Tag Archives: George Pakenham

Love me some black Mercedes lung (just kidding…)

On my walk to class this morning, I made a quick stop at Liquiteria for my favorite smoothie, Bulldozer with added strawberries and blueberries.  While waiting for my order, I looked out the window and instead of the usual dog walkers and cabs flying down 6th Ave, I saw a beautiful black C 700 Mercedes Benz waiting out front. I remembered this assignment and decided to go outside to get a closer look to see whether or not the driver was idling. Sure enough, she was texting on her phone with the AC on.  I snapped the photo above and got her license plate number and she was sitting on the corner of W 8th and 6th Ave.  It made me feel like a detective (a secret dream of mine since I was a kid) so I think I’m gonna keep this up.  Unfortunately, idling is destructive and in no way do I hope to see more of it occur. However if it does, I plan on staying aware and taking action.


Idling Campaign: An Extension of George Pakenham’s Idle Threat

Reflecting on my final project and looking back on my previous posts, I realized there has been a slow development in my views. In the beginning, I felt that many of my posts were reaction posts to the shocking and horrific issues that we learned about for that week, as was the case of my first post “Deeply Upsetting.”  Then came posts that either talked about what I do in my own lifestyle to help the environment, or posts that shared my opinion on environmental news.  In my post ” A Floating Wasteland too Close to Home,” I realized how serious the issues were that we talked about and how easy it was for them to become a reality.  After that realization and having George as a guest speaker in class, I realized that “Activism” is one of the most proactive things we can do to combat the destruction of the natural world.  Thus, going into our final projects, I decided to leave my original idea of writing short plays on oil fracking to pursue assisting George with his social media campaign.

On Tuesday May 3, 2016 Sam and I presented our final project to our Green World class. Our project shared our efforts in developing a social media campaign for George’s movie, Idle Threat, but also described our in-person flyer campaign and community outreach. We also included an educational section as a way to continue our agenda of educating people on idling and the senseless damage it causes.

Social Media Campaign

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The social media campaign was a crucial element to our project because it was an area where George’s movie needed the most support.  For any movement  or activist, social media is essential for getting word out to the public. Thus, Sam and I decided to do a campaign across two platforms, Twitter and Facebook.  We felt that both platforms would help us reach different audiences and that the form would force us to promote Geroge’s content in different ways. I took over the Twitter and Sam took over the Facebook. We received advice on how to manage social media accounts from a contact of George’s.  We both tried to diversify the content we put out to include news on Idle Threat, progress of the 717 bill, and environmental developments specific to idling.

We also shared photos and videos of our in person campaign.

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Our in person campaign consisted of posting anti-idling flyers in public NYU spaces and also personally handing them out in front of Tisch. We also had a community outreach plan in which we reached out to NYU’s Office of Sustainability, NYU’s Oxfam America Club, NYU’s Greenhouse community, 4th Street Coop, etc.

Lastly, we had our field research and recording in which we went out around Greenwich village and recorded idlers we saw. We even timed the idlers to see if they were breaking the 3 minute law.  Some of the videos we took were shared on social media.  The most important thing for me though, was that it reinforced how serious the issue is, and how it is going on before our very eyes.

I am very proud of this project, not only because I felt like I made a difference and assisted a truly great activist in their work, but also because it helped my progress as a green activist myself.  Doing the work first hand, and struggling to get the word out made me realize how vital it is to keep trying.  I can’t wait to hear the progress on Bill 717 and hope to keep in contact with George and Sam and continue to fight idling.


By Snapchatters, For Snapchatters

I unfortunately was not in attendance for our esteemed guest speaker, George Pakenham, an environmental activist who has focused his energies on the idle car issue in New York City. But after reading everyone’s blog posts about his informative and inspiring visit to the Green World family and watching his independently made documentary, Idle Threat,  I’m coming to better understand the term activist (here is a really great article about 50 famous environmentalists who are working towards saving and sustaining our planet).

Watching George’s turbulent and at times maddeningly frustrating journey really put what it means to be a true activist into perspective for me. When we think about the word, we immediately correlate it to someone who is passionate about a cause and his become somewhat of a spokesperson for it, which is simple enough. But being in this class has made me realize that our simple, and superficial understanding of the world around out and the detriments we are putting it in, is the root of the problem in the first place. Watching George’s journey helped me visualize, for the first time ever, the action that goes into activism. He fought tooth and nail to combat the lax law enforcements of the City of New York and sometimes it didn’t even pay off. He funded and produced his own documentary to help spread the word on the matter. He approached strangers on a daily basis to convince them to stop their idling. He waited for no one. He did it all on his own.

And that’s what being an activist is all about: it’s about taking matters into your own hands and it’s about doing. The problems that we face today are all because we’re waiting for someone else to do the job for us. We are just as idle as the the idling engines of the cars that get stuck in traffic every day on the busy streets of New York, waiting for a George Pakenham to come save the day. The sad truth behind this all: it really only takes a turn of a key. The world will become a more sustainable place to live when we no longer need the George Pakenham’s of the world to remind us to do a simple task we can do on our own.

