There Will Be Blood, and more Blood.

Emily Gertz’s How The West Was Lost, at its core, leaves the reader with a poignant message: the west is not what it once was, and its getting worse.

The oil boom, famously dramatized in the film There Will Be Blood and Upton Sinclair’s Oil!,   has systematically sterilized the west of much of its natural beauty. Essential drinking wells have been contaminated by the oil boom, and now they’ve been severely depleted by coal mining operations.

With the presidential election in November, it is disappointing to see the limited discourse on the issue of our natural resources. In the second presidential debate, for example, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spent more time fielding personal attacks above all else. When asked about energy, Trump made a point of discussing the expansion of “Clean Coal” in an exceedingly broad manner, showing no sense of the structure of energy consumption or production in America.

Earthjustice, the environmental group responsible for providing litigation and lobbying work for environmental interests, could have a role in amplifying a voice of opposition in places like rural Wyoming. As it stands, the American West’s largest advocates are individual lawyers and ranchers funding cases against behemoth natural gas and coal companies. On October 14th, the largest ever recorded earthquake in Kansas was officially linked to a fracking operation. It took months after the earthquake occurred (in 2014) for operations at the facility to be halted and only now can we definitively say that fracking is specifically responsible. It has never been a secret that the story of the rise of the oil-man is a sinister one. For a new generation, who is educated against being sucked in by the promise of opportunity, it is time to stop viewing destruction as a necessary evil, and work to give the less popular interest a voice.

Daniel Day Lewis’s character, a borderline-sociopath-oil man, sits schemingly while his oil derrick burns in the film There Will Be Blood. A foreboding of what was to come, and now has materialized a near century later:there-will-be-bloodParamount Vantage. There Will Be Blood. 2007. Web., 2007

Broken Battle

How the West Was Lost: Ranchers Devastated by Fossil Fuel Boom reaffirmed the notion that small communities are being abused by large corporations. The Turners lost the health of their land in Wyoming starting in the 1980s when the federal government began to use land just east of their ranch for coal mining. In order to gain access to the coal they suck up the water, which caused water levels to drop dramatically. When the Turners brought this information to the Wyoming Supreme Court their case was dismissed on the grounds that there were no “specific harms on their properties.” Reading this, it is crucial to recognize how the institutions on political and social platforms meant to protect us are actually harmful. In fact, it became law that oil, gas and coal companies restore the land’s natural environment when they are done mining. But according to the Turners, “only about 10 percent of the land strip-mined has been fully reclaimed.” However, the Turners admitted that they did accept an “income from fees paid to them by oil and gas companies that gained access to their land.” But does everyone get compensation for destruction brought upon them? And is it worth it?

In the article, The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare, you’ll see that it’s an incredibly arduous road to get any compensation or attention toward injustice. Rob Bilott was a corporate defense attorney for eight years before he took on the chemical giant DuPont. He was approached by Wilbur Tennant, who was concerned with a large pipe running through a creek and discharging “green water with bubbles on the surface.” That same creek flowed down to the pasture where Tennant’s cows grazed on and started acting “deranged.” The cows were suddenly suffering with “stringy tails, malformed hooves…and staggering bowlegged.” When Bilott filed a federal suit, it was ignored and established that the Tennant’s were at fault for their cows’ illness. Bilott pushed on and came across a letter DuPont sent to the E.P.A. about PFOA, which was short for perfluorooctanoic acid. At first, his request for all documentation on this substance from DuPont was refused, but in the fall of 2000 he requested a court order and won. Through this, he discovered that DuPont scientists had known for years that this chemical was bad, and affecting water everywhere. People and animals were getting sick, dying even, and nothing was being done. DuPont decided to settle the class-action suit and pay for medical monitoring, but were still not taking responsibility. It took seven years for the company to admit their “probable link” between PFOA and the numerous health problems. But what about the thousands of families and communities affected by risks such as this? What if they don’t have the time, money or resources to protect themselves?  

