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Unless Final Project

I was pleased with the way my presentation turned out in class, however I learned within a few minutes of my presentation that fifteen minutes was not enough time to fully explain my whole project and therefore, I was not able to fully present my project and its best.  That being said, I believe I was able to convey some of the main ideas in my project. The main points I wanted to highlight in my presentation were how each of the characters in “The Lorax” were symbols for environmental issues in the world today.  However, I learned that in order for this presentation to be useful to a general audience, I would need to rework it and make some revisions.

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Prior to beginning my project after I had many different formats of presentation that I was considering.  Ultimately, I chose Prezi to present my information in the most aesthetically pleasing and concise way possible.  I initially had trouble working through the book and trying to decide what motifs in “The Lorax” were important to highlight.  After sifting through Dr.Seuss’ imaginative language and coming up with a list of important characters and metaphors, I needed to discover what they all meant.  This proved to be the most enlightening and exciting aspect of my process.

I started with THE LORAX, who represents all of the companies and protesters against logging and dumping products in an animal environment.  The Hershey Company aims to source 100% of their palm oil needs from sustainable sources by the end of the year and ensures that they will not purchase palm oil through deforestation.  In response to mass deforestation in Indonesia, Disney is no longer associated with paper suppliers who have been linked to deforestation. Disney has stopped using paper prodcuts that do not meet the FSC-Controlled Wood Standards.

Next, was THE ONCE-LER, who represents all of the companies whose factories destroy environmental resources and surrounding areas. While most are fully aware of the damage caused, they proceed to deny it is their doing. A company called Sinar Mas, reminded me of the Once-ler.  The Palm oil subsidiary of Sinar Mas has been accused of causing deforestation in Indonesian rainforests. This corporation has also been targeted as one of the eight companies responsible for sending hazardous levels of smog into Singapore and Malaysia. Companies such as Unilever, Nestle, and Burger King have all dropped Sinar Mas as their paper and palm oil supplier, due to the large amount of damage the company has had on the environment.

THE YOUNG BOY represents a chance for change in the environment for harm and waste.  The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) attempts to reach the average American audience by offering programs around the country that educate people about nature, climate, weather, and health in order for the participants to create personal ties and to understand how the environment impacts their lives.

SWOMEE SWANS represent the consequences of all unchecked air pollution. Air pollution particles increase the risk of contracting cardiovascular and respiratory disease.  Globally, more than 3 million people die prematurely due to air pollution.  By 2050, it is predicted that 6.6 million premature deaths around the world will be caused by extended exposure to air pollution.

BARBALOOTS represent the land animals that cannot continue to live in their environment due to waster and pollution.  About 80% of wildlife live in the rainforest, many of which are the most vulnerable to deforestation.  When there species lose a place to live, the become easier to hunt and therefore their populations begins to decrease and some go extinct. Some species that are currently threatened due to deforestation are the Amur Leopard (Around 60 in existence), the Black Rhino (Around 5,000 in existence), and the Cross River Gorilla (200-3000 in existence).

HUMMING FISH represent all consequences of unmitigated water pollution. Around 2 years ago, the state of Michigan decided to switch the Flint water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in order to save money, although the river is know for its polluted water.  The water was eroding the iron water main pipes, turning the water brown and lead began to enter the water supply.  A young pediatric doctor in the area noticed lead levels doubling and tripling in her patients’ blood levels, which is irreversible.

TRUFFULA TREES represent the materials that companies use for themselves that is from the environment.  Some over-exploited resources include fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal), precious metals, trees, and water.  Problems that arise with exploitation of naturals resources include deforestation, forced migrations of species, soil erosion, ozone depletion, water pollution, and the threat of natural disaster.

GRICKLE GRASS represents all of the plants that cannot continue to grow and flourish.  Habitat loss, deforestation, and acid rain have caused many species of plant life to become threatened.  This does not only reduce the amount of diversity in plant life, but also reduces the amount of nutrients and habitats for different wildlife.  Some threatened species include tongue fern, dwarf lake iris, prairie fringed orchid, and Houghton’s goldenrod.

