Working on an environmental issue close to home has shown me the importance of cleaning up our world. Now.
I first came across the pollution at Astoria Park, Queens earlier this semester. As I walked along the shoreline I noticed the rocks gleaming in the light in an unnatural manner. With a closer look I realized that shards of glass littered every inch of the land. It shocked me to see the severe contrast between nature and man-made trash. I knew something had to be done, and people needed to be informed.
The East River is a salt water tidal estuary. It serves as a receptacle for the city’s sewage and garbage, thus making it extremely unclean. Hell’s Gate Bridge was also a major cause for pollution as it was the route for numerous industrial shipments. Fortunately, over the years, it has been preserved to now be safe for fishing, boating, and swimming. To shed light on this corruption, I decided to collect shards of glass and create a collage. By doing so, I would be able to share it with residents and strangers and start a conversation about the water that surrounds us.
When I went to the shoreline to collect the materials, I was greeted with an abundance of trash. Every step I took was met with the crunch of broken beer bottles washed up on the shore. I ended up taking 1.75 gallons worth of glass and had to stop because my bucket became too heavy. As I was leaving, I talked to a girl named Tahia who was at the nearby bus station. I showed her what I collected and explained the project I was working on. She responded, “You’d think the government would do something, but everyone just ignores it. It’s disgusting.” She is currently a junior at Pace University studying mathematics, and was very grateful for my research. Seeing her passion and gratitude for an issue such as this reminded me that my generation is ready to make a difference, and has the power to do so.
Most of the beer bottle pieces I collected were green and brown, so I thought of creating a collage of the Earth. But I decided to stick to a river, because that’s what I researched and where the pieces had come from. On the back of my art piece I posted three pictures of the site for reference. I had also scooped up some of the East River in a container to show what the trash looks like in real life. I’m not a professional visual artist, but I’m pleased with how my final project came out. The image is clear, the patterns are neat, and it showcases exactly what I wanted to bring light to. In our final Green World class, one of the students brought it to my attention how insane it is that I was able to gather so many large pieces of glass. When she had heard what I was planning to do she assumed it would be a bunch of small pieces. But seeing the final collage was impactful by the sheer largeness and amount of glass I was able to get so easily.
So, what can we do to stop this? Riverkeeper is an incredible organization that fights to defend NYC’S waterways. You can help clean up the shores, donate, or take part in any of their numerous events to protect our water. And although NYC is is striving to invest in cleaning up the water over the next ten years, it is our responsibility to be conscious of our own actions. For example, disposing excess fats and greases, diapers, condoms, and personal hygiene products in the garbage can; using the drain can cause raw sewage to overflow. And as shown through the washed-up glass bottles in Astoria Park, recycle responsibly and consistently. The health of our world matters and affects everyone. Pollution is a man-made problem and now, more than ever, it needs a man-made solution.