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Climate Countdown

Dirt Editor

Last week, I went to an event at Columbia focused on the rapidly approaching Paris Climate Talks (COP 21). There, I was introduced to the web series "Climate Countdown". The series, which at the moment comprises 9 10-15 minute episodes, aims to map out the history of the past UN climate negotiations and explain the political, economic, environmental, and social implications of past and present decisions. Though climate change--more specifically the process of trying to cope with it--is inherently quite complex, throughout the episodes, Kaia, the director of Climate Countdown, makes a concerted effort to "explore different facets of this complex issue and break it down into bite-sized bits". I would definitely encourage anyone curious/wanting more information about the upcoming climate negotiations or climate change in general to check out the series!

Here is a link to the website, where you can find the episodes:

 http://climatecountdown.org/episodes

~Lucy K.

Under One Sky New York: A Rallying Cry for Our Future

Dirt Editor

A few weeks ago, Agnes and I participated in the Under One Sky rally, which was precipitated by and coincided with the UN Sustainable Development Summit (as a part of the General Assembly). The purpose of the summit was to adopt new goals intended to tackle the most urgent issues of our time: poverty, inequality, and climate change. Here is more specific information about the summit, drawn from its Overview, which is published online:        

“Agreed by the 193 Member States of the UN, the proposed Agenda, entitled “Transforming Our World: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” consists of a Declaration, 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets, a section on means of implementation and renewed global partnership, and a framework for review and follow-up.

The agenda is unique in that it calls for action by all countries, poor, rich and middle-income. It recognizes that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with a plan that builds economic growth and addresses a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while addressing climate change and environmental protection. It also covers issues such as inequality, infrastructure, energy, consumption, biodiversity, oceans and industrialization.” (http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/8316Overview_Sustainable_Development_Summit_Final.pdf)

The New York event, though packed with people and full of positive energy, was just a part of a larger thread of rallies around the world, all with the same goal: supporting the proposed goals of the summit and demanding that they translate into reality. Beginning in Australia, thousands of people in over 70 countries gathered in acts of solidarity, “lighting the way” to the summit and culminating rally in New York.

 Youth climate activists from around the world

Youth climate activists from around the world

We were surrounded by crowds of people, including both those extremely emotionally invested in climate action and passers-by who may have not known much about the event, but were interested in the issues being addressed. And we heard from an incredibly inspiring group of speakers, including world-renowned advocate for women and children’s rights Graça Machel, youth activists from countries around the world, and Ghanaian musician and activist, Rocky Dawuni, to name a few. At once beautiful and serious, the rally left us with both a sense of renewed urgency and unity.

~Lucy K.

 

 

 

 

Off and On: The Climate Movement and the Road Through Paris

Dirt Editor

Green team is gearing up for a very important year. With the Paris UN climate talks, which will establish clear carbon emission reduction targets and ultimately determine many aspects of our future, rapidly approaching, it is clear that now is a pivotal time for climate activism. And did we mention that 2015 is set to be the hottest year in recorded history?

 

With all this in mind, Agnes, Isabel, and I attended an event at BAM last Thursday organized by 350.org called Off and On: The Climate Movement and the Road Through Paris. Hosted by Bill McKibben of 350.org, Naomi Klein (author of This Changes Everything), Cynthia Ong, founder of LEAP (Land Empowerment Animals People) in Borneo, and Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president of the Hip Hop Caucus, and featuring many other environmental activists from around the world, the multimedia presentation tackled tough issues of climate justice while encouraging increased grassroots activism leading up to the Paris talks.

 Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Cynthia Ong, Lennox Yearwood

Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Cynthia Ong, Lennox Yearwood

 

The presentation emphasized the fact that we’re at the point where our crucial task is not easy, but simple. We must turn OFF the dirty fossil fuels that accelerate climate change and poison communities and turn ON energy derived from solar and wind power. Not only is this act infinitely beneficial to the environment, it is also rooted in justice (economic and social), while our current system of fossil fuel energy production sits firmly on a basis of inequality. Those who have done little to nothing to contribute to climate change are most often the ones who are affected first by its symptoms. Vanuatu, a small island in the South Pacific, was, in March of this year, hit by Cyclone Pam, a category 5 storm that damaged 90% of its housing and left the nation thoroughly bruised. We heard firsthand from 350’s Vanuatu coordinator Isso Nihmei as he described the terrible ferocity of the storm and his damaged country.

 

We heard from other worldwide representatives. Renuka Saroha of India, which recently surpassed China as the world’s most polluted country, stressed that Delhi, the city in which she has grown up and that she loves, is no longer a safe place to live; 1 in 6 Indians dies from the effect of air pollution. We learned about local issues of inequality from Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance; 75% of NYC’s solid waste is handled in just 4 communities, and death rates in the Bronx from asthma are 3 times higher than the national average. But we also saw resilience in images and video of climate activist groups and rallies from around the world.

 

It is clear that a lot of work still needs to be done. But, on Thursday night, there was also a sense of hope, a sense that, given the incredible strength and support of hundreds of thousands so far who have taken a stand against dirty energy and injustice, and the many more who will take action in the coming months, we have a chance this year to make a lasting impact on our future.

~Lucy K.

Hillary, say NO to KXL!

Dirt Editor

 

On Monday April 13th, Green Team attended a 350NYC rally urging 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to take a stand against the Keystone XL pipeline. Hillary Clinton has previously dodged questions about her position on the pipeline, so about thirty protesters gathered outside the Clinton campaign headquarters at one Pierrepont Plaza, chanting and holding signs saying, “I’m ready for Hillary to say NO to KXL”. At the rally a student from Columbia University revealed about how pristine areas of Boreal Forest in Alberta had been stripped away in order to extract oil from tar sands. One protester who had visited Alberta described the extraction area as a “lifeless mud pit where nature had once been.” The point of the rally was not to call out Hillary, but rather to encourage her to separate herself from the Republican candidates by taking a more progressive stance on the larger issue of climate change. Hopefully protests like these will help push politicians to make environmentally conscious decisions so that our country can have a sustainable and prosperous future.


~Simon P

Hydrogen Cars: A Driving Force for the Environment

Dirt Editor

In our current car driving and gas guzzling society, it might scare the ordinary American that the United States has the highest CO2 emissions rate per capita, at 17.56 metric tons.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 32% of our carbon emissions is caused by transportation.  Something needs to be fixed there.  If we could slice that number in half, and maybe one day bring it very close to zero, our own planet earth would be much healthier. But how would we do that? It almost seems impossible because cars are a major part of American society. We can’t just convert to extreme public transportation like Europe because, like it or not, America is much more rural and suburbanized, as our whole country’s population density is much lower.  So if we can’t run on trains and buses, we need to keep cars.

 

 But how can we make cars run on clean energy?  Electric cars have been tried and tested; however, they continue to be inadequate and not easily usable. Issues with electric cars include battery shortage technology that needs improvement, negative reactions to exposure to water, and not being able to run for long enough. You can’t put America’s transportation on those shaky odds.  At this point, although the question of if we can have clean energy cars almost seems impossible, it is certainly possible indeed! The answer is simple: Hydrogen Cars.  

 

Hydrogen cars  run on hydrogen fuel and their byproduct is water.  That’s right, literal water drizzles out of the exhaust pipe of the car, so you can say goodbye to transportation pollution from sources like petroleum. The way the car works is that it takes liquid hydrogen fuel (pumped into the car like gas is today) and sucks in oxygen at the same time.  It then combines the hydrogen and the oxygen together and takes the energy from that reaction to power the car.  The only byproduct created from  this process is water and it is exported out of the car.  

