Category Archives: Politics

Final Project Update

Throughout my time in Greenworld, I’ve become extremely uncomfortable knowing and witnessing firsthand how common illegal idling occurs every day in New York City. I will be writing and directing a short film concerning the urgency of addressing illegal engine idling on a local level in New York City, especially now that America has a new President-elect. This matter has never been more urgent than right now. The President-elect’s notions regarding climate change or preserving and protecting our environment are pitiful and terrifying. I am not one to claim someone is wrong. However, scientific facts exist to prove his statements are based on opinions, not facts and are therefore incorrect.

Anyway, back to the project… I first learned from George Pakenham that there has been an anti-idling law on the books in New York City since 1971 and has gone almost unenforced, all the more emphasizing the blatant disregard and terrifying indifference this important health and environmental issue brings to light. Ultimately, I will be using this filmmaking platform to make idling enforcement more of a priority as well as to educate people of Bill 717, an anti-idling bill currently being proposed and reviewed in New York City, the monetary incentive New Yorkers could receive by reporting illegal idling if Bill 717 passes (which happens to be a comfortable yearly salary), core traits and reasoning behind human behavior (specifically why people do not take action when they know what they’re doing is wrong or is not helping a good cause), and finally, distributing information on how to continue moving forward with this issue, which is by going from the top down and inundating specific members of the NYPD with statistics regarding the immediate action necessary to make anti-idling enforcement more prevalent in NYC and to begin discussing this issue more around the internet to increase awareness of what tremendous damage this is contributing to the environment.

My new friend, Isabelle B. Silverman of the Core Fuel Engine Group has been kind enough to discuss my final project with me and she’s provided me with some excellent places to start taking action prior to knowing whether Bill 717 gets passed or not. For instance, anyone could send countless email to the NYPD Chiefs Michael Pilecki and Chief Chan.  Chief Chan is the head of the NYPD Transportation Unit and Pilecki is his Deputy. Isabelle also suggested reaching out to Mayor DeBlasio and asking him to make idling enforcement more of a priority especially given the thousands of 311 calls on idling that’ve resulted in no action. Here are their two emails:

thomas.chan@nypd.org

michael.pilecki@nypd.org

Webpage where submission for Mayor DeBlasio can be made:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/static/pages/officeofthemayor/contact.shtml

We should also be tweeting about this and posting on Facebook. Any social media presence helps!

Inundating them with these emails, tweets, and Facebook messages should help tremendously because they will have to start talking about it. There is also the possibility that students could start a social media campaign, even write a Care2 petition and get it signed online. Here’s some of the text from Isabelle. She believes it could be sufficient to be emailed, tweeted, or posted on Facebook:

“Illegal engine idling considerably contributes to bad air quality and noise which is why, since 2010, 40,000 New Yorkers have filed 311 idling complaints. Idling is clearly an important issue to New Yorkers but the 311 complaints don’t lead to tickets because the vehicle is gone by the time the DEP gets the complaint. The NYPD Traffic Enforcement Agents (TEA) are the city agents that are best suited to hand out idling tickets. Currently, TEAs only issue about 2,500 idling tickets compared to 9 million expired meter tickets.  Given that issuing idling tickets is more confrontational because the driver is usually in the vehicle, please dispatch a few hundred TEAs in pairs and make it their main focus to issue idling and double-parking tickets. Often, double-parked vehicles also idle so they should get two tickets. This law has been on the books since 1971 and has gone almost unenforced. Thank you very much for your consideration to this important health issue!”

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.

Before the Flood Documentary

This weekend, I had the opportunity to see Leonardo DiCaprio’s new film, Before the Flood. Following DiCaprio’s journey through places and phenomena shaped by climate change, the film features many familiar faces we’ve seen in documentaries about environmentalism and climate change.

As a recently appointed UN Messenger of Peace with a focus on climate change, DiCaprio has been using his stardom for quite a while to bring attention to issues on climate change. However, dissenters evenmoreso attack climate change supporters because of DiCaprio’s appointment to the UN, saying he has no scientific background and as a Hollywood actor is just as superficial as climate change is.