Fortunately, Earthjustice is a hopeful organization that establishes a solution for this exact problem. Earthjustice is the largest nonprofit environmental law organization that fights for a “healthy world.” That is an incredible feat when you take into consideration the large corporations such as DuPont, and sometimes the federal government, who are abusing their immense power. To break the system is a difficult task, but Earthjustice is doing it and I find it incredibly admirable. Climate change is a very real and serious issue caused by humans. But the people in Earthjustice are the “legal backbone” that will get the attention and action done in order to make a difference. Earthjustice could have definitely helped the Turners and the Tennant’s, and would have done it free of charge.

The more I research and realize the potent dangers of large institutions that influence my everyday life, I am inspired to take action. It is frustrating to see innocent families be taken advantage of. Our world is sick, inside and out, and change needs to happen now. Even though I feel small in comparison to the problems ahead, I am confident in my art and will continue to use that as a vessel of expression to stop oppression.


Danger in Drinking Water

This weeks readings about The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare, Dartmouth Chemical Contamination Affects More Local Drinking Water, and How the West Was Lost: Ranchers Devastated by Fossil Fuel Boom highlight the way that large corporations backed by big money can easily manipulate social issues.  The DuPont reading in particular shows Rob Bilott’s fight that grew from a small town farm case into an “an industry-threatening class-action suit against one of the world’s largest chemical corporations.”  The long and ongoing nature of Bilott’s case is indicative of the way that small businesses and those fighting for environmental issues that especially challenge big companies are in turn overlooked by large corporations in similar industries such as oil and fracking.  The local water pollution articles really allowed a glimpse into the direct effects of these practices and should be more widely spread within media in order to bring awareness to these issues and how they effect individuals.  The fact that the drinking water was so unsafe that people continue to be provided with bottled water is shocking as everyone should be able to have access to clean water, but the environmental repercussions already created by these industries is only perpetuating greater pollution and waste with the need for bottled water.

Earth Justice  could be a very useful tool in the reformation of these industry practices and their effects on the surrounding people.  Earth Justice promotes three main goals of: Protecting the wild, maintaining healthy communities, and fighting for clean energy and a healthy climate, all of which are affected by the issues presented in this weeks readings.  By helping to back the smaller businesses and communities within these battles against large corporations, Earth Justice can be the change catalyst that these communities need.

The second half especially of this video explains the effects of oil industry practices such as fracking:

“Natural” foods

I try to eat plant-based fresh whole foods for the most part, but processed foods (even minimally so) are difficult to avoid on a budget and schedule.  Like many other people noticed, there seems to be an abundance of a farm depiction on packaging.  The first few images below include this farm scenery.  In some the farm images are so subtle or small that they go unnoticed; or they’re behind a friendly looking face of a “farmer.”  For other products, we have become so desensitized to images like these that it just seems natural.

Natural: the exact term these companies wish to associate their foods with, a natural looking farm means natural food right?  Natural is one of those vague umbrella words that makes something sound better than it is.  It puts a positive connotation on anything it’s associated with because it sounds Earthy, and if it comes from nature it must be good.

This idea of the the word natural that we have constructed for a word with such simple meaning reminded me of the egg industry and good ol’ Edward Bernays.  I went vegan about a year and a half ago and honestly, eggs were the hardest thing for me to give up.  Eventually I ended up watching a few graphic videos about animal cruelty in the egg industry and calling it a day.  What I didn’t know until at least 6 months into this transition, is that eggs are not even good for us even though I’d grown up thinking– like I had with all animal products– that eggs are a healthy source of protein, when in fact eggs are not even allowed to be labeled as “healthy” or “nutritious” due to false advertisement laws.  It is illegal to define eggs with these positively connotated words because these words have definitions which contradict the actual nutrient criteria as provided by the FDA due to their significant amount of fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol.  As a result eggs are sometimes classified by the industry as “nutrient-dense” as this term does not have a clear legal definition.  Nutrient-dense, however, merely implies that there are nutrients within this food.  There are nutrients within any food no matter how good or bad they are for the human body which brings us back to the word play of the term “natural.” Read more about the egg industry here to understand how the American breakfast continues to be a manipulated advertisement scheme or watch the video here (don’t worry it’s only factual, not graphic):