Yellow Cabs are a huge source of Idle traffic in New York City. (This picture is free to use or share by its provider)
Yellow Cabs are a huge source of Idle traffic in New York City. (This picture is free to use or share by its provider)

I’ve taken away something very meaningful from reading about George and learning about his work that will help my project become a much more productive effort. In my last blog post I mentioned how it is my hope to make the Green World snapchat a thing that can be passed down to next year’s class and a source for this current class to come together (as I would love for fellow classmates to  take over for a day). I am more convinced of this idea now because activism is clearly its most successful when it a “by the people, for the people” type campaign. And that’s what I want this snapchat to be. I am just an ordinary college student, doing ordinary things, speaking on behalf of ordinary people. That way, anyone from anywhere can feel like what I’m saying is accessible and not feel intimidated or threatened or bombarded by facts and statistics and chats. It’s a Snapchat by the people. For the people.

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.


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.

NYC Street Parking

This week George Pakenham came to visit our class.  For the past few years, George has been a vigilante by going around and enforcing the Anti-Idling law for curbside vehicles in NYC.  The law states that a vehicle cannot leave its engine running for more than 3 minutes.  This is to help reduce pollution and to try and keep the air we breathe cleaner.  George noticed that this law was not enforced and that there are many people who violate it on a daily bases, so he decided to take matters into his own hands and enforce it himself.  His documentary, Idle Threat: Man on Emission, tells the whole story of his fight against this issue.

As George was speaking he made me think of an idea I had a while ago.  Now, honestly, I think this idea is great, however very unlikely of ever happening, but I still wanted to share it. I got the idea one night as I was sitting on the stoop of my friend’s building on West 18th St.  As we were sitting there, talking, three fire trucks tried to drive down the street, but couldn’t get through because of the line of cars waiting at the light. The cars and taxis tried to pull over to the side to let the fire trucks by, but there wasn’t enough room with all the cars parked on both sides of the street.  I watched this little dance go on for probably 2 or 3 minutes before the light turned green and the fire trucks were able to pass.  2 or 3 minutes is not a lot of time for you and me, but when it comes emergencies like fires or car accidents, it can be the difference between life and death.  This got me thinking.

If I were to ask the hospitals, fire and police departments how many lives they could have saved over the years if they would have had those extra 2 minutes, I’m sure the number would shock us all.  Even if it isn’t a huge number, even just one life is a whole world on its own.  So my idea is to make all New York City streets one-sided parking only.  This way there would always be room for the emergency vehicles to zip by the traffic and reach their destination in half the time.  Now of course this would make it IMPOSSIBLE to park in the city, which would lead to people selling their cars and for people thinking of buying cars to not do so.  It would lead to the city getting rid of about half of the cars in it, meaning half of the air pollution.  People would start taking public transportation much more, which too will lead to cleaner air.  Those who decide to keep their cars would have to start using public parking lots, which the city could open more of and that way make more money too, which is always a good incentive for a governmental entity.  Above all, it will save lives and property by allowing emergency vehicles to get around faster.

I know this is a crazy idea, that will probably never happen, but I’m sure George thought the same thing when he started off, but now he has gotten really far!  If anyone has any input or ideas for this crazy idea of mine I would love to hear them!

Art For The Environment

I found both Racing Extinction and Idle Threat: Man on Emission to be perfect examples of using art for an environmental and humanitarian purpose.

The team in Racing Extinction chose to perform their piece on a larger and more poetic scale, while I found George Pakenham to use his humor on a more local scale.

I admire how both parties managed to create a work that corresponds to what they personally believe in whether it be the extinction of species, or the idling of cars.


It is true that such a monumental exhibition as the one found in Racing Extinction is quite breathtaking at first sight because it makes us immediately understand that we are part of a much larger world and that we must keep other Earth beings in mind even though we live in the urban city of New York. 

It also struck me that George Pakenham’s technique was equally as effective in helping the environment as it gave people in their cars an immediate solution on how to be more eco-friendly and considerate of their surroundings.


I think that both documentaries demonstrate two very opposite ways to raise awareness for a cause but I do believe that George Pakenham’s idea is much more tangible and perhaps more applicable to students like us. I found myself becoming much more aware of my surroundings after seeing Idle Threat: Man on Emission. I started to pay attention to the idling vehicles parked on the street outside my window and became bothered by the smell they brought into my bedroom. It made me realize that pollution is not something that anyone can ignore at this point since it even penetrates into everyone’s personal homes.


Environmental activism is a loaded label, and was one, before this class, that I was uncomfortable supporting. It is usually depicted and captured in a very epic fashion, where there are a grand scale of people and scientists painstakingly fighting for the planet.

While I admire and am constantly inspired by these images, and stories of acts of bravery and intelligence, it can leave a normal person feeling unsure. Environmental activism can look intimidating for those not entirely educated in it. It also can appear an insurmountable task for an activist who is just getting started. In the beginning of the class, this is generally where I stood.