The film also examines climate change denialism funded by fossil fuel industries, including the Koch Brothers. Like Merchants of Doubt, the film explains that all these corporations have to do is divide the public, not win the debate; corporations find people with fairly reasonable credentials to speak lofty on climate change. This is enough to create a two-sided debate amongst the public.

But, this film brought to my attention the fact that a large percentage of US leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives are connected, in one way or another, to fossil fuel companies and halt progress on preventative measures.

Another issue the film examines is the issue of lifestyle and consumption. People argue that these issues must be put at the center of climate negotiations. American consumption of energy has increased dramatically and seemingly exponentially, and compared to the consumption of other nations is completely ridiculous. But, Dicaprio argues that consumption is never going to change; Americans are not going to want less, spend less, or expect less. Rather, what needs to change is the type of energy used: from fossil fuels to renewables.

But currently, the US is hypocritical in telling other nations to use renewables when they don’t even push it on themselves. A major question the film posed is: Why can’t the US lead by example when it comes to renewable energy and climate change provisions? Is it not our responsibility to help the world transition before it’s too late?

Besides for renewable energy, the film looks at melting glaciers in Iceland, rising sea levels and its effect on small island countries and even here in the US, the effect of palm oil throughout the world, air quality and toxicity in China, coral reef destruction, “carbon bombs” in forest fires, and methane release from cows, among other topics. This film certainly tries to tie all of these topics into one large discussion on climate change, and while overwhelming, it certainly brings to awareness many issues that I’ve known about and many that I hadn’t learned about.

Ending the Paris Climate Accord Signing and serving as the ending of the film, DiCaprio powerfully declared to world leaders: “Now think about the shame that each of us will carry when our children and grandchildren look back and realize that we had the means of stopping this devastation, but simply lacked the political will to do so. Massive change is required right now—one that leads to a new collective consciousness, a new collective evolution of the human race inspired and enabled by a sense of urgency from all of you. You are the last best hope of earth. We ask you to protect it. Or we, and all living things we cherish, are history.”

If you have time, I highly recommend seeing this film in theaters, on Hulu, or on YouTube.

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.

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 )

Lies on Lies on Lies

Trump facts vs. True facts

During last night’s debate, Trump contradicted himself on the topic of global warming. Clinton calls him out.

This ties into the theme we saw in George Orwell’s 1984. The slogan of “ignorance is strength,” that  is reinforced in a dystopian community. The juxtaposition of war equals peace and freedom equals slavery, brainwashes the citizens into following the leading Party without question. Similar to the population of voters rooting for Trump.

If Trump wins the election, his ignorance and lack of truth and care about global warming and the environment will manifest into an increase of utmost harm for our Earth. He is similar to other climate deniers whom convince people that warming will help the environment. He is contradicting the past/present facts that show the short future of the environment. Like Big Brother in 1984, this contradiction allows the Party to keep existing but is in no way healthy to its community. The enforcement of ignorance is something that we find as a similarity between the book and Trump’s word.

The fight for healthy environmentalism is an ongoing battle, that not only the deals with the world we see but also the words we hear.

 

Indian Point Final Documentary

Summary:

After a long journey, filled with a lot of new information, not only about Indian Point Energy Center but also about nuclear power in general, Tucker and I have completed a cut of our documentary for the class. This cut is only five minutes long and our work is certainly not over. We have hours of information about Indian Point and the nuclear power process from a variety of experts including Dr. Irwin Redlener director of Columbia’s Center for Natural Disaster Preparedness, Arthur Ginsberg, an ex-engineer at Indian Point, and Physician’s for Social Responsibility board member Alfred Meyer.  We would like to continue to work on building this documentary and adjusting it to fit the issue as the debate evolves. The issue of Indian Point remains to be a current issue locally and the debate over nuclear power as a resource remains contested nationally and globally.

Issues We Researched:

Some of the most interesting, and unexpected issues we learned about during our research and interview processes were

• The Algonquian Pipeline and the issues with its expansion so close to Indian Point.

• The effects of thermal-pollution on surrounding aquatic environments.

• In depth knowledge about the inner workings of nuclear power plants, including how they have evolved over time and the various safeguards installed.

• The history of Indian Point and the activist movement against it.