 

Two companies have already made a jump start on the product: Toyota and Hyundai.  The car is starting to be available in California, and sales tax cuts made to lower its price have provided incentives for people to buy it. The car has sold very well in California, and reviews say that the car drives very well. So the thought is that if it works  in California, it must certainly be able to work in the whole United States. All the US needs to do is incentivise auto companies to build the cars, gas companies to build hydrogen fueling stations, and the American public to buy them. Once that is done, the United States will have solved 32% of it carbon emissions problem.  Instead of being one of the largest polluters, we will be leaders for fighting against climate change, the earth will be cleaner, and lastly (and certainly not least) with hydrogen cars, Americans will be riding around looking awfully good.

 

~Teddy B.

Green Team with David Sassoon

Dirt Editor

Inside Climate News

Last Thursday, David Sassoon, founder and publisher of InsideClimate News (ICN), came to speak to Green Team. ICN, which was founded in 2007, is a nonpartisan news organization that aims to “produce clear, objective stories that give the public and decision-makers the information they need to navigate the heat and emotion of climate and energy debates”.

 

“Who knows how much energy is in 1 barrel of oil?” David began by asking us. Nobody knew, which was at once shocking and unsurprising. After a few moments of silence, he revealed to us that 1 barrel contains the calories that are burned when 10 people work 6 days a week for nearly a year. He then told us that the average American consumes 23 barrels in only 1 year. (For some background, 1 barrel of oil is worth about $50).

 

For the next hour, David, calm, humble, and thoughtful, didn’t lecture us, but rather sustained an interesting conversation with us. We talked about the new documentary “Merchants of Doubt” and how corporations profiting from environmentally-destructive practices try to deceive us, making us doubt in real science; it has been done with tobacco, with flame retardants, and now its being done with climate change. If people remain uncertain, action cannot be taken swiftly and forcefully.

 

We also talked about how InsideClimate News came to be and discussed strategies we can use to continue to improve and expand on Dirt's readership. One of his pieces of advice that I most remember is to “pick a story and own it”. It was precisely this strategy that earned ICN a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2013 for their work on "The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You've Never Heard Of", which investigates the million-gallon spill of Canadian tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River in 2010, and examines various issues with other national pipelines from all angles.

 

For more background information on and opinions from David, take a look at this interview: http://www.americanpressinstitute.org/publications/good-questions/ten-questions-david-sassoon-insideclimate-news/

Also, be sure to check out InsideClimateNews: http://insideclimatenews.org/

 

~ Lucy K

 

Daniela Gioseffi, eco-poet

Dirt Editor

On February 26th, the Green Team was delighted to host long-time activist Daniela Gioseffi, as a guest speaker.  Ms. Gioseffi began her career in activism as a Civil Rights advocate at WSLA-TV, a radio station run out of Selma, Alabama, in 1961.  A long time advocate of tolerance, Ms. Gioseffi has also dedicated herself to feminist and multicultural awareness causes, as well as the environmentalist movement.  

 

Ms. Gioseffi is the editor-in-chief of both PoetsUSA.com and eco-poetry.org, the latter being a site devoted solely to poetry with a strong ecological emphasis or message.  An accomplished writer, she uses her talent to support and promote awareness about the environment. At the end of our meeting, the Green Team was delighted to hear Ms. Gioseffi read her own eco-poetry, which is available at eco-poetry.org.

 

Ms. Gioseffi shared fantastic expertise on environmentalism as a political movement with the Green Team.  She stressed the importance of having a broad base of supporters, and how a large volume of individual action could help the environmentalism movement achieve it goals.  Her insights showed us a way to connect local action, such as spreading the importance of conservation, to political action.

 

A complete video of our meeting with Ms. Gioseffi will be posted soon.  We encourage everyone to watch it!

 

          ~ Lucy B.

 

HS explores the Gowanus Canal

Dirt Editor

 Field Trip to the Gowanus Canal

Field Trip to the Gowanus Canal

On the afternoon November 7th a group of Saint Ann’s high schoolers jumped on the subway and went to explore the Gowanus Canal. At the Union Street bridge we met Natasia Sidarta, from here she would lead us on a tour of the toxic site.