The Documentaries 

Watching Racing Extinction and Mr. Pakenham’s Idle Threat and  was not only entertaining, but revelatory in my own embracing of eco-activism.

Racing Extinction, was not only visually stunning and inspiring, it was uplifting. It gave me hope that there are incredibly skilled and talented scientist and artists who have devoted their lives to counteract the impending mass extinction. On the other hand, the high-level of professionalism, and the large-scale missions they undertook had me, as a undergraduate arts student, feeling “what can I possibly do?”

This is where Idle Threat helped me. Seeing another ordinary citizen take action for something he felt strongly for, AND make an impact was extraordinary. It help put everything into a context, and made activism seem accessible to me. Within that half hour long documentary, we saw the process of this project . More importantly, we saw the simplicity of his actions, and the tangible results he collected. He’d simply and respectfully ask for someone to turn off their engines, and 80% of the time they did.

Yes, it is not something we would normally ask of strangers, but its totally doable. More impressively, it started to make a difference. He even inspired another New Yorker to start intervening and even made cards that reminded drivers of the law. He’s even had impact in influencing new policy that could address car idling. What this has told me is that you just have to start “doing.” You might be an amateur and not know what you are doing, but you will slowly learn and develop your process if you keep doing it. Eventually, you might actually start to influence change, even to the scale of Racing Extinction, and that is what matters.

What is Activism?

Activism is defined as “efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, or environmental change, or stasis with the desire to make improvements in society and to correct social injustice.”

Great! But “correct” is a pretty subjective term, which naturally leads to conflict.

Now that I am half way through shooting my film, the sorry project, I had a preliminary editing session with my producer, Justin Scholar last Sunday night.

Editing is like controlling the eyes of the viewer, or as one might say, implementing activism.

They only get to see what I want them to see.


What do I want them to see?

More importantly, why do I want them to see it? How does it further emphasize my point of needing to confront the denial of climate change.

This idea of controlling what someone sees takes me back to Propaganda by Edward Bernays.

So is activism really just a form of propaganda?


Until 2013, the government was banned from disseminating information through both domestic and foreign news sources under jurisdiction of the US Information and Educational Act of 1948 . Also known as the Smith-Mundt Act, this law served as the prevailing legalese on the US on the government’s interference with public diplomacy.

Then in January 2013 Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of Fiscal Year 2013, which allows for thousands of hours of government funded programming for a week on all televisions.

The purpose for this, according to congressman Mac Thornberry, was to “to authorize the domestic dissemination of information and material about the United States intended primarily for foreign audiences.”

Mac Thornberry
Mac Thornberry

How active is video going to be?


“Racing Extinction” AND “Idle Threat” Response

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The images above are animal ad campaigns. These are SO powerful. Check out the rest here or by clicking on one of the images!

Both “Racing Extinction” and “Idle Threat” were enjoyable to watch because they provided information on two huge issues that exist all over the world. Animal extinction and air pollution are issues that I am familiar with, but watching these films provided more insight on how vast these problems actually are. 

I was aware of the existence of animal extinction, but I was unaware of how much humans are contributing to it. In “Racing Extinction” I was surprised to learn that a large number of endangered species are sold in China. I think individuals are unaware of how many endangered species are being sold all over the world.

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“Racing Extinction” should be required in middle and/or high schools in order to educate people on the issue of animal extinction. If people learn about the selling of endangered species then the demand for the products might decrease. However, educating people is a priority.

I visited the Racing Extinction website and signed a petition telling congress to  protect endangered species from exploration in the USA. Certain laws in the America allow trafficking, which puts species at risk. This petition fights these existing trafficking laws. Racing Extinction also has other petitions to sign if anyone is interested in signing one! Go to the SAVE ANIMALS tab at the top of the website and click on Find Animals to Help.

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Additionally, the website  provides ways for humans to eat better in order to save animals. This is an easy way for everyone to help endangered species. Furthermore, I loved the end of the film when animals were portrayed all over New York City. Education through art is so powerful! It was a perfect end to the film and definitely made me want to get involved. 

“Idle Threat” brought the act of idling to my attention. Before seeing this documentary, idling wasn’t something that I payed attention to. This might be because I’ve never driven before and am rarely in cars, but I felt silly for not even noticing that this issue exists. George Pakenham’s story is inspiring and motivational. I think “Idle Threat” should also be shown in middle and/or high schools all over the country in order to demonstrate the impact that idling has on our health. I was unaware of the idling law and I am surprised that the law isn’t enforced by police. Why have the law then? I think George Pakenham’s picture book is important because children are the future and we NEED to educate them!

 I came across several important facts about idling. Here are a few that stood out to me:

  1. Two minutes of idling uses the same amount of gas as one mile of driving
  2. Idling is harder on the engine than restarting your car
  3. Idling contributes to health problems