Category Archives: Coal

A Note on Process

With my compiled and expanded research, I sat down to brainstorm how my concept of merging environmental image and clothing might manifest in the made garments. I envisioned upcycling denim, using recycled and leftover fabrics, and adding in unconventional materials in order to create these looks. They will mirror aspects of the environmental imagery they renderings are imposed on through color, silhouette, texture, or material. I have begun to find old garments that I will be using as well as excess materials I have found to recycle. I am curious to explore the deconstruction and reconstruction aspects of this process and how they may tie to relate to our connection to the environment. Pictured below are my initial ideas.

Transparency through Fashion

Within our day-to-day lives, it can be difficult to see past what is only visible on the surface. We choose to investigate, dig deeper, and find out how the world around us is functioning. Often times, we rely on visual cues to set us into question. Through connecting these visuals to our investigative work, we aim to find answers that connect with our bank of knowledge. Once we find transparency, we often want to share this with others and make it more accessible to them than it was to us.

The film, “Merchants of Doubt” set me into thinking about this idea of transparency between consumer, company, and in this case, our third party, the environment. The tool used by these big CPA’s was doubt. The doubt acted as a layer of opacity, blocking the consumers from being able to pull back the curtain, and view the truth of the situation. This idea of transparency is a driving force in the concept of my midterm project in which I would like to explore the lines of capitalism and the environment through clothing.

The article, “The Fashion Industry and Its Impact on the Environment and Society” brings a level of awareness to the destructive impacts the fashion industry, specifically fast fashion, has on the environment globally. It is claimed “that the garment industry is the world’s second biggest world polluter” although it is hard to decipher exactly what impact it is having as the production process is much larger than one might think. The process spans the agriculture of fibers, manufacturing textiles, dying, printing, bleaching, construction, and shipping and that is only up to the point of the sale of the garment. In this line of manufacturing is the demand for water, fertilizers, dye chemicals, and waste in product.

Past its life on the line of manufacturing, a garment may be worn and then discarded as the next style comes in. A garment is either then resold, or disposed of. Only 15% of discarded clothing is resold or recycled. As highlighted by the article, the resale of clothing may not be a globally conscious act. It states, “not only does the availability of such a great quantity of second-hand clothes create unemployment within the garment sector of developing countries, but it also negatively impacts economic growth and destroys the designs inspired by local cultures and traditions.” This is not something the average consumer would know or be expected to infer even though it is something they interact with daily.

Fashion is not only a form of expression, but it is a form of communication. We send a message to those around us with our dress. I want to tap into this tool for communication to bring the issues discussed about capitalism and the environment to the forefront. Bringing these topics into our every day through dress allows it to be more visible. Placing it in context of our own bodies brings a point of interest to the closeness of these issues.

The looks will be created through styling, constructing new pieces, and altering old clothing. I plan to use the process of upcycling, taking an old garment and creating something new from it, as a key part of these conversational pieces. Putting these larger devices in conversation with one another, I hope to create curiosity and questioning. I aim to use my visual tools to set others into question and find a new level of transparency.

 

Shown below is the beginnings of my visual research aiming to begin a vocabulary of the organic, inorganic, human, non-human, industrial, and natural and how they may manifest themselves in art and fashion.

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?

Gary Packard drives past a newly constructed oil well that sits at the edge of his ranch. (Photo: Ed Glazar)
Gary Packard drives past a newly constructed oil well that sits at the edge of his ranch. (Photo: Ed Glazar)

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?  

The chemical site near Parkersburg, W.Va., source of the waste at the center of the DuPont class-action lawsuit. BRYAN SCHUTMAAT FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES
The chemical site near Parkersburg, W.Va., source of the waste at the center of the DuPont class-action lawsuit. BRYAN SCHUTMAAT FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES.

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.

