Category Archives: Health

The End… Final Posting

As I am wrapping up my project, I can surely say that I have accumulated a deeper belief and point of view on the importance of keeping our environment healthy, especially our New York City environment. As you all know, my project was focused on green space within urban environments. I focused on why they are necessary for our personal health and for the overall health of the city. I have always loved the outdoors and nature. That is what initially pointed me in this direction, but after spending a lot of time creating and investigating this topic and coming up with a final piece, I have a different relationship with the parks in our city. I have discovered that they are more than just a place for wildlife and trees to thrive, they are also a place for us to exercise, play and essentially escape. They hold so much importance.

Initially my idea for the project, was to interview several people about our green space and create a video montage of their responses. As I was in that process, I realized that it was turning out to not be the most creative or effective way to get the point across.

SO I kept the footage I took but instead of filling the video with interviews, I filled it with a mix of my voice, breath and music that I placed over the video clips. I wanted to find the more creative edge, to really capture the audience and catch them off guard. The video leaves space for the audience’s interpretation, but requires them to think introspectively and openly about what our inner city environment is doing to us. We call ourselves the Big Apple, but our red delicious is in fact rotting at the core. I took this idea and translated it by relating it to the body’s breath patterns.

The music I chose for the piece is from a site called “Epidemic Sound.” This site is created for video makers to choose from the music library provided. The songs are all 100% royalty free and content ID safe and cleared for all multimedia projects. The song is called “Nonchalance and Fabulance 2” created by Marc Torch. It is under the film category and sub category beautiful.

This was an exciting and grueling experience for me, since I am new to working with Adobe Premiere Pro 2015 and took this as an opportunity to challenge myself and create an artistic piece in a medium that was somewhat foreign to me.

Here is the finished piece…

 

“Embracing All Kinds of Nature”

Since my last update, I have changed a piece I previously made, and created a few new garments. Below are pictures I took of the clothes on a friend of mine. I tried to start to think about how we may want to frame the pieces through photography. And now that I have seen them on someone, I can begin to create an idea of styling or how each piece might connect to a larger scene. Some of the fabric used was found in a recycling container at Parsons, and some of the other fabric was left over from previous projects and costumes. I have not been finishing the edges on most of the pieces because I like having an allusion to the idea of incomplete, or unsolved. I believe this quality is echoed in the state of our environment and the choices we now get to make.


I listened to a podcast recently that has shaped my idea of what is occurring to our planet and what role we play in the destruction, preservation, and reshaping of the natural earth, animal species, and plant diversity. I came across the podcast while listening to the TED Radio Hour sponsored by National Public Radio. The topic: Age of the Anthropocene, or a new geological age, defined by humans and their unprecedented impact on Earth. It is broken down into six segments answering, “What’s The Anthropocene? How Do We Embrace All Kinds Of Nature? Are We Headed Into Another Mass Extinction? How Can Dinosaurs Help Us Understand Our Own Species?” and “Can We Preserve Seed Diversity For The Future?” The topics discussed were varied and allowed me to question the environment in ways beyond how we usually approach our consumption crisis. The podcast balances hope and concern well as well as addresses topics we may not know about and deepens topics we may know well.
In this new light, I continue with my final project, thinking of ways to deepen its impact and meaning. Finding out where I can express concern and where we can find hope and activism in the project. Alex and I are in talks right now about how to frame the garments and I know the ideas that have stuck with me must be interwoven. Especially, what I have gained from the segment Emma Marris did on embracing all kinds of nature. Marris brings us back to being a child and experiencing the wonders of life beyond us through the lens of raising her own children. The ideas that the younger generations will hold of the environment will inevitably be different from ours. But, it is still our responsibility to foster a care within them for the same thing we have loved, and lost in some cases. She brought light to something I too often lose sight of, nature in an urban setting. I know that at the very least, this is something that will come through in my final project.

The Persevering Class

The New Yorker’s “A Valuable Reputation” examines yet another case of an ethical scientist vs. a large corporation. This is not the first nor the last case of science vs. profit, and in this unfortunate system of deregulation and privatization, the only solution, it appears, is to completely change the system.

When science, economics, and politics become so intertwined that the goal of safeguarding humanity becomes obsolete, it’s clear that the system is fundamentally flawed.

A few days ago, I visited the Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm, and after being in the concrete jungle of New York City for so long, seeing nature really refocused my attention on its importance and relevance, even in the city.

While many people follow the notion of “out of sight, out of mind,” the importance of knowing what is going into our bodies is ever so important in a world of profit driven farming, where corporations will do anything, including breaking the law, to make more profit at the expense of the environment, our health, and the law.