SMOGULA SMOKE represents the air pollution made by companies. American Electric Power (AEP) emits 130 metric tons carbon dioxide a year.  This accounts for about 2% of the American annual total.

GLUPPITY GLUP represents all waste caused by manufacturing and industrial companies On April 20, 2010, an explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caused a sea-floor oil gusher to flow for 87 days into the Gulf of Mexico.  It is considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in history.  Due to the spill, extensive damage was caused to marine and wildlife habitats. In 2013, it was reported that animals continued to die at exponential rates due to the explosion.

THNEEDS represent fad products companies manufacture that are quickly no longer in demand. The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world, next to oil.  The production includes raw material, textile manufacturing, clothing construction, shipping, retail, and disposal of the garment.  Determining the footprint of this industry is nearly impossible due to the immense variety in production processes.  However, a general assessment must take into account not only obvious pollutants – the pesticides used in cotton farming, dyes used in manufacturing and the amount of natural resources used in extraction, farming, harvesting, processing, manufacturing, and shipping.

After my analysis, I covered a brief history of “The Lorax.”  “The Lorax” was published in 1971, a year after the first Earth Day was held. Dr. Seuss chose to set the story in a post-apocalyptic landscape in order to show the consequences of excessive industrialization. “The Lorax” was Dr. Seuss’s way of critiquing capitalism. He implied that the Once-ler relied on an aggressive advertising campaign in order to promote thneeds, a product that has no real purpose, in order to explain how advertising creates a false need for products with temporary appeal. Pro-business groups have attacked “The Lorax” as environmental propaganda and the book has been banned in some schools and libraries. A book very similar to “The Lorax” called “The Truax” was sponsored by the logging industry from the pro-consumerism point of view in response to Dr. Seuss’s book. In 1988, a school district in California has “The Lorax” on the second grade reading list. Terri Birkett, a member of a family owned hardwood flooring company, wrote “The Truax” and it was published by the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers’ Association (NOFMA).

I also thought it was important to do a section in my presentation about what we can learn from “The Lorax” at any age.

  1. Treasure what is left of the environment
  • The Once-ler reminisces about “the days when the grass was still green and the pond was still wet and the clouds were still clean.” He regrets the impact of his actions on the once untouched natural environment that surrounded him.
  1. Exploitation of nature is difficult to stop
  • Upon encountering a Truffula Tree, the Once-ler chops one down to create a Thneed. When the Lorax tries to stop him, he says “There’s no cause for alarm, I chopped just one tree.” As demand for the Theed increases, more and more trees are cut down until they are all gone.
  1. If we don’t speak up for the environment, who will?
  • Perhaps the Lorax’s most iconic line is “I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” Animals and trees cannot stand up for themselves and rely on us in order to keep them safe.
  1. Corporations with good intentions can make bad decisions
  • People trust corporations and government to make sound choices. The Once-ler did not set out to exploit the environment, but when money was on the line, the environment was no longer a concern.
  1. Every action has a reaction
  • The Once-ler begins to chop down trees to make Thneeds as fast as possible, without worrying about the effects it has on the environment. First, the Bar-ba-loots who eat the Truffula fruits cannot eat. Then the fumes from the factory pollute the water and the air, which forces the Swomee-Swans and Humming-Fish to leave. Many oil companies begin to drill without taking into consideration the effects it has on human health and the environment.
  1. Development must be sustainable
  • Exploitation of the environment can turn over a quick profit for companies, but once the resources are gone, these companies can no longer make money in the same location and must move to harvest (and therefore deplete the resources from another location).
  1. Consumerism is unsustainable
  • The Once-ler is able to justify his need to destroy the environment because he claims that Thneeds are something that “Everyone needs!” However, our “needs” are dictated to us via advertising. If we do not reduce consumption and recycle, we will not be able to sustain a healthy living environment.
  1. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. “

The final aspect of my presentation were four pictures where I took characters from the Lorax and put them in current environmental situations.

