Tag Archives: Water

Water Glass

My final project will explore the abundance of glass found in Astoria Park. The shards of glass and waste glistening amongst the waves pose an important question: is the water surrounding New York City healthy? For my research, I will focus on the East River. The East River is a salt water tidal estuary. It’s a receptacle for the city’s sewage and and garbage, and was so unhealthy at one point that people could not swim in it. Fortunately, as of 2010, it is Use Classification 1 which means it is now safe for boating and fishing. Yet, the glass and bottle caps remain. To check its cleanliness I have decided to shovel three gallons of water. One will be of the water, one will display the rocks, and one will show the glass.

http://www.areyouprepared.com/150-Gallon-Rock-Well-Water-Tank-p/rw150w.htm
areyouprepared.com 150 Gallon Rock Well Water Tank

Then, I will collect pieces of the glass and create a mosaic out of it representing the river. Once I finish it, I will show it to at least 10 strangers at Astoria Park to hear their initial response, and then explain how all of it was created by what’s in the water surrounding them. Hopefully we can start a conversation and discuss the health of our city, and on a larger scale our world.

http://www.brownstoner.com/queens/astoria/visiting-glass-beach-in-astoria-park/
brownstoner.com Glass Beach

I’ll also take a look at how water has changed throughout history. With climate change increasing, it will be interesting to see the past and future of the rivers surrounding New York City.

 

FINAL – The Lazy Person’s Guide To Eco-Friendliness

New York is dirty, there is trash everywhere on the streets, it constantly smells like fumes, yet people continue to be very set in their own ways.  All of these New York factors have somehow made me even more environmentally conscious throughout the years.  The fact that so many of these issues are prominent around us in our daily lives should make us feel the urgency to act upon cleaning up our surroundings: or at least slow down its pollution.

The air that humans breathe in cities is polluted by running vehicles, fossil fuels, and manufacturing chemicals.  There are pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, black carbon, and dust. These are terrible pollutants that are the cause for many cancer cases and a 6% annual death rate in NYC.  With the average adult breathing in over 3,000 gallons of air every day it is frightening that people still persist in believing that pollution is a myth.

In order to slowly bring people to the realization of the situation, I want to show them small steps to becoming eco-friendly in an urban household in an environment such as New York.  I’ve noticed that a lot of people do want to be “green” but often think that they do not have the tools, the knowledge, or the up-bringing to do so.  

Growing up, I was not taught about simple eco-friendly habits and now that I am older and live on my own, I have found it difficult to get into a routine of being environmentally conscious and sometimes think that the information I find on the internet is not direct enough in telling me how to help the planet.

To help people like me, and to make their lives easier, I have created a series of quick videos demonstrating simple household tricks for those interested in helping the environment just by making a couple of small changes in their lifestyle.  Every seemingly minor action can have an enormous effect on the larger picture of cleaning our environment if we all learn to incorporate eco-friendly actions into our daily life.

Results:

To calculate my results, I measured in subscriber numbers on my YouTube channel. To spread awareness about the project, I posted about it on my Facebook and asked people to share my channel with anyone they may know. I also contacted my friends who live in different states or even countries to ask them to tell their friends about it, and to subscribe if they enjoyed it or found it to be helpful. I wanted to spread awareness about my channel organically and through word of mouth, because that’s when people tend to pay the most attention. This process took place over the course of 2 weeks. The result is:

The Lazy Person’s Guide To Eco-Friendliness YouTube Channel

Future Plans:

In the future, I would like to continue The Lazy Person’s Guide To Eco-Friendliness in order to cover more environmental topics. I got a positive response from people in the comments section who liked that so much information was packed into such a short video. The efficiency of the project made them want to see more and I hope to continue growing the channel.  

 

Sources For Facts In Videos:

“8 Ways To Help Save The Planet” – LEAF

“50 Ways To Help The Planet” – Wire & Twine

“8 Eco-Friendly Bathroom Hacks” – BuzzFeed

 

 

 

This is A Growing Problem

What can we live without? We can live without television, or the internet (both relatively new inventions). We can live without organic foods, our daily cup of coffee, we can even live without a permanent home. So, what do we need for survival? Food, clean water, and some form of shelter from the elements. Overpopulation complicates the distribution of these human necessities. Although the effects of overpopulation aren’t as apparent in North America, the lack of clean drinking water and food effects millions of people globally.