Scientists like Dr. Tyrone Hayes, Rachel Carson, and Frances Oldham Kelsey work diligently to maintain ethics in science and research and it’s unfortunate and unnerving to read about the mistreatment of scientists who solely wish to protect humanity. Targetting his credibility as a scientist, Syngenta made Dr. Hayes paranoid and seemingly mentally ill. The power they had to control his life in order to hide the truth about their harmful product is frightening, and surely the government and the EPA needs to take better steps to regulate products in an objective way. It’s refreshing to hear about people like Frances Oldham Kelsey, though, and to see how their dedication and ethics can truly prevent disasters.

This article deeply explores the idea of “sound science,” a campaign by corporations to “slow the pace of regulation,” as stated by the article’s author, Rachel Aviv. As we’ve seen in Merchants of Doubt and various other articles and films, corporations need only produce a certain factor of doubt and uncertainty to divide the public and keep their products in the marketplace. And focusing their attention on these issues, as opposed to the science itself, corporations lose track of what’s important in the grand scale of the world and long term impact.

What surprised me about corporations such as Syngenta is their focus on public relations departments. While one might think the purpose of such a company is to provide safe products that enhance, for example, the way vegetables are grown, these companies instead focus on convincing the public that their product is safe, rather than spending the time and money to make a new, hopefully safer one.

This article, however, introduced my to the process of cost-benefit analysis, in which, according to Aviv, “a monetary value is assigned to disease, impairments, and shortened lives and weighed against the benefits of keeping a chemical in use.” This system frightens me and I expect a majority of the public would agree that no product, regardless of its economic benefits, would be worth the lives of innocent citizens.

Thinking about how different products might impact my daily life, I think about NYU’s food service Aramark. From the personal scale of seeing the workers pour gallons of pre mixed eggs from huge bags onto the stove to make scrambled eggs to seeing the precut fruit coming out of sealed packages rather than being freshly cut, I am disgusted by their practices here in the dining halls. But, I can only imagine where this food is coming from and how they and their contractors treat the animals, fields, and workers.

Of course, everything I read online about Aramark and every corporation is going to be biased, but I’ve learned through this article to continue questioning everything, to look closely at the sources of all research and products, and to never sell myself out for money.

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.

 

The Fight Forward

 

“The blood run out of their noses and out their mouths…. They’re trying to cover this stuff up. But it’s not going to be covered up, because I’m going to bring it out in the open for people to see” (Shutmatt 3). Sounding like a biblical scene or one from a sci-fi horror movie, Wilbur Tennant’s farm was a strong and real case of the impact of fluoropolymers and the unregulated chemical industry.

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Dead cattle. Photo curtesy of: http://aussiehunter.org/2016/05/dead-cow-1/

“The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” by Brian Shutmatt has so many levels of shock and horror. I find the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act to be particularly disturbing. “Under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, the E.P.A. can test chemicals only when it has been provided evidence of harm. This arrangement, which largely allows chemical companies to regulate themselves, 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” (12).

With globalization’s neoliberal policies of free trade, privatization, and deregulation, companies, including DuPont, 3M, and so many more giant powers are able to reap the benefits of these policies solely to make more profit. They use their agency to overrule small court cases. Even large cases, such as the fine DuPont had to pay for its concealment of knowledge of PFOA’s toxicity and presence in the environment, only cost pennies compared to their profit.

“The fine represented less than 2 percent of the profits earned by DuPont on PFOA that year” (12). With the seemingly innumerable profits corporations have, one wonders why that money is not used to create a better world.

Such megacorporations reap the benefits of unaware Americans as well. “Corporations could rely upon the public misperception that if a chemical was dangerous, it was regulated’ (12). But, unfortunately, as this article explains, the E.P.A. and other local and federal government environmental agencies have and use little control over mega-corporations.

Whether the government does not provide enough funding for environmental agencies or whether economic policies simply promote privatization and deregulation, policy must be adjusted for the environment to be salvaged.

Millennials and Generation Z hold true voices when it comes to the future we will live in. We must use our capacity to share ideals of sustainable practices, transparency, and regulation to make this world a safer and healthier place for us and for all mankind.

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Millenials protesting climate change. Photo curtesy of: http://thegbrief.com/articles/are-millennials-as-eco-friendly-as-they-seem-522

Like Rob Bilott, we must fight for “the right thing,” even if it takes decades. Bilott’s devotion to uncovering the truth and making substantial change serves as inspiration to us all to find something we are passionate about and take the time and resources to fully develop an argument and change the way citizens look at the world.

Like Rob Bilott, EarthJustice works to represent class actions and citizens affected by the local impact corporations have on the environment and health. EarthJustice is a resource citizens can use to get legal protection and aid in uncovering truths corporations try to hide and in enacting policies and laws to fix the issues.

“How the West Was Lost: Ranchers Devastated by Fossil Fuel Boom” by Emily J. Gertz similarly reiterates the way the government currently works in relation to energy corporations.