I was surprised that more of my packaged foods did not involve the farm scene, but I think that these appear much more commonly in animal products.  This is because the companies not only want you to think of their products as wholesome and natural, but they want you to think of the food itself in relation to where it is coming from in an idealized image that is painted for you right on the carton.  No need to think, here it is, here’s the image of the farm where we raised the animals that provided you with this food.  The reality is that the vast majority of farms for meat, dairy, and eggs do not look like the blue sky, acres of green pastures image falsely presented, and if they do you probably won’t find them at your large conglomerate grocery store.

A good portion of the images included below, I would say about half, come from Trader Joe’s which sells mostly their own Trader Joe’s brand.  I shop at Trader Joe’s not for convenience (we are all familiar with the everlasting line wrapping around the entire store at the 14th st location) but for affordable food that seems like a kind of in between a generic grocery store and a whole foods kind of place.  When I was taking these photos, I couldn’t help but think about the packaging that is characteristic to Trader Joe’s.  I think it’s fair to say that Trader Joe’s, especially in recent years, has upped their packaging game aesthetically.  They’ve started to incorporate fun readable fonts, cute illustrations, and pleasing color combos which are able to attract consumers to products they may not have even thought twice about before.

Exhibit A: Semi-Dried Green Figs, I can tell you that this is absolutely not something I would have ever bought had I not been drawn to the mellow green packaging.  I saw them, I thought they sounded weird but looked good (of course TJ’s didn’t put a real image on the front– much like our farming friends– because inside it they look like small ice crusted brains) so I thought why not take a $3 chance on these.  “Taste amazingly similar to fresh fruit” what a bold claim, I guess I had to find out? The consensus is that they were actually pretty good, would I buy them again? Maybe not, but this is not a food review.  After doing a bit of googling, it seems that the Trader Joe’s brand is not as wholesome as it seems.  Much of the Trader Joe’s brand food is purchased directly from the same food suppliers at any other grocery storender a private label for a lower cost, then repackaged and sold.  Read more about it here and here.

Essentially what we’ve learned here is: doubt everything.

img_5052 img_5053img_5051 img_5054 img_5473 img_5472 img_5475 img_5478 img_5476 img_5477

Misuse, Mistrust, Misrepresentation

The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worse Nightmare brings forth several frightening, but important motifs to understand. The greatest being the mistrust of companies, but also the importance of taking action on one’s own hands.

The striking capitalization of corporations on altering or minimizing the public awareness, and their blatant lack of compassion for human welfare, even of their own employees remains the most appalling sentiment highlighted. As the article lays out, DuPont had been well aware of the health impacts of their use and disposal of PFOAs, conducting studies all the way up the food chain to similar results. Yet instead of acting upon this knowledge, they internalized everything in hopes of keeping their profits that were intertwined with the deadly compound.

This, unfortunately, seems to be a common theme amidst the capitalist infrastructure: keep doing something bad until you are caught, or can no longer find profit from it thereafter. In a system rigged to favor the rich, and set up to augment the profits of a corporation in lieu of the well-being of the general populous, this is a pill we must all swallow over and over again.

One of the most horrendous notions to me brought forth in the article was the EPA’s regulatory effectiveness on the chemical industry. Instead of actually regulating the harm done by DuPont, they basically paved the way for the company’s continuation of fraudulent operations. As stated within the reading, the EPA’s standing arrangement, “largely allows chemical companies to regulate themselves, [and] is the reason that the E.P.A. has restricted only five chemicals, out of tens of thousands on the market, in the last 40 years.” The composition and effects of these chemical concoctions is all but unknown to those outside of the companies that produce them, and the EPA, as a single governing entity over the entire chemical industry, lacks the legal infrastructure under the current 1976 Toxic Substance Control Act – which is what makes a recent push to overhaul the existing law so important.