 

Two hundred years ago a marshy plot in Brooklyn, named after Gouwane, a local native american chief, and connected to the upper New York Bay, turned into a major maritime and commercial hub. Over time, the marsh was filled in, a canal was dug through it and water factories were erected alongside. The water that flowed through the canal came from waste water from the manufacturing buildings and toxic runoff from the land around the canal. It also came from New York’s combined sewage system, which allows both stormwater and wastewater to travel in the same pipe to a Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) facility.

 

Today, two centuries later in modern Brooklyn, that polluted canal still exists, filled with water from our city’s inefficient and outdated combined sewage system. Because the system cannot accommodate more than ¼ inch of rain, the excess water is dumped straight into nearby bodies of water such as the East River or the Gowanus Canal. Years of this polluted treatment have left the Gowanus Canal as one of the most toxic waste sites in The United States.

 

In 2010 the federal government targeted the Gowanus Canal to become a SuperFund site for cleaning up our country’s most chemically horrendous areas. Its goals include finding the parties responsible (PRPs) for the pollution and funding long-term and expensive clean-up projects. The Gowanus Canal cleanup is a $506-million project due for completion by 2022. Many Saint Ann’s parents have contributed to the purge of the canal. One of these is Susannah Drake (http://www.dlandstudio.com) who has designed a sponge park to absorb chemicals out of the water.

 

Fun Facts about the Gowanus Canal:

  • Because of its chemical composition it is an optimal location for pathogenic life. Technically the Canal has gonorrhea!

  • Urban myths conclude that the Canal was used as a dumping site for the New York City Mafia.

~ Agnes G.

Green Team Fall Update

Dirt Editor

Here’s what we’ve been up to:

 

People’s Climate March- September 21st

The People’s Climate March was the biggest climate demonstration in all of history, strategically planned to take place two days before the 2014 Climate Summit at the UN in New York City. A group from Saint Ann’s joined a 400,000 strong mass in Manhattan to participate in this momentous occasion. Those who were not able to come to The March attended 2,646 affiliated rallies in 162 countries around the world.

http://peoplesclimate.org/

http://peoplesclimate.org/wrap-up/

 

Divestment Meeting- November 3rd

In early November Green Team hosted a divestment meeting with Vince and three members of the Saint Ann’s board of finance. Many important points were brought up pertaining to divestiture  from fossil fuels and how it would affect our school and community. Some of the pros and cons were; teacher’s pay and student financial aid fluctuations as well as the effort students have put into researching it, campaigning for the movement and their dedication to this cause. A follow up meeting is being planned. Like the first, all those who are interested are welcome to join.
 

Gowanus Canal- November 7th

Many people in the Saint Ann’s community live in close proximity to the Gowanus Canal while they still are unaware of its significance. This body of water is one of the Nation’s most horrendous waste sites and in 2010 was deemed a SuperFund site. Five hundred and six million dollars have been put aside for this project due for completion in 2022. Green Team took this opportunity to go on a spontaneous exploration of the Gowanus Canal. We learned and saw many awesome things, such as; porous sidewalks, vertical gardens, artificial chimney sweep nests, sponge parks and so much more.

 

Welcome to Dirt!

Dirt Editor

Welcome to Dirt! Last spring, we printed 250 copies of a 26-paged publication.  You can do the math - that's too much paper!  So, in an effort to reduce our carbon footprint and engage the Saint Ann's community, Dirt is now online.

This new space will provide the school with a forum to share updates on internal sustainable projects as well as the global climate crisis.  We hope that students and faculty members will use the online platform to explore and contribute to the environmental cause in a new and interactive way.

If you're interested in contributing, please email us at greenteam@saintannsny.org - we love your input!

Enjoy!

Isabel and Natalie