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Swomee Swans having to leave due to excessive smog and air pollution caused by Indonesian clothing factories. Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 8.28.27 PM

The Young Boy finding a deserted forest in the Sumatran rainforest where there used to be ample amounts of wildlife and plant life.

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Humming fish having to leave the water they live in due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill polluting their waters.

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The Lorax appearing from the  stump of a tree that has been cut down in the Sumatran rainforest for palm oil.

 

I really enjoyed learning about companies who are trying to make a difference and reduce deforestation, such as Disney and Hershey.  I found researching environmental issues, such as deforestation in the Sumatran rainforests due to unsustainable farming of palm oil, the Indonesian clothing industry, over-exploited resources, and specific events, like the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, very eye-opening.  What I ultimately enjoyed most about my project was that it allowed me to learn about topics of a wide array.  I was able to research so many different environmental issues that I was previously unaware of. I also really enjoyed taking some of the characters from the book and putting them in current environmental situations.  I am not a Photoshop expert whatsoever (I used it for the first time in this project!), so it was fun to learn how to utilize some of those tools to put the end of my presentation together.  I hope that I am able to finesse my skills in order to make the end product of the pictures even better.

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Some of my notes from when I was initially outlining my Prezi presentation

        The main reason I chose to do a project based on “The Lorax” was because I genuinely believe in the message the book conveys.  In Green World, I have learned that there are so many different ways to make the general public aware of environmental issues in the world and as artists, it is our job to inspire change.  As odd as it may seem, Dr. Seuss is an artist. He has used his art (in this case a childrens’ book) to convey a message and evoke change.  I wanted to further elaborate on the groundwork he had already laid out with “The Lorax.”  I believe that fully analyzing the book and applying his fictional dystopian world to the real world is necessary in order to fully appreciate the message of “The Lorax.”

Perhaps the most difficult part of this project for me was to find 10 strangers to impact through this project.  One day I decided that the specific people I wanted to impact with my first version of my project were adults who were fans of “The Lorax.” This lead me to a specialty children’s bookstore called “Books of Wonder.” I had the opportunity to speak with the manager of the store about my findings in “The Lorax” and why I find that it such an essential book to have on the shelves at children’s bookstores.  She and I discussed “The Truax” and she introduced me to various staff members who were very kind and willing to discuss my findings with them further.  I brought up my presentation and discussed what I had found with the staff of the book store.  One of the women told me that she wished I had come in earlier, because she had just read “The Lorax” to a group of children on Earth Day and would have loved to have shared some of the facts I had shared with her and her co-workers.  I unfortunately was not permitted to take pictures in the bookstore with the staff members, but I am very happy that I was able to have an in-depth discussion with people who love children’s books and who have felt that the impact of these books on their lives have been great enough for them to want to currently work in a specialty bookstore of this kind.

I hope that this presentation can be used as groundwork for a potential teaching tool.   I have spoken with teachers, principals, and others who work in environmental education about my project and potentially adapting it to the needs of their classrooms.   I think that in order for this project to go further, many revisions to my presentation must be made, but what is great about this project is that “The Lorax” has stood the test of time and concern for the environment is still quite apparent.  A project such as this will have to change with time in order to stay pertinent and engaging. I am grateful for the opportunity of presenting my project to the class, because ultimately, it was a “first draft” of what this presentation can be.  I needed the experience of presenting this in front of my colleagues to understand what the next step in the process must be.  I have no doubt that this project can make change, but first I need to go back to the drawing board and decide what needs to be revised, deleted, and added.

 

Indian Point Documentary Update

At this time Georgia and I have interviewed Alfred Meyer, and I went to Peekskill, NY to document the SAPE2016 rally. Moving forward we are collecting archival footage and interviews pertinent to the Indian Point Energy Facility, and we plan to go shoot at the site itself this wednesday. We are not sure what to expect, but we will do our best investigative journalism. I am hoping that we can get an employee on camera, or at the very least get some close-up footage of the site.