This National Geographic video concisely explains the exponential human population growth and the problems we may face because of it. Before watching this video, I imagined that overpopulation would mean there would be no more land to occupy. It may be because I’m from New York, but I already feel claustrophobic amongst the present population of 7.4 billion people. I learned in the video that every human on Earth could stand shoulder-to-shoulder within the confines of Los Angeles. Living space isn’t as much of a global issue as energy, food, and water are. The National Geographic video (released in 2010) said that 5% of humans consume 23% of the world’s energy. It’s actually not so hard to believe; I’m sitting in an air conditioned, well-lit room, charging my phone and laptop. It gets worse; the amount of energy consumed by the average American is going up. The US uses 100 quadrillion BTUs (105 exajoules) per year, 3x its consumption in 1950. If we are using more energy to light our buildings, cool and heat our air and water, and power our electronics, where is this energy coming from? 7.30% of the energy Americans use is renewable (solar/wind/geothermal). The other 92.7% of energy is nuclear, petroleum, coal, and gas. These energy sources are not renewable, so they will eventually run out. With a growing birth rate and a slower mortality rate, our population will continue to grow, as will the dependence on energy. What could happen when we have no more coal or gas energy? Will we depend solely on the more sustainable energy sources, like wind and solar?

the choice between non-renewable and renewable energy sources
The choice between non-renewable and renewable energy sources

Energy is a hard subject for me to think about. I’m privileged in the sense that I’ve never been without power for an extended period of time. Meanwhile, the total number of individuals without electric power is put at about 1.5 billion, or a quarter of the world’s population, concentrated mostly in Africa and southern Asia. This statistic creates a problem for me. I can’t figure out if supplying energy to every human being is even a good thing, because much of our energy is non-renewable and incredibly harmful to the Earth.  The best solution may be for most developed countries to transition to 75%-100% renewable energy, while supplying underdeveloped parts of  Africa and Southern Asia with solar panels, which costs less and could work well in these hot and sunny climates. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but we can learn to share it better and increase the quality of life for our growing population.

 

Green World gets a Snapchat

I have been thinking about what to do for my final project since this course began back in January. Ever since I started learning about the horrible state of the environment, I have been paying much closer attention to the circumstances around me. That got me questioning…How green is NYU?

When researching the greenest college campus in the United States, I found that NYU was not any of the lists compiled by The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).  I then started thinking about all the different aspects of college life that I witness on a day to day basis that could be improved and made greener. There’s a lot of stigma around the phrase “going green” as it implies some sort of lesser standard of living where a huge sacrifice has to be made.  But that is not at all the case.   People are simply afraid of change, especially in college, where students sometimes forget to feed themselves let alone find time to worry about how “green” their habits are.

I took on a different form of research: field research, which involved going around and observing.  A simple walk around my dorm building made me realize several issues that could be easily fixed to make our campus greener and more sustainable.  If I begin with my room, I can already point out two problems:  The heater is always on in every room that I go into, and the lights are always on, even when people aren’t home.  If we go to the bathroom, my roommate, for example, leaves the shower on for thirty minutes before he goes into the shower.  The hallway?  Lights are on 24 hours a day.  The trash room? Recycling and compost are always mixed.  The dining hall?  Palladium salad bowls are non-recyclable and all take-out boxes are non-reusable.  Transport? NYU buses leaving every ten minutes leaves a huge carbon print on the city. NYU does indeed go a long way to try and stay green in a metropolitan city like New York, but there’s a long way to go .

So this a problem to say the least.  The question becomes, how are we going to call people’s attention to it.  I think the most effective way to get messages across in modern day is through social media.  So I thought it would really fun and engaging if I began a Green World snapchat, where I take followers on day to day adventures of living on a college campus.  The aim is to point out simple errors that we collectively make and furthermore simple solutions to make our school a greener one. The tone will be humorous and light to keep people my age interested.

Add me @greenworldnyu to follow my adventures around NYU green life
Add me @greenworldnyu to follow my adventures around NYU green life

The goal would be to get NYU on the list of greenest universities, and while that might take some time, there is no reason we can’t start future green world students on the right track now.

Another really great perk to the Green World snapchat is it is a great way to showcase other classmates’ projects as well.  Not only would it help them get their idea across to more people, but also would provide my project with more areas to look into.
So, here is the snapchat.  This might sound like shameless advertising, but add me!

 

What About Flint ?

For a rundown of the Flint water crisis, Vox posted an article describing the situation. While a large part of this problem comes from a lack of city funding and a questionable attempt to cut corners with low-income city residents, the Flint water crisis is drawing the attention it deserves. The ethical questions regarding Flint suggest a serious deficiency in government responsibility for low-income cities as well as egg on a serious concern for what to do next.

With the presidential debates in action, the problems in Flint are finally coming to light and getting proper attention. The Michigan political system is being scrutinized for its lack of transparency and honesty with its residents and the entire city is realizing that its unknowingly been poisoned despite complaining to city officials about the mysterious state of their water.