How the West Was Lost reveals yet another story surrounding business’ misuse and destruction of natural landscapes by American business entities. However, this example stems from the uncontrollable and seemingly unstoppable search for fossil fuels within the country’s ever-slimming tracts of rural landscapes. Yet within this case as well, the regulation of such actions seems to be very halfheartedly regulated within the current framework of the industry. The main difference between the two industries and their abhorrent treatment of the natural world lies in our economic reliance on the fossil fuel industry. While miners and oil prospectors pollute the land and drain the aquifers and water sources, locals are expected to stand idly by while their homes are rendered to near uninhabitable levels. As Jenny turner, a Montana resident afflicted by their presence of fossil fuel prospecting on her land told the author, “There is so much money sunk into these mines and these wells, no one wants to hear about ranchers losing water.” Again, economic prosperity has been put ahead of the welfare of the general populous, furthering the frighteningly commonplace practice.

I leave us all with this single question: If we can’t trust big business too look out for everyday citizens, nor can we trust the government to regulate them properly, then who is truly looking out for us?

Money, Money, Money, Money…MONEY

As I read “How the West was Lost: Ranchers Devastated by Fossil Fuel Boom” I noticed the recurring theme of money. How is it that when the government starts drilling for oil on your farming land, what you have devoted your life to, you starting thinking of the money you are receiving? The Turners, the family being affected in this situation stated, “The kids have been able to get a better education than we could have given them otherwise”. Yes, I am a person who believes that people should always look at the positive, but when these drillers, are invading your space and contaminating your land, your water, the money you receive should be the last thing on your mind. The water your livestock are drinking are then being passed on to the consumers of that animal. So, not only is it bad for the animals, but in turn bad for humans.

The companies are also only thinking about money, they want to make profits off of this oil. They do not care they are invading someones home, or ruing their livelihood. The workers want money, and the government wants money from the oil, once they accomplish that they leave. And like they state in the article, the workers are suppose to return the land to the way it was when they arrived, and most of the time they do not. This leaves thousands of acres that are now rendered useless to these farmers.

Bear Arms for the Revolution

Reading Bryan Schutmaat’s article, “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” and Emily J. Gertz’s article, “How the West Was Lost: Ranchers Devastated by Fossil Fuel Boom” make me feel small yet very loud and able to to create positive, lasting change on our environment. Schutmaat discusses Rob Billot’s experience discovering his relationship to environmental issues such as fighting the use of chemicals in our food. He originally represented plaintiffs, private citizens, large corporate clients, and defended chemical companies but made a change when he discovered a family connection to a farmer in West Virginia. Moreover, Emily J. Gertz’s article, “How the West Was Lost: Ranchers Devastated by Fossil Fuel Boom” describes how large corporations were able to weave around and ultimately avoid the consequences of disobeying laws and therefore could easily control and manipulate the environment of that area. Although he did not see a full victory, Rob Billot opened up an incredibly important conversation concerning environmental protection and activism.

Similar to the issue of idling, I believe that we are stronger together. Ballot’s fight proves just that. Sure, everyone is busy and has their own life to live. However, we won’t have lives to live (at least live well) if we don’t have clean air, food, and water that are free form corporate interest and manipulation for profit at the expense of the health of our communities and the environment. I believe Earthjustice is an excellent resource to use for my project on idling and air pollution in NYC because Earthjustice works to disempower large corporations that profit off the expense of the health of people and the environment.
The fact that they’re a nonprofit organization is also a plus. It assures communities that their interests are the polar opposites to corporate profiteering interests.

I’d like to quote from another student in class who goes by the name of Eco Kitty on this site. She posted that on their website, Earthjustice has written, “The generous support of hundreds of thousands of individuals like you allows us to take on the most important cases and stick with them for as long as it takes.” Earthjustice is a nonprofit organization that advocates that awareness, education, and action are the primary tools to take advantage of in the face of environmental issues today and after having all the facts and knowledge of what is currently happening in our environment, I can’t imagine how one could defend ignoring this revolutionary fight.