I have been thinking a lot about what I hope for this film. When I went to the SAPE rally, I realized that average age of the protesters had to be at least 50 years old. While I appreciate  that there’s a large body of activists from my parent’s generation out there fighting for our futures; I think, “where the hell are my peers”. It is true that some members of Earth Guardians NY came to speak at the rally, but if real change is to occur, we need to get a larger portion of the young involved in energy politics. My hope for this film, is to inspire more young adults to “dive-in” and begin fighting for what they know is right. If you see injustice in the world, don’t assume that others are going to stop it.

“Every time we witness an injustice and do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love.”

-Julian Assange

Update on #STR8OUTTAFLINT

As I mentioned last week in my post, I am currently working on developing character’s out of interviews and news articles that are published in relation to the Flint Water Crisis thus far. Using those characters, I’m creating short monologues that each contribute a different point of view on the discussion.

A collage created by yours truly via http://www.straightouttasomewhere.com
A collage created by yours truly via http://www.straightouttasomewhere.com

While the creative process is in the works, I am also trying to figure out exactly how to perform the piece in front of an audience.

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Tisch has very limited resources when it comes to rehearsal/performance spaces and people usually end up having to fight their way through administration to get a tiny closet in Tisch to perform in. (no joke)

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However, my acting studio, Stella Adler Studio, thankfully offers their students rehearsal space and sometimes even performance spaces depending on the project.

I’m working on creating a proposal for the head of my studio to see if there’s a way that I could get performance space for #STR8OUTTAFLINT so that I can have an actual audience to perform for and also so that I don’t have to worry about getting arrested by NYPD for performing in public spaces across NYC.

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I originally had the idea of filming it and posting the film on vimeo or youtube, but that is no longer an option due to my friends bailing on me.

Hopefully I’ll be able to solve the performance space issue soon so that I can start inviting people. Otherwise, what’s the point, right?

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Update: SEEGREENNYC

Since my post last month, I have visited two new locations, both which (like Newtown Creek) are Superfund sites in New York City. I decided to check out Sponge Park, the phytoremediation project in the Gowanus that I posted about earlier, and was pleasantly surprised by how the construction is coming along. It looked like more of a public space than I had imagined and is a great example of how an addition to the landscape can serve multiple purposes.

Sponge Park, off 2nd Street in Carroll Gardens
Sponge Park, off 2nd Street in Carroll Gardens.
Another view of Sponge Park.
Another view of Sponge Park.

I also stopped by the Wolff-Alport Site in Ridgewood, Queens, which is the most radioactive area in New York City. Located on Irving Avenue right off the Knollwood Park Cemetary, it was the former location of the Wolff-Alport Chemical Company. Illegal dumping of thorium sludge directly into the street sewer from the 1920s-1940s has contaminated the sewage system and the soil, and the site was declared a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2014. Unfortunately, my camera ran out of battery when I got there, but I will return to take some more photos soon!

Screenshot of SEEGREENNYC
Screenshot of SEEGREENNYC.

I have began building the website to host the VR environments. There is still a lot of information that has to been added, but I will have each image thumbnail in the homepage link to an informative page that lets viewers access the panoramas as well as a brief summary of the history of the area and ways to get involved in fixing these problems.

A Proposal

It seems that in life there is very little that one can actually be certain of. Moreover, when you think you are certain about something (such as my final project), you are certainly unable to be certain that you are certain. But there is  one thing that is certain: air quality in hyper urban areas is an issue that greatly affects us all.

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My original final project plan was to write a deep and representational play about castaways on an island. But then a certain head accoutrement was put on my head and I had a change of heart….

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Now, I have taken upon myself (as well as in partnership with the great Haley Sakamoto) to help the cause and fight against an Idle Threat.

Indeed, Haley and I intend to join George Pakenham on his “one-man citizen activism campaign that went all the way to City Hall and is still going strong.” Our proposal: to make a publicity campaign for the new bill being passed in New York City council (brought about by George, council member Helen Rosenthal, and the chair of the committee of Environmental Protection Donovan Richards) that would incentivize citizens to submit evidence of idling in the city. The bill, seeking to call upon the citizenry to enforce a law that the NYPD lets slide on a monumental basis, would allow someone the chance to receive up to 50% of the fine if they were to record and submit video footage of someone idling on the street fro more than 3 minutes (1 in a school zone).