• Nuclear Power as compared to other forms of harnessing energy such as solar power, oil, and natural gas.

Some Highlights:

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Arthur Ginsberg, an ex employee of Indian Point, drew Tucker and me a diagram of the closed circuits within a nuclear power point. 

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Tucker and I went to Peekskill to see Indian Point’s proximity to the Hudson river for ourselves. Tucker couldn’t resist the selfie. 

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We saw the power plant from pretty close up, our ability to reach the plant so easily sparked our curiosity about the possibility about Indian Point as a possible terrorist target.

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Tucker attended and participated in a rally by the activist group SAPE (Stop Algonquian Pipeline Expansion) and noticed the very small amount of young individuals protesting.

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Through our research, in particular our interview with Alfred Meyer, we discovered that Indian Point rests upon not one but two (Stamford-Peekskill and Ramapo) fault lines. 

Our Process:

Initially Tucker and I were inspired to do our final project on the Indian Point Energy Center (Nuclear Power Plant) when Alfred Meyer came in to discuss the issue with our class. The more research we did on the power plant the more interested (and upset) Tucker and I became about the issue. After our interview with Alfred, Tucker and I were led to some interesting sources including the group SAPE. Through this exposure to activist groups we realized that we were not the only ones who were upset by this issue. But it would’ve been too easy to round up these activists and make a documentary arguing against Indian Point with their semi-credible knowledge.

So we looked for sources who could help us understand the multi-faceted debate surrounding Indian Point. I contacted several individuals from both the NYU Langone Medical Center and the NYU Tandon School of Engineering.  One source who was especially helpful in steering me in the right direction was Lorcan Folan, an engineer at Tandon who put me in touch with Dr. Redlener and Arthur Ginsberg. Dr. Redlener, director for Colombia’s Center for Natural Disaster Preparedness, gave me great insight as to how a problem at Indian Point could affect the entire surrounding community and coastal areas. Arthur Ginsberg was a very essential source as he spent 36 years of his life working for Indian Point in various positions from managing the control center to acting as one of the head engineers. He told Tucker and I about some of the inner workings of the plant such as their emergency plans and the training required to work at Indian Point. He also provided a counter-view that was in favor of the re-licensing of Indian Point and the continued use of nuclear power.

Tucker and I learned an incredible amount on this journey. But we do not plan to end the project here.

Arthur Ginsberg has discussed with us the possibility of visiting the facilities at Indian Point Energy Center, and we intend to take him up on this offer. We have an ample amount of footage to continue editing and we intend to stay informed on the still developing issues. We would like to eventually have a cut to send to film festivals and to organizations that could use our film to educate and empower others.

Our Product:

We hope that you join us in saying no to extractive industries and fighting for a cleaner, safer energy future!

~ Tucker Pearson & Georgia Krause

 

Down with Big Soda!

I would like to start this post off by encouraging everybody to follow @KillBig Soda on instagram and support the movement behind the hashtag #KillBigSoda. It would mean the world to me, as well as help spread the word on these horrible big businesses and their harmful messages and products.

coca-cola-logo

Alright, now let’s get into the real issues. The overall summary of the problem goes something like this: Big name sodas, such as Coca-Cola, have been marketing the fact that sugar is not bad for you. The cure to obesity is in exercise, and not a reduction of sugar intake. This, clearly, is not true. And yet so many Americans drink soda on a daily basis, which is essentially killing them. Not only has Coca-Cola been a deceptive company in the past but they continue to be.

So here is what we know, The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is our current problem. The ACSM is a corporation that offers trainer certification for athletic professionals. They are seeking to be the only licensing entity for trainers in the U.S. That would mean every trainer who didn’t have their license/ certification through the ACSM would be unable to continue their business. It would be equivalent to practicing medicine without a license, and you would be subject to fines, arrest, or both. This seems legitimate right? You would assume that athletic trainers should have a level of qualification to be doing their job correctly. But here is the real problem with all of this: Coke is a major sponsor and partner of the ACSM, as is Pepsico and Gatorade. Now why is this a problem? In order for you to understand, we need to dive into a little bit of history with these companies.