 

NATURE: The Plaintiff against INDUSTRY

I write in response to these heavy articles:

  • http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/magazine/the-lawyer-who-became-duponts-worst-nightmare.html?_r=1
  • http://www.takepart.com/feature/2016/09/30/how-west-was-lost-ranchers-devastated-fossil-fuel-boom?cmpid=organic-share-twitter

coalcows

The above image makes me feel many things. The main takeaway is that when you intermingle the industrial world with the natural world, there is something greatly off-putting. When you look at the image, the first uncomfortable detail is the smoke. It suffocates two-thirds of the image like a looming annoyance.post_smoke

But after I see the smoke, I start to focus on many other issues. The industrial giant: carving out the horizon with its harsh lines.

post_giant

The cows: grazing in peace while their lungs fill with mysterious byproducts.

post_cows

The trees: cut down to make space for the industrial giantpost_trees

The invisible organisms: the animals and plant life that were pushed out of their ecosystem long ago.

post_invisible

The ones that may never return.

 

 

 

 

All of this sounds very harsh and depressing, but it is real. After reading these articles, my mind was racing in a similar way. When you dive into a big issue like the fossil fuel industry depleting the state of Wisconsin or DuPont poisoning communities nationally with unknown chemicals, it is hard not to watch your brain spin.

Person under crumpled pile of papers with hand holding a help sign

The articles uncovered many aspects of industrial corruption and coverup. They revealed the true power of these industries: A power that can profit meanwhile destroying the health of the people, community, and ecosystems surrounding them.

post_money

In Bryan Schutmaat’s article, “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare,” Lawyer Rob Billot went through the treacherous journey of these discoveries. The issues he found were much more serious then he had ever thought before. Like the image of the cows in front of the industrial giant, he was lost in a world where all the issues intertwined.

A similar dilemma is described in Emily J. Gertz’s article, “How the West Was Lost: Ranchers Devastated by Fossil Fuel Boom.” The powerful industries of an area were able to maneuver their way through laws and land and they could quickly take the health of that whole environment into their hands. If this was not true, Wisconsin would still be the Wild West.

Ironically, Wisconsin’s state slogan is: Stay Just a Little Bit LongerAmerica’s Dairyland.  post_quarter Agricultural protection is not on the Fossil Fuel Industry’s agenda.

 

Instead… I think the “FORWARD” thinking that Wisconsin had prized has become something more like:

post_wisconsin

The scariest part of all of this, though, is not just the effects it has put on these ecosystems and communities; with the great power of these industries comes great resources to fight, fight, and fight.

Although Rob Billot fought DuPont for much of his career, his battle was not a full victory. They are still using chemicals that are quite similar to PFOA, and many of these chemicals are still floating around our everyday lives.

post_dupont

If there is anything to be learned, it is that these battles cannot be fought alone. Wisconsin farmers are just a few. They watch their land degrade but they stand little chance against professional schemers. Similarly, civilians of a community with poisonous water might develop cancer but not even be aware of the cause because their water companies do not have to list the levels of chemicals that it contains.

They must be helped by others that can put up a fair fight against the professional schemers. They must join forces with members of the community that can challenge and try to change the laws put in place. Only TOGETHER do I think that anything can change.

post_plant

Although he did not win it all, Rob Billot did a brave and incredible amount of work. He opened up the conversation about environmental protection in relation to the world of Justice.

This is where Earthjustice comes into play. There is hope at the end of the tunnel if we have someone to help us take on these big industries. Earthjustice thrives on taking down the powerful and profiteering so that the communities from near and far can be improved. Because they are nonprofit, their drive will never be one like these industrial powers: they understand that a piece of paper is not as important as others make it out to be.

post_cant-eat-it

 

Earthjustice has proven to work. They have helped environmental groups and movements throughout their history on a range of different issues. They understand that many of these environmental issues intercept, therefore they fight for healthier land, oceans, air, and animals.

post_earthjustice

It is always important to remember, though, that these lawyers cannot help if they don’t have many others willing to bring the issues forward. As they describe on their website: “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.

They also highlight that awareness and education is essential in the battle against environmental issues. For this reason they have advocacy campaigns that focus on this. It is important that every environmentalist joins in spreading awareness.

The case against DuPont is well known, but how well known?  If it had been spread around even more, how might things be different?

 

Reconsider this photo:

coalcows

Take a breath.