What surprised me most about this was the discovery that there is still a huge amount of lead pipes in the United States, completely dependent on filtration systems to make the water potable. What happens if these systems break ? Will it mean large quantities of the population have to start getting sick in order to draw government attention ?

In Flint’s case, it seems this is what would have to happen. The difference I see for Flint (and other cities that have had lead exposure issues in the past), is the economic dependence on government funding. The economies of most cities impacted by lead exposure are, quite simply, bad. Cities with less money seem to be paid less attention by their governments and suffer because of it. It also seems as though the priority is more politically based than health based. Lots of articles are floating around the internet about the various political implications this crisis has for Michigan state representatives. What doesn’t seem to be getting as much coverage are the efforts of companies and individuals around the world to help.

I came across the Divvy while reading news about Flint and discovered that the company Clearly Filtered has organized a donation campaign to send water filtration systems, pitchers, and bottles up to Flint in order to combat the lead poisoning in their water supply:

 

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/02/lead-exposure-gasoline-crime-increase-children-health — an article about the relationship between lead exposure and crime rates

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/02/09/lead-f09.html — other cities with lead poisoning

TedTalk about lead poisoning in Utica as well as remedies and prevention methods.

The Problem With Convenience

As our world and economy develop, we’re finding new ways to go about our daily lives in an effort to make our existence as easy and comfortable as possible. We’ve designed cars with cushy interiors that take away from gas efficiency, travel-sized and disposable soaps, snacks, and household items, and developed toxic chemicals that can kill weeds or clean our shower drains while wreaking havoc on the environment.

The desire and “need” for convenient and comfortable lifestyles have led to the development of companies like Monsanto whose development of GMO crops have resulted in a more efficient and predictable crop, but have also damaged green spaces and water supplies around the globe. We have started challenging nature’s decisions and have begun to manipulate the land in order to make our own lives more comfortable.

The price of comfort is paid in a number of ways. The millions of plastic bottles and containers generated per year is staggering, and with the mentality that “someone else” will recycle or drive a more fuel efficient car leads to a massive attitude of disregard towards the environment. In this estimate from 2007, 17 million barrels of oil were required to produce plastic for water bottles in the United States — enough oil to power 1 million cars. The potability of the majority of American water makes me question why there is such high demand for bottled water. Has this become a luxury item ? Or are people fearful of what is in their tap water ?

If people are in fact fearful of what their water contains, there must be a reason behind it. As shown in Gasland, people across the country being exposed to toxic fracking chemicals which are leaking into their groundwater supply. Monsanto’s production of glyphosate has resulted in pollution of groundwater sources. In order to curb our environmental imposition, the need for convenience has to be reduced. There are small steps that people can take everyday that can make an impact like not buying plastic bottles and working to ban the use of Monsanto’s poisonous herbicide. It might take some adjusting to, but in the end, it will lead to a healthier planet.

Contamination More Than A Shortage

The existence of a water shortage today comes from humans contaminating the potable water they have at their disposition.  It is easy to blame global warming as the sole source of decreasing levels of water, but when looking at the facts and reports, we come to see that one of the most prominent problems of the lack of clean water comes from our own pollution as humans, whether it be in industrial or non-industrial societies.

In Josh Fox’s documentary Gasland, the issue comes from corporations’ fracking activities.  The water still exists in the areas covered, but if consumed it will have extremely dangerous consequences.  I was shocked to learn that so many people share common side effects of constant headaches, loss of their sense of taste and smell, and permanent brain damage from drinking their tap water in active hydraulic fracking areas.  No matter how much proof is given to these corporations, they still refuse to admit that their activities are endangering humans.  Seeing the water bubbling in the streams and the flammable tap in people’s homes has only led the companies to object the disclosure of the chemical content being released in the water.

Image Source: http://cleanenergyaction.org/2013/07/18/to-frack-or-to-freak-the-effects-of-hydraulic-fracturing-on-our-environment/

Camera
C2100UZ
Focal Length
39.3mm
Aperture
f/2.8
Exposure
1/400s
ISO
100
Camera
C2100UZ
Focal Length
39.3mm
Aperture
f/2.8
Exposure
1/400s
ISO
100
Camera
C2100UZ
Focal Length
39.3mm
Aperture
f/2.8
Exposure
1/400s
ISO
100

Image Source: Drilling rig on the Pinedale Anticline (Linda Baker)

Similarly in India, the Yamuna Network report Yamuna: A River In Peril, the Yamuna river is exposed as being a common disposal space for toxic raw sewage and industrial waste. The water now contains high and unhealthy levels of nitrate, spreading waterborne diseases amongst children. This has also led to the total destruction of the river, which now has huge accumulations of white foam covering its surface, turning it into a true sewage canal. Image Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2240307/An-industrial-bubble-bath-Hindus-dive-foam-coated-polluted-Yamuna-River-pray-new-moon-ritual.html
Mouth of Yamuna River, India

Contrarily to the tap water in Gasland, Yamuna is so much more than a source of potable water. The Yamuna River represents values, spirituality, and a holy space: it has been a continuous source of life to families of man for thousands of years.