ACSM_horizontal

Last Fall Coca-Cola was exposed by the New York Times for paying scientists to expel the “myth” that eating to much, and sugary drinks, were the leading cause of weight gain. They wanted to convince the public that physical activity can offset a bad diet.

This was Coca-Cola’s response to the science of obesity coming out to the public and a period of rising efforts to tax sugary drinks, remove them from schools, and stop companies from marketing them to children. In the last two decades, consumption of full-calorie sodas by the average American has dropped by 25 percent. So Coca-Cola’s idea was to start an organization called the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN) whose website administration was registered to Coca-Cola Headquarters. Since 2008, Coca-Cola had been providing millions in funding for various projects to two of the GEBN members to essentially shape obesity research in their favor, and stifle criticism of it’s products. Thankfully, the GEBN was disbanded in late 2015.

10COKE-1-tmagArticle

So what is happening now? Well, after Coca-Cola was outed by the New York Times they wanted to reassure the public that they were still a “trustworthy” company and vowed to be more transparent about their funding. Coke has vowed to act with “More Transparency” and disclose a list of health and well-being partnerships and research activities they have funded in the past five years, one of which being the ACSM. If we tally up the seven entries found in the Coca-Cola database, we find that Coca-Cola has paid the ACSM Foundation at least a total of $865,000 in the past five years. But that’s not all. Coca-Cola can also influence the ACSM by targeting its officials, not just by funding the organization directly. BlairFor example, former ACSM president Steven Blair is on the advisory board of Exercise is Medicine (EIM), a joint ACSM-Coca-Cola partnership. EIM is an initiative focused on encouraging primary care physicians and other health care providers to include exercise when designing treatment plans for patients. Sound familiar? it should, because this is identical to Coca-Cola’s previous campaign scandal. Steven Blair was personally paid $4,626,000 by Coca-Cola.

 

BUT, that still isn’t everything yet. It only get’s worse with this so called “transparency” act Coca-Cola came up with. We know from the Coca-Cola Foundation’s 2013 tax forms that the majority of Coca-Cola’s donations to health and fitness went to organizations outside the US and Canada. Coca-Cola’s money that goes to ACSM officials or programs outside of the US is not listed in their transparency listings. Judging by the Coca-Cola Foundation’s 2012-2013 tax returns this exclusion may hide a significant amount of Coke funding. Meaning Coke would have paid closer to $240 million, not a merely $120 million, to health scientists and organizations over the past five years.

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Now that we have one company out of the way, we have to talk about Pepsico which is the owner of Gatorade. They are another sponsor of the ACSM. The ACSM isn’t looking to good right now, is it?

Gatorade as a beverage contains just as much sugar as Coca-Cola, and that isn’t even it’s biggest problem. Hyponatremia is a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in the blood is too low. This happens when your body is overly hydrated. The American College of Sports Medicine advocates the amount of fluid intake for an athlete should be “the maximal amount that can be tolerated.” Gatorade advocates, “at least 40 oz. of fluid an hour.” Neither of which are true. The average water bottle is 16oz. That would be equivalent to drinking 2.5 bottles of water every hour. After at least 17 preventable deaths, Gatorade and ACSM officials finally confessed to both counts of false advertising. People had to die before these companies came out about their wrong doings. Athletes should just drink ad libitum, or when they feel like it. Humans possess an effective mechanism for preventing hyper-hydration and severe dehydration: thirst. Gatorade leverages its relationship with the ACSM to influence coaches’ and athletes’ drinking practices. Gatorade, and its owner PepsiCo, are quite open about this. Gatorade has spent the last four decades and billions of dollars misleading athletes and coaches about hydration, and they continue to do so with their “Beat the Heat” campaign.

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Now, if the ACSM gets the power to be the sole licensing agency for athletic trainers false information will be given to public at an alarmingly fast rate. Our ideas of fitness and nutrition will be governed by big business and greedy CEOs. I myself am an athletic trainer and will not stand for this. America already has an alarming obesity percentage as well as poor physical education requirements. Let’s not add to the problem,  but stand up against it. Please join me in the fight and KILL BIG SODA!!

If you would like to view my presentation again, Click Here!

The link to my Instagram page is up top, but here it is again if you missed it! Click Here! 🙂

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