Keepers of Our River

Imagine that you’re walking in front of an NYU dorm on trash day. While holding your breath, trekking through the valley of garbage bags, you notice that one of the amorphous sacks has split open, leaking its contents onto the sidewalk. One particularly industrious escapee, an empty gallon jug of water, has cascaded over the curb, into the street. In all likelihood, this trash will end up in the river. Despite water quality improvement over the past several decades, there are still several sources that contribute to pollution in the Hudson, not the least of which, is trash from rainwater runoff.

Growing up on the coast of Florida has made me someone who has a deep respect for the delicate aquatic ecosystem.

The Gulf Coast of Florida:


Similar to Florida, NYC’s infrastructure overlaps with a crucial ecosystem. When we build near the water, we must assume responsibility for the waste we produce.

I propose the creation of a short film that documents the journey of a piece of trash from the moment in which it is dropped, until it reaches the Hudson, where it may litter further up river, or be carried out to the Atlantic, where it could severely harm wildlife.

The goal is to raise awareness about life your trash leads after it is dropped, either purposefully or accidentally, into the river. This is partially in service to the Riverkeepers, a not for profit group that seeks to restore the Hudson to a fishable ecosystem. We have already made great strides, but there needs to be a push from the public to find new solutions for wastewater treatment, and greater responsibility in how we handle our trash.

GW Bridge

Alarming Readings

What is safe to eat? What is safe to drink? What is safe to cook with? Is it even safe to breathe?

These three articles listed below, were not only shockingly informative but also terrifying and depressing. It is amazing to me how we can go around feeling so healthy and safe with what we eat and how we treat our bodies. When in reality, our bodies have been involuntarily influenced by harmful chemicals since birth.

The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare

 How The West Was Lost: Devastated By Fossil Fuel Boom

Why This Scientist Does Most of His Work in Trees

The world we live in today is home to a plethora of severe chemical pollution problems. 60,000 unknown chemicals to be exact, are infecting what we eat and drink. They are are also destroying the earth and our animals.  The scary part of this is that companies like the ones in the articles, have been getting away with dumping their toxic waste into landfills and eventually contaminating our water systems, the air we breathe and our harvesting grounds. They have been fully aware of the damage they are causing and continue to pollute our environment and put our lives at risk for decades, without any sort of repercussion from the government and without any information relayed to the public. We have been kept purposefully in the dark.

As in the first article, the company of DuPont is responsible for dumping a poisonous chemical called PFOA into local creeks. It was described as a green liquid that bubbles. DuPont has been aware of its doing, since 1951. Nothing has been done to stop them, until now. Here is a video covering some of the extensive DuPont Investigation and here is a link to further explore this devastation, The Teflon Toxin. 

Comparing the first DuPont article to the second fossil fuel article, it just re-stated the fact that large companies dealing with chemicals and/or oil take extreme advantage of people.  They will go as far as they have to, in order to keep their income level high, regardless of the fact that they are the reason for birth defects, cancer, disabilities, sickness and even deaths.

The third article, offered a lighter topic about a scientist who records exotic/undiscovered animals on his camera, by climbing up in trees and positioning his camera for long periods of time, in order to find new species of animals that we may not normally know about by researching on the ground level. This allowed further insight into how much dedication and time goes into an experiment or discovery.

Similar to the lawyers, whom fight against the oil and chemical companies. Years and years can go into trying to change/stop/bring awareness to the way chemicals that companies purposefully rid of and release waste into the environment. Earthjustice is a non profit environmental law organization. Acting as the lawyer for the earth, it stands up for environmental health and stands against large corporations that are ruining our world like DuPont and oil companies. We are grateful for organizations like Earthjustice.

It is a discerning realization, but we can spend our time blaming Global Warming and diseases and bad habits, but essentially all of these horrible battles are brought on by mankind. We in fact are killing ourselves.


Midterm Project: The Plastic City (pending title)

Consider this common image. How many times do you go into a grocery store and see this?