Our campaign would have two fronts: Propaganda and Social Media. On the social media front, we would use an Instagram account to keep followers in the loop with pictures both updating them on the progress of the bill and alerting them with photographic evidence to the ongoing problems with air pollution in general. It would all tie back to the context of New York City, however.

With a Twitter account, we could use short, concise, and humorous posts to make quick and regular posts about our and other people’s agendas, and to spread awareness about a whole spectrum of issues related to Idling and air pollution. Twitter is great for short sweet and to the point messages, and I hope to make the twitter into a creative and interesting progression that entices people into finding out about the process surrounding the idling law.

With a Facebook account, we could make a “Friends of the air” page and connect with as many people as possible. When we have “friended” a sufficient group, we can begin to post about the issues at hand and communicate directly with people about our progress, their perspective on the matters, and recruit allies to our cause. We could also add a snapchat account into the mix dedicated solely to catching idlers on the street.

On the propaganda front, we could use slogans (in development), photographs, posters, and gas masks in ways to force idling and air pollution into the public collective consciousness of the NYU student body. And to tie in an idea of the great Professor Karl Storchmann, we could archive everything in a comprehensive site or file in which someone could look back on all of the information and publicity items we produced.

Overall, our plan is to bring this extremely tangible and immediate issue to the attention of the people, so that, such as the aim of the bill currently going through city council, we can get people to start taking ownership of fixing a stupid problem.

Final Project Update

My project was to write a series of three plays that attempted to dissect the different players in the oil fracking industry, and the people who are affected by it. I collected my initial research and started to form the plot throughout the three plays. Then, I got started on the first two. Part way through writing though, we had a visit in class from George Pakenham, the Wall Street banker turned environmental vigilante. He shared with us his movie Idle Threat, which tracked his one-man journey of informing the public of NYC’s non-idling law. Through the film, not only was George able to spread awareness to thousands of people, but also gain momentum in enacting legal change to better enforce the law.

Inspired by the changes one man could make, my fellow classmate, Sam, and I asked how we can assist George in his mission. As of now, that George’s biggest need as of now is a strong social media campaign that will speak to our younger generation. Sam and I have a proposal for a twitter and Facebook campaign aimed to informing the public of the bill George is trying to get passed. Depending on George’s feedback, we might focus on one social media platform or even add another one.

Documentary Activism and Formation

Idle Threat and Racing Extinction: Two passion driven documentaries about a group of people acknowledging issues that are a threat to our environment and our planet, and actively pursuing the goal of minimizing the damages that come from these issues.

On one hand you have Racing Extinction with a Hollywood production budget, dealing with global-scale issues in regards to animals that have been extinct and some that are on the verge of being extinct. The film takes us to several different countries across the world and introduces several different methodologies that these driven journalists, artists and scientists use to fight this battle.

On the other hand you have Idle Threat with a minimalistic production budget in comparison to Racing Extinction, dealing with a much more local issue of curbside engine idling in New York City. George Pakenham seeks help and support from the City of New York, rather than taking this issue to a global level. Pakenham uses humor to keep his audience engaged with the documentary, which is a tactic that Racing Extinction doesn’t use.

While Racing Extinction’s insane production budget makes the film a spectacle for larger groups of people across the globe, Idle Threat has a more relatable and conversational tone that allows us to connect with the subject easily.

Nonetheless, both documentaries were eye opening and reassuring that environmental activism can have satisfying results.

On that note, I would like to give some updates on my project.

As you all know, I am working on creating a performance art piece to raise awareness about the Flint Water Crisis.

I am currently finishing up my research on individuals who were/are effected by this tragic event. With the data I collect from my research, I am going to start writing monologues representing different characters. This is similar to the work that Anna Deavere Smith does.

I was also inspired to use this device of using character distinction as a way of sending a message from a TED talk that I watched last year by Sarah Jones, in which she portrays nearly six different characters from her own life to describe her diverse background and the benefits of diversity within a specific community.