The issue with the environment in which we live in today, whether it be industrial or non-industrial, is that people take what they please without thinking about the detrimental consequences of their actions. As Sunita Narain describes it, “Cities today need water, so they take water from a river, but they give back sewage.

Is World War III Going to be About Water?

It was a casual Thursday night that me and my three best friends decided to go out and get a few drinks to unwind from a very long week. Once we settled down  at the restaraunt and got to talking, one of my friends, Sarah, started talking about her political science classes. The topic quickly shifted to her theory that World War III is going to be about water. Now, given the circumstance, we all thought she was being absurd so our reaction was to laugh it off; there was no way that there was any truth to this.

After our last lecture in Green World, in which we looked at the environmental issues surrounding clean water, I’m starting to wonder if my friend Sarah was right all along. While the theory seems absurd, all the facts that support it are horrifyingly that: facts. Fact: The earth if made up of 70% water, but only 2.5% of that water is clean, and even worse, only 1% is easily accessible. Fact: the rivers in poorer cities and towns barely move due to the insurmountable litter that is thrown into them. Fact: Melting ice is flowing down moulins at a speed faster than ever, decreasing sea ice at both Poles and affecting the global energy balance. In short, water is becoming a commodity. And what, in the past, have nations done to secure commodities? They fight.

I lived in Dhaka, Bangladesh for about 6 months in my junior year of high school and I remember doing a science project in which we put seeds into the lake and those same seeds in fresh water to see which batch would grow quicker. After a month, we noticed that the seeds in the lake had not grown at all due to the extreme pH levels of the water. Being an eye witness to something so grave really affected the way I saw the situation. I wasn’t just reading about it from the comfort of my own classroom. I was seeing it with my own eyes. Poorer countries are at an even greater disadvantage because they have not organized proper filtering, recycling or garbage systems and so pollution is at all time high. As the amount of drinkable water dwindles, I fear that is the developing countries that are going to suffer the most.

 (This image is free to use or share and is linked back to its original source)

While it is important to recognize that World War III could very well end up being about water: it is also important to recognize that war is not our only option. The solutions are clear and they are simple. Solution: developed nations can rally together to help developing nations create proper disposable systems to decrease pollution. Solution: developed nations can start using renewable energy sources more commonly to avoid dirtying large bodies of water with oil and nuclear waste. Solution: we need to all stop pretending that someone else will come up with the solution for us because before we know it, what seemed like a silly conversation between four college friends will become a horrifying reality.

A World Without Water

After watching Josh Fox’s Gasland, I began comparing the effects of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to Flint’s current water crisis, in which a series of chemicals, most notably lead, has poisoned the citizens of Flint ever since Gov. Snyder swapped Flint’s water source from Lake Huron to the heavily-polluted Flint River. Governor Snyder has been criticized for making this change to save Michigan some money, though he was fully aware of the contamination in the Flint River. Activists like filmmaker Michael Moore have demanded government intervention and the resignation and investigation of Gov. Snyder.

This New York Times article helped me comprehend the timeline of the Flint water crisis. Thinking about the crisis has sparked thoughts for me about how much clean water will be left for the next generation. Lake Huron is the fifth largest freshwater lake in the world. Our fresh water gets recycled through the natural water cycle, but the introduction of toxic chemicals to our fresh water greatly reduces the amount of water safe for consumption. In a world in which millions don’t have access to clean water, it’s remarkable to me that Flint residents, who live close to Lake Huron, are subjected to drinking tainted water. It’s equally unfathomable that natural gas corporations are poisoning fresh water from the water table, blasting it into the Earth, and then allowing toxic waste to seep back into the water table, and eventually, into the faucets of millions of homes.

Courtesy of ACLU Michigan
Courtesy of ACLU Michigan

According to a Forbes article about the Flint water crisis, a further problem is that the less developed blood-brain barrier in young children allows more lead to enter the developing nervous system, contributing to life-long neurologic sequela. Protecting pregnant women from lead exposure is thus critical for their babies. Children retain about 1/3 of absorbed lead, and it is retained in their bones, so blood levels may actually underestimate exposure. The best thing we can do now is push for legislation banning hydraulic fracturing and demand the routine inspections of pipes and water sources that connect to our nation’s faucets. If we remain ahead of the game rather than ignore the problem, there won’t be another community sickened by their own water.