 

 

While all of these issues at once might be overwhelming, when you break them down and fight together, it is possible to make change.

 

Watch this Documentary: Why We Fight

There is a powerful documentary from 2005 called “Why We Fight.” I urge you to watch it, especially if you are curious about how the politics of war in the US operate. Below is a trailer:

To summarize what I found educational about this film is that is shows you how big of a corporate business our war is in America. It elaborates on the strategies in the war on Iraq and wars today. In relation to environmentalism, it talks about how they use resources and develop weaponry for MASSIVE profit.

I saw that the actual film can be watched section to section on YouTube or rented through Netflix DVD )

This is A Growing Problem

What can we live without? We can live without television, or the internet (both relatively new inventions). We can live without organic foods, our daily cup of coffee, we can even live without a permanent home. So, what do we need for survival? Food, clean water, and some form of shelter from the elements. Overpopulation complicates the distribution of these human necessities. Although the effects of overpopulation aren’t as apparent in North America, the lack of clean drinking water and food effects millions of people globally.

This National Geographic video concisely explains the exponential human population growth and the problems we may face because of it. Before watching this video, I imagined that overpopulation would mean there would be no more land to occupy. It may be because I’m from New York, but I already feel claustrophobic amongst the present population of 7.4 billion people. I learned in the video that every human on Earth could stand shoulder-to-shoulder within the confines of Los Angeles. Living space isn’t as much of a global issue as energy, food, and water are. The National Geographic video (released in 2010) said that 5% of humans consume 23% of the world’s energy. It’s actually not so hard to believe; I’m sitting in an air conditioned, well-lit room, charging my phone and laptop. It gets worse; the amount of energy consumed by the average American is going up. The US uses 100 quadrillion BTUs (105 exajoules) per year, 3x its consumption in 1950. If we are using more energy to light our buildings, cool and heat our air and water, and power our electronics, where is this energy coming from? 7.30% of the energy Americans use is renewable (solar/wind/geothermal). The other 92.7% of energy is nuclear, petroleum, coal, and gas. These energy sources are not renewable, so they will eventually run out. With a growing birth rate and a slower mortality rate, our population will continue to grow, as will the dependence on energy. What could happen when we have no more coal or gas energy? Will we depend solely on the more sustainable energy sources, like wind and solar?

the choice between non-renewable and renewable energy sources
The choice between non-renewable and renewable energy sources

Energy is a hard subject for me to think about. I’m privileged in the sense that I’ve never been without power for an extended period of time. Meanwhile, the total number of individuals without electric power is put at about 1.5 billion, or a quarter of the world’s population, concentrated mostly in Africa and southern Asia. This statistic creates a problem for me. I can’t figure out if supplying energy to every human being is even a good thing, because much of our energy is non-renewable and incredibly harmful to the Earth.  The best solution may be for most developed countries to transition to 75%-100% renewable energy, while supplying underdeveloped parts of  Africa and Southern Asia with solar panels, which costs less and could work well in these hot and sunny climates. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but we can learn to share it better and increase the quality of life for our growing population.

 

Midterm Project Planning: A Series of One Acts

One of the biggest draws for taking Green World, was the idea that we would be using art to advocate the change we wanted to see. As a theatre artist at Tisch, I experience  first hand almost every day the transformative power of art and how it is able to reach and affect people in ways formal communication is unable to do.  So from the onset of my midterm project, I knew that I wanted to utilize the arts in some way.

An Unfortunate Pattern

Throughout the first couple of weeks, we explored the anti-climate change movement/cover-up and tobacco industry in Merchants of Doubt, the oil fracking industry and resulting environmental impact in Gasland, the destruction of the earth’s most precious carbon sinks, water sheds and endangered ecosystems in Garth Lenz’sThe True Cost of Oil” exhibition, the dire consequences of coal-mining on our water in our discussion with Bonnie Gestring, and our battle for water rights as more corporations, such as Nestle, seek to privatize water for profit.

url

An unfortunate pattern became apparent to me.