And how many times do you see a plastic bag littered in the city?


For my project this semester, I plan to make a short informative documentary (my estimate is 5-7 mins) about the world of plastic that we live in. This is a current local issue because NYC has recently passed a bill to tax plastics bags. While it is to be implemented by October 1st 2016, stores will not be held accountable until April 2017.

The big question is: How are people reacting and what does it say about plastic in our society? What are our roles as individuals and communities in the world of plastic?


I have been researching and intrigued by the impact of plastic on our natural world since last year when I learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.


I have worked on a few different art pieces about it in the past, but the issue always seems so much bigger then I can explain. For this reason, I am excited to hone in on this localized effort that will impact me, you, and all of us restless New Yorkers.


midterm_cool-bag 1960: Cellopast and the “T-shirt plastic bag”

I will briefly go over the history of the plastic bag and how it poured its way into the United States. The bags are made from high-density polyethylene, or No. 2-type plastic, which was created in 1953. Before this, paper was the common bag of choice.


A Brief History of the Plastic Bag

1977: Mobil Chemical starts producing their own and running and aggression campaign to push them into society.

midterm_exxon Hmmm… I wonder why Exxon?

1979: The U.S. is introduced to plastic bags.

1982: Kroger and Safeway start using them. The transformation is beginning.

1985: The Society of Plastic Engineers’s Newark Section meet in New Jersey to discuss its cost. They find that it is cheaper then paper. (1000 plastic bags = $24 // 1000 paper = $30

By now 75% of supermarkets offered plastic bags. Interestingly enough, only 25% of consumers were interested. But after Mobil worked to change that, a decade later, plastic bags were now used 80% of the time.

After discussing Exxon’s efforts, I will begin to question WHY Exxon would be interested.


I will string facts into my documentary. Many of the ones listed in this article will be included:

The fact this website is lacking, though, involves its production buddy: OIL.

–> About 8% to 10% of our total oil supply goes to making plastic. That is 12 million barrels of oil a year just in the U.S.

MATH: An average American throws away about 10 bags a week. That’s 520 bags a year–a fuel equivalent of 60 miles of driving. (And there’s 300 million people!)


This conversation about taxing or banning plastic bags has begun in other countries since the early 2000s. Below is a list of countries that ban it:

United State cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Portland, Austin, Santa Fe and localities in Hawaii. And NOW, New York City is beginning the question:

Here’s an Article explaining the nature of the tax in NYC. I will be briefing through these impacts in my Documentary as well.


In NYC, the conversation right now is about $$$. Albany posed the question: How will this impact the incomes of the consumers? This pushed the tax farther.


plastic_yearly-costFor the months that the bill has been pushed farther, I intend to make a graphic representing how many bags have been produced and wasted in the city since. This is based on Bag It NYC’s fact that NYC disposes of 9.7 billion carryout bags per year.


I will use voice over to explain the facts and history of plastic bags. I will overlay historical videos of plastic and news coverage (like listed above) as well as graphics to pinpoint my thoughts. I will also go out into NYC and shoot the plastic trash on the streets, trees, and water.

I want to track the lifespan of a plastic bag. As exemplified in this 15second animation I will be making, the bag will travel into the trash and find its way into the ocean where it will be eaten by the wildlife


I want to track the lifespan of a plastic bag with real footage as well. I am currently looking into filming at a plastic manufacturing company and landfill, but my locations set in stone right now would be a grocery store > NYC trash can > NYC river (most likely the East River) > NYC beach (Coney Island)

I would also take a timelapse of all the plastic bags my friends and I collectively have under our sinks. During the time-lapse I will detail the amount of time it took to acquire all of these and from how many individuals they came from.


The end of the Documentary will talk about when the tax will be implemented in NYC and offer solutions to how consumers can get cheap reusable (or even FREE) bags. It will also detail the other ways that they can reduce their use of plastic.


I plan to start editing by early November to truly solidify these ideas. Only in the editing room can my story and all of the structure come together.