Additionally, I started developing choreography to Beyonce‘s new controversial song “Formation“. The music video to the song is highly political and features tons of strong statements. However, I’m not sure if the lyrics of the song suggest the same. Beyonce released “Formation” during the height of the Flint Water Crisis, which is a curious action on her part. Therefore, I am interested in exploring ways in which the two might be related to one another.

Final Project Update (Indian Point Documentary)

Yesterday, on April 3rd I attended a rally in Peekskill, NY for SAPE2016.  The site of the rally was the Peekskill Riverfront Green, which offers excellent views of the Hudson River, and Indian Point Energy Center.  There were blistering winds and cold temperatures; however, there was a fairly large turnout.  My contact at the event was Gary Shaw and his wife Jeanne (pictured below).  They have been actively vocal against Indian point for sometime now.

Jeanne and Gary Shaw at the SAPE2016 rally in Peekskill, NY

This rally is directly important to our documentary, because the expansion of Algonquin Pipeline would call for a high-pressure gas pipeline to pass within 105ft of the control room of Indian Point Energy Center.  A site that already has two fault lines crossing its property. As I have stated before, the Indian Point facility has already been dealing with the consequences of infrastructure issues for some time now.  It is like adding insult to injury to increase the risk of a major catastrophe by having this pipeline built so close to the reactors at indian point.

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The rally had many great speakers including Dr. Courtney Williams and Paul Blanch (featured in the video bellow) and the Mayor of Peekskill, who vowed to “not take a even a dime” from energy companies for his town, unlike many of the other surrounding towns.  The rally was a great experience, and really opened my eyes to the community of people who are as outraged as I am if not more so about Indian Point and the growing danger it poses.

Moving forward, Georgia and I are continuing to organize interviews with experts and activists as well as visiting Indian Point in the upcoming weeks.

PLEASE WATCH this Video from The Guardian featuring Dr. Williams and Mr. Blanch, to learn more about SAPE2016 and the dangers of Indian point.

 

 

 

Passion Projects Can Change the World!

I was very inspired after meeting George Pakenham and watching his documentary about the idling law in New York City. It was a law that I did not know existed, but since have become incredibly aware of how much of an impact it has on the average New York City resident’s daily life. I cannot walk a block away from my apartment without seeing a car idling on the side of the road. Prior to hear George Pakenham speak, I was unaffected by the idling, but not I am able to notice the affects of idling on my street. I was very surprised that this documentary would strike a chord with me, but I think what made it so impactful is the passion and drive that George Pakenham has for his project of implementing the idling law in New York City. He cares so much that he financed his own documentary and comes to speak to classes, just like our Green World class, in hopes of getting us to feel inspired – and it works!!! When I realized after this week’s class is that inspiration, passion, and drive are the key elements in making any project successful, not matter what the content of the project may be.

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George Pakenham shows that change can be implemented on a regional level and can still make a different. Racing Extinction shows that this can be done on an even larger scale. The budget for this documentary far exceeded that of Idle Threat and is geared toward a more widespread audience, however during this documentary, what makes the content hit its audiences more than anything else, is the passion that the people featured in this documentary have for the subject that they are speaking about.

Watching these documentaries got me to think and reflect on the final projects that we are all working on for the end of the semester. We each chose our project and its subject matter for a specific reason – we are passionate about the subject or we want to learn more about the chosen subject area. I have spent much of the time in our Green World class this semester being interested in the subject matter, but wondering how an arts student in New York City was able to really implement any change without a science degree to back up my work, however after this week I realized that although science is incredibly important to spread the word about environmental conservation, it is not the only way and not always the most effective way. We have the opportunity to create and use our talents to spread awareness about subject matters that we are passionate about. Someone like Mr. Pakenham is  a perfect example of a person who had a passion and wanted to invoke change in a way that he know how and he has been very successful in doing so. His passion and proactivity has allowed him to make a difference in New York City. I genuinely hope that our final projects are able to act as a springboard for everyone in this class to explore the subject matters that we are passionate about and help make an impact on a small or potentially large scale.