  1. In all, if not many, of the issues we discussed a large corporation was either linked or directly responsible for the major damage done to the environment.
  2. Worst, in most of these cases they take little to no responsibility for what they have done…
  3. …despite large groups of people being detrimentally affected by the act or the consequences of the act.

Then came the question: How? How could the people on the top make the decisions that ruin people’s lives and put their health in jeopardy? How could the workers on-site go through with the fracking or the mining, that not only endangers themselves but others? How could the people living near and who are affected by these actions tolerate the dire consequences unjustly acting on them?

A Human Approach

be-kind-to-human-kind

Many answers came to my head, that were condemning and accusatory. I realized though, if I thought of it from an actor’s perspective (one that looks at the human being, their objectives, and actions objectively) then the results were much more interesting and compelling. I realized with all the propaganda, strategies, politics, and naming calling and blaming involved with these issues, the best thing to do might be to strip the issue down to it’s human core.

“Let’s make everyone human beings,” I thought. Instead of using the labels, and generalizations, why don’t we give real faces and voices to all sides of the issue and see what comes of it. I believe it will allow people to come to their own conclusions and figure out what is wrong.

Taking a form

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Upon realizing the type of story I wanted to tell, and the spotlight I wanted to give to  the three perspectives, I decided to do a series of one act plays. The form of a straight-play (as opposed to a musical) tonally fits my story, it also has a flexible enough form to play around with length. Also, the idea of creating a live experience is important the purpose of my plays. Creating a live experience allows it to forever live within those who see it. It also has the vivacity to make a large impact on spectators. Moreover, plays/drama were in my range of capability. As an actor and beginning screenwriter, I know how scripts are constructed and what they give to us and the audience.

Loose Structure of the Play:

For What It’s Worth (Working Title)

Part I: How now, Sir 1%? (Run time: 45 min)

Focuses on the CEO of either an existing Energy company who has just read the environmental impact report on a new hydraulic fracking site.

Part II: Stuck in the Middle With You (Run time: 45 min)

Focuses on two workers on a hydraulic fracking site, one who is unaware of the impact of what they are doing and who is far too are.

Part III: Save me from Ourselves (Run time: 1 hr)

Focuses on the community surrounding the fracking site of Part II, specifically on a family of five who are noticing the impact on their happiness and well being.

Note: The series of short plays are meant to be performed in one sitting, and are meant to exist in the same universe.

Research and Character Construction:

flcover

The issue I run in to whenever I write, is if I’m authentically capturing an experience or culture that I am/was not apart of. The only thing I can do to combat inaccuracy is to do the research, or in this case read first hand accounts, documentaries, and news articles. Not only will this provide much more accuracy in my story, but also give me the groundwork for the kind of people that exist on all three sides of the issue.

Here are the sources I am perusing, on top of using NYU’s JSTOR:

For the corporations: Propaganda, Merchants of Doubt, The Corporation

For the workers: Quora digest, Web articles, Fracking jobs site, interviews

For the citizens: Gasland, online articles, books, other documentaries 

Moving Forward: 

Much of the research still needs to be completed. After that, I need to create the entire story as if it were one long play, then figure out the different angles in which I approach the same story for the individual plays. I plan to hold a sort of informal reading of the plays, or at least parts of the plays if time doesn’t permit. I’m not sure as of it how I will be making a difference to 10 people I do not know, but for now, my idea is to tape the reading and put in online and share it on a couple of social media platforms.

 

India: Powering a Nation and Polluting a Planet

In the next four years, by 2020, India intends to have electricity available  nationally. To do this, the country needs to build the infrastructure and acquire the means to do so.  Currently the majority of India’s power comes from coal powered plants. The production and use of coal is set to nearly double in India over the next four years. To do this, the country is going to have to source foreign coal. To understand the situation better, I have provided a graph from the U.S. Energy information Administration (EIA).

India's Domestic coal consumption, production, and production targets
India’s Domestic coal consumption, production, and production targets

As you can see, there is a gap between the targets set for Coal India Limited (CIL) and the total production target. This means the this gap has to be filled by other public and private sector operations, in addition to sourcing foreign coal.

