. This means that they not only teach the importance of sustainability, they practice it too. Examples include promoting the use of biking and using solar energy. The university understands that sustainability goes beyond recycling, which, according to the article, Future of sustainability on campus appears positive, provides students access to recycling bins across the campus, which sits on 1,783 acres. The university puts a strong focus on sustainability because they believe that students who are taught these important values will have the potential to make a positive impact on the environment beyond college.

“By making sustainability a part of students’ experience at this school, it may be considered in the influential decisions that they make in their professional life. In this way, the University can foster long-term change,” says Nick Heyek, a junior at the University of Illinois and chair of the Student Sustainability Committee.

This sentiment is something that all colleges and universities need to understand. It’s about more than getting students to realize what trash is and what recyclables are, it’s about fostering a deep and meaningful understanding of why it’s important to care for the Earth. The University of Illinois program is just an example of how to create positive, sustainable change in the world. As mentioned in the article in the campus newspaper, colleges and universities aren’t the biggest contributors to environmental damage, but after doing simple research one can learn that they certainly create a large amount of waste.

According to a piece written on Boston College’s sustainability website called Know Your Facts, “The average college student produces 640 pounds of solid waste each year, including 500 disposable cups and 320 pounds of paper.” Imagine an average college that enrolls thousands of students each year—that’s a lot of waste, isn’t it?

Morgan White, the associate director at Facilities and Services for Sustainability at the University of Illinois, says “Really, it’s about finding solutions, using the resources here that can be implemented and trying to spread that awareness not only to neighbor organizations, but also to the students and instill in our graduates the understanding of how this is important.”

It’s a great step in the right direction—using their own resources to teach students skills and practices that can be used no matter where they end up in life. It’s important for colleges to acknowledge the environmental impact that they have and try to come up with ways to reduce that impact while teaching students valuable sustainable lessons. Sustainability is only going to become more important in the next few years, so looking at examples such as the University of Illinois  is a great first step to making positive environmental change at other universities and colleges across the United States.

For more information: 

Giraffes Silently Disappearing

(Wikimedia Commons)
By Kerry Hadrava

Around this time last year, it seemed as if all eyes were on April the giraffe who was set to give birth to the first captive born giraffe at the Memphis Zoo. Nearly a year later it seems as if once again the focus of animal lovers is directed towards this magnificent creature, however for a much different reason.

The international Union for the Conservation of Nature has recently moved Giraffes from “Least Concerned” to “Vulnerable” status. According to Smithsonian magazine, giraffes have faced a decline of nearly 40 percent over the past three decades and this is due mainly to urbanization of their habitats and poaching. The poaching of giraffes meat has become increasingly popular due to lack of food within surrounding villages.

However, Smithsonian reports, the largest problem giraffes are facing is lack of attention. “In fact, giraffes have silently been going extinct across Africa over the last century,” the article by Jason Daley states. “The animal is already gone from seven countries, Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Guinea, Malawi, Mauritania, Nigeria and Senegal,” This silent extinction has been a major setback for giraffes and their fight for survival.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Snow Day Chores

Blackout during March 21 snow storm (photo: Eileen McCafferty)

By Eileen McCafferty

My phone dinged at precisely 8:15 p.m. that Tuesday night in late March as an alert from Ramapo College. It read “RCNJ Alert Me Now 3/20/2018. Due to inclement weather Ramapo College is closed tomorrow Wednesday, March 21, 2018.”

The inner child inside me expressed joy in the idea of a snow day, but the adult in me already knew that tomorrow was going to be a rough storm and I was not ready to lose power...but Mother Nature had other plans.

The next morning was spent doing homework, to keep up with classes that were cancelled, and catching up on laundry, as well as driveway maintenance and other chores. Every few hours, the journey was made from my front door to the unplowed streets on my quiet Rockland County neighborhood street to walk Jack, the ‘anti-snow/anti-rain, schnauzer-poodle, love of my life’ dog. Within three minutes of being outside and returning to the warmth of my entrance way, Jack’s dark gray fur would be heavily dusted with snow, and once inside it was easily seen that the snow was melting off his face. While he hates the snow, he was so well trained to not relieve himself in the house that he makes a scene at the door when it’s time to go. 

After returning Jack to the comfort of the house, my mother and I would grab shovels to remove the newly accumulated snow from the driveway steps and windshields of our cars. Runny noses, cold, tired hands, and wet socks are all the products of shoveling driveways, but in order to avoid removing all this snow at once, we had to take care of it every few hours. 

Sitting in the bay-window in the front of the house is a curious cat who goes by the name of Poot; she was staring outside, wishing to pounce on these tiny white specs falling from the sky. Poot was so determined to get to these specs that opening and closing doors to the outside world became a game of ‘push and run’. She sits at your feet as you open the door, and you must gently push her back with your leg while making a run outside. As much as she wants to attack the snow, I am fairly certain if I let this house cat outside, she would lose her mind and run inside.

Later in the afternoon, the snow accumulation became so intense that sturdy tree branches in our back yard began to bend with pressure. The house jittered as the harsh winds hit the sides and occasionally the power would hint at flickering off. Everything seemed to be a normal day of snow fall…until a branch crashed down from a neighbor’s yard onto the connecting powerlines that provide a block and half with power. 

The time was 11:15 p.m., the house was still warm, but frighteningly dark. Looking out the bay windows onto the street I’ve lived on since I was born, it was almost like looking at a painting. It was so still, so dark, and so serene. We were left without power for over twenty-four hours. The night consisted of three layers of clothing, two blankets and a curled-up cat on top of me to share warmth. 

Out of all the snow day struggles, being cold with no relief from it is the worst part. Snow days always make my inner kid excited, but I have learned the real struggles that come from snow days. I feel better prepared for heavy accumulations but I also hope that we are done with snow days for this year.