Quoting Walter Merschat, a Casper-based geologist, Gertz writes, “‘The underlying reason is that they [Wyoming environmental officials who failed to take the boom’s impacts on groundwater seriously] were tied to the state,’ he said, ‘and the state is tied to the economy, and the economy is tied to oil, coal, and gas wealth, and they were told, “Don’t rock the boat”’” (Gertz 7).

As I grasped from both articles, often times local communities are tied to corporations so much so that the government, economy, and everything else related to the town’s functioning relies on corporations.

In Wyoming, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and so many more places, corporations can control the people, the government, the education, and the laws of the community. This power and control must be challenged so that innocent Americans, such as L.J. and Karen Turner, can continue living the American dream of opportunity.

Without a healthy environment, life cannot sustain itself. Soon enough, our natural resources will be consumed, and only then, it seems, when the damage has been done will the government make corporations liable and responsible.

I also chose to read “GM Seed Firm Monsanto Dismisses ‘Moral Trial’ as a Staged Stunt” by John Vidal. With my interest in sustainable fashion, Monsanto’s cotton seed developments and patents have been of much controversy within the industry. With illness, cancer, deformities, and all sorts of health and environmental issues being blamed on these “unnatural” seeds and products to grow them, this article is very relevant in my studies.

The True Cost, a recent documentary on sustainable fashion, focuses partly on the controversy of GMOs and organic cotton and Monsanto’s impact in Texas and India. Without explicitly blaming Monsanto, the documentary pairs images of deformed children and adults dying of cancer with Monsanto commercials and footage of farmers spraying Monsanto pesticides on the patented seeds.

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Farmer spraying Monsanto pesticides on cotton seeds. Photo curtesy of The True Cost documentary

It is unlikely, I suspect, that Monsanto’s chemicals and seeds don’t impact humans and the environment. Like DuPont, tobacco companies, and so many more industries, I suspect that Monsanto has similar studies and data that they have neglected to share with the public that prove the detrimental consequences of its products.

I find this topic hard to research because of the many biases that exist, and this article certainly documents Monsanto’s opinion on the “Moral Trial.”

“‘It is a staged event, a mock trial where anti-agriculture technology and anti-Monsanto critics play organisers, judge and jury, and where the outcome is pre-determined,’ wrote Martha Burmaster, Monsanto’s director of human rights” (Vidal 2).

And while this may be true, I still subliminally find it to be false. Whenever I read a Monsanto statement, my mind automatically reads it in an uncanny tone, giving me goosebumps and questioning its validity. I expect that the language used is meant to calm readers and trick them into thinking the statements are true and accurate, when in fact they may not be.

In the coming weeks and months, I hope that this “Moral Trial” being held in The Hague will provide a forum for possible victims of Monsanto to safely express their experiences. Additionally, I hope it will help develop international law, bring more international attention and coverage to the controversies, and serve as a basis for the fight forward.

How do we show the effects of engine idling?

George Pakenham, Professor Karl Storchmann, and I continue to ratchet down on idling from our different vantage points.    In my work I have often explored the question of how to render that which is invisible to the unassisted human vision system visible.

Would people shut their engines if they could see the by-products from their gasoline engines?  What if they could see the heat they were generating?

NYC has about 5,100 legally operating food trucks which generate $15 million dollars in taxes.  That’s about 5,000 fossil fuel fired, air-polluting, climate warmers running 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year in New York City alone.


In the United States there are approximately 3 million food trucks burning kerosene, natural gas (hello, it’s methane which comes from decomposing plant matter), propane, and/or gasoline.     That’s a fair number of street level emitters of particulate matter, unburned hydrocarbons, and a whole batch of complex compounds in aerosol, vapor, or otherwise respirable form and heating up the place at the same time.    Plus there is an entire supply chain of high-carbon footprint activities necessary to get that fossil fuel into the tank.

Then there are small engines of many types, buses, and trucks.    Same set of parameters but they burn even more fossil fuel. Instead of 3 million units, there are approximately 253,000,000 cars alone in the United States and around 1,200,000,000 (billion) cars in the world.

That’s a lot of engines, venting approximately 19 pounds of heat trapping carbon products per gallon at the tailpipe.   Somehow we refine a million additional barrels of oil each year  to fuel our lives.  We currently consume 95 million barrels of oil a day (42 gallons per barrel of oil).

In addition to thinking about the complex chemicals generated as a product of the internal combustion process (idling and otherwise) which we are all breathing, this new InfraRed imaging camera has started me to think about more than a billion automobiles helping to heat up the planet as they drive about – or idle.

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Until we come up with a way to change human behavior we are going to have even more people operating their vehicles longer than necessary.   Given the statistics released by the World Health Organization, our love affair with the things we need/want (cars, energy, money, and shiny new things) is literally killing us all.

Kind of a whacky  predicament  for a bunch of otherwise smart people to be in, isn’t it?