Inherent to this ongoing ramping-up of industry in India, is the “question” of climate change. Will the country perhaps take this massive step towards giving all of its citizens the availability of electricity as an opportunity to be the pioneers in renewable energy? I hope so. To that end, the country will have to take into consideration its approach to renewables. Will they choose to do massive solar farming, or localize village to village?

All that I know, is that India will answer a big question facing our world: can we grow and simultaneously create  sustainability?  Can industry flourish by being ecologically responsible?  I hope so.  If India decides to curb coal production, and invest in newer and more sustainable options as an alternative, they would be examples to the rest of the developing world and the already so-called “developed” nations, of how to be a leader of industry and a champion of our international ecosystem.

Take a look at this link to learn more about India and coal.

 

Serious Air Pollution in China

According to an article in Bloomberg, nearly 4,000 people die in a day in China mainly because of air pollution. Because of the immense coal burning, China has been producing pollutants, such as PM2.5s (particles), which cause strokes, lung cancer, and asthma.

The Bloomberg article also mentions of a man named Richard Muller, a scientific director from Berkeley Earth (group that does research on climate change), of how his life shrank by 20 minutes, for every hour he spent in Beijing.

Kyodo News
Heavy Smog in Harbin, China

This information highlights the serious issue of air pollution. Health is incredibly decreased by burning coal, and with air pollution, everyone’s health is damaged, including children. Richard Muller talks the severity of the issue, by saying that “It’s as if every man, woman and child smoked 1.5 cigarettes each hour.”

As we discussed in the class, Greenworld, using un-renewable energy such as coal is extremely harmful to our environment. There is global warming and climate changes happening even in this moment, and fracking industries have polluted water and caused earthquakes.

It is unbelievably depressing, to know that many people (such as fracking companies, oil companies, etc), do not take much action. When we watched Merchants of Doubt, it showed how leaders full of greed, lie to the public for their own good. Situations like this should not continue, because 4,000 lives are at stake per each hour.

A Worker in Heifei, China
A Worker in Heifei, China

Duke Energy: Complete Ash(holes)

oilspill2

 

When I lived in North Carolina I volunteered for the Charlotte branch of Greenpeace, one of the organizations most active headquarters. I was super fortunate to be a part of very beneficial projects like organizing the installation of solar panels onto our local high school. However much of the work we had to do in Greenpeace was counteracting the disastrous mistakes and negligence of the neighboring Duke Energy plants. Although coal energy has long been proven a harmful and antiquated source of energy Duke continues to use plants around the state as sources of power. Currently Duke Energy runs three active coal plants  and 5 “steam stations” in North Carolina alone. Two days ago (February 5th) marks the two year anniversary of Duke Energy’s irresponsibility leading to one of the largest coal ash spills in the nations history. The burst pipe full of coal ash (leading to a plant which Greenpeace had been petitioning for years) spilled approximately 39,000 tons of coal ash into Dan River. After the incident Duke Energy’s assured the readers of their local newsletter that

“Coal ash is a nonhazardous material, and the levels of trace elements it contains are similar to what you’d find in soil and municipal solid waste.”oilspill

Despite Duke Energy’s oh so comforting assurances oddly enough the Dan River’s water has tested positive for toxins like arsenic, lead and mercury since the 2014 spill. Accidents like the Dan River tragedy are likely to continue happening in North Carolina if the corporate powers of Duke Energy go unopposed. Like many corporate monsters Duke Energy is super tight with the North Carolinian government. The current governor Pat McCrory worked for Duke Energy for 28 years before running for governor of the North Carolina and winning, largely due to the millions of dollars donated to his PAC by… you guessed it: Duke Energy.

So what is there to do against coal spilling, thought out rhetoric corporate/political jackasses who would love to see the river go gray if it meant that they could buy their cousins in-law season passes to the Panthers?

Go to Greenpeace Charlotte’s website. Sign petitions!

Support the implementation of solar panels (Charlotte is one fastest solar panel implementing cities currently, as a result of the recent Dan River spill).

You can email Patty boy himself (probably his secretaries) here: http://governor.nc.gov/contact/email-governor

For more info on Greenpeace initiatives go here:

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