Lastest News from the .007% Campaign

As the .007% Campaign winds down and the 2013 academic year ends, we encourage fans to continue reading up on the latest water news, as well as many of today's most pressing environmental issues, at Pace Academy's EarthDesk blog.

Below is what you can check out from the .007% Campaign News Archive:

The .007% Campaign aims to educate and engage the Pace Community. As part of this ongoing effort, we're writing about water in our daily lives, as well as some of the most pressing water issues of our time.

 

From projects at Pace, to policy at the national level and pollution in international waters,
hear about them from our writers.

 

Hydraulic Fracturing
February 11, 2013 - By Annie Bingaman

Hydraulic fracturing, also referred to as “hydrofracking” or simply “fracking,” is taking the country by storm. Essentially, the fracking process is meant to release natural gas from deep within the ground. It involves pumping “fracking fluid” into cracks, or fractures, of rock in order to push out and extract the natural gas that is underneath. In order to frack, a natural gas well must be constructed and many things must be taken into consideration. There is a great deal of controversy regarding fracking but most of this controversy does not actually involve the use of natural gas as a fuel. Rather, it is the procedure. As of right now, much of the American public is only beginning to understand fracking.

FracFocus is a registry of wells across the United States.

The rush for natural gas is underway.  Though the idea of fracking sounds promising, it is a huge water issue! Just how much water goes into the fracking process? Each well requires anywhere from 1 million to 7 million gallons of water for pumping. After pumping, the fracking fluids, consisting of water, chemicals, and sand, return to the surface. It is then unclear as to how to dispose of these fluids. Unfortunately, the chemicals in these fluids can escape into runoff and well- or groundwater, contaminating our freshwater supplies. There is also a concern that the fluids will leach into the ground during the pumping process. When chemicals from the fracking process are released into creeks and runoff it not only affects our drinking water, but also water used in food production and agriculture, as well as the wildlife that exists in these water ecosystems. These are the aspects of the fracking process that are most problematic and outraging people all over the United States, and the world.

Many of these dangers are illustrated in the case of the Marcellus Shale region. Located primarily in Upstate New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and Northeastern Pennsylvania, this particular region contains approximately 350-500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This is roughly the equivalent of 14 years of US energy demands. Because there is such a large amount of natural gas, there is a great opportunity to make “big money.” Many of the residents who live near the Marcellus Shale are concerned about their drinking water, and justifiably so. Recently, Earthworks, an environmental organization based in Washington, surveyed about 100 people in Northeastern Pennsylvania and found many cases of sinus and respiratory problems that occurred post-drilling for natural gas.

This particular study illustrates how fracking is not only a water issue, but more broadly a public health and human rights issue. There are very few laws regarding the process, particularly on how to dispose of the fluids post-fracking. Companies that want to frack for natural gas essentially have carte blanche over their actions. If companies do not create, or are not given, consistent guidelines regarding fracking, they have the power to do what they wish. Though companies that drill in the Marcellus Shale are technically required to properly dispose of the fluids used in the fracking process, there is a lot of room for improvement.  Since the Marcellus Shale region is comprised of several different states with varying laws, enforcement and regulation can be very complicated.  Without regulation coming from the federal level, inconsistencies in rules on disposal, transparency, loopholes, and fracking fluid ingredients threaten to cause irreversible environmental damage for all of us.

A great deal of New York City’s tap water comes from Upstate New York, particularly the Catskills and Finger Lakes region. Thus, fracking not only presents itself as a problem for those living in the Marcellus Shale region, but also proves to be a risk for the eight million people living in New York City. With the threat of environmental damage coming closer to home, fracking is being recognized more and more in popular culture. Promised Land, a film about a US community affected by fracking and drawing such stars as Frances McDormand, Matt Damon, and John Krasinski, is introducing the debate to Hollywood.

What happens when we completely deplete the surplus of natural gas? Many traditional economists believe that fracking could greatly boost economic growth. But at what cost? Natural gas surely has its benefits, but there are a great many things at stake. The risky process in which natural gas is extracted and the messy state of current regulation could lead to untold consequences for our water systems. The contamination of our water resources due to fracking can affect many different species, including our own. Water plays a huge role in our lives and each of us depends on clean water; it is a human right and not something that should be compromised.


Nature Exposed:
Student photographers focus in on water  

January 28, 2013 - By Caroline Craig

Now available for viewing in Kessel’s Dining Room A is the creative work of 16 Pace undergraduate students. The exhibit, “Nature Exposed,” is part of a partnership between the .007% Campaign and the Fall 2012 INT198G photography class taught by professors Angelo Spillo and Carla Shapiro.

As part of the class assignment, students were asked to choose from a list of water-related quotations and capture an original photograph that embodies the essence of their chosen quote. From contorted water bottles and a scenic view of Choate Pond to crashing waves and a sheet of snow, each student created a picture that captures the beauty, power, and importance of water from their own unique lens (pun intended). The scope of potential interpretations was vast, with quotes like Leonardo da Vinci’s, “water is the driving force of all nature,” and “thousands have lived without love, not one without water,” taken from a poem by W.H. Auden. Not to be understated is the diversity of those who contributed to this exhibit, which included student of environmental studies, nursing, biology, communications, chemistry, criminal justice, psychology, biochemistry and computer science.

“I decided to pick that quote from Benjamin Franklin (‘When the well's dry, we know the worth of water.’) because I felt that it conveyed the message of the .007% campaign,” says Computer Science major Alexander Mei. “Since only .007% of water on this planet can be used, we need to be more aware of what is happening with our water.”


(Photo by Alexander Mei)

Ask why he chose this photograph, Mr. Mei replied, “I looked for areas or objects that illustrated a lack of water. After reviewing several pictures I took, I decided on one that stood out to me the most: a water bottle that was completely dry on the inside. In addition to working with the quote I selected, we were discussing the negative impact of water bottles on the environment in class.”

The Nature Exposed exhibit will be on display in Kessel for the majority of the Spring 2013 semester as the .007% Campaign continues its year-long initiative to foster greater awareness of water issues in the Pace Community. With the help of Professors Spillo and Shapiro, students were able to demonstrate that water is not just something we use to drink and clean, but also the basis of artistic inspiration.

(Look closely! Photo by John Robb, Communications major)

All members of the Pace University Community are encouraged to get involved in the .007% Campaign through such means such as educational initiatives, water conservation measures in a class or office, petitions or fundraisers to end pollution or increase access, and original works of art or research, to name a few. Professors who are interested in involving their students in the campaign, whether through an assigned project or stimulating discussion, are welcome to contact Pace Academy to brainstorm ideas and have their work included in our promotions.

 


Where does our water come from?
January 23, 2013 - By Khari Linton

At an early age, I wondered where our water came from.  I used to think it came from the ocean through pipes that led the water directly into our homes.  As a child, I traveled to Marco Island, Florida with my family every summer.  I remember one day in particular, when we went to the beach and saw sewer pipes that emptied into the ocean.  At first glance, it did not look like much more than simply two black pipes that went far out into the water.  As I got closer, I could smell the garbage and see the weirdest looking insects hovering around the pipes.  And yet, the water was clear blue with white sand.  So then I thought: “Water must come from the ocean, then we use it, and then it goes into the drain and into other pipes that go deep into the ocean so it will have no effect on us.” I’ve obviously come to understand that that is not exactly how it works.  For many New Yorkers who do not have a clue how a water system works, ours is quite a marvel.  Here is an overview of what happens before water reaches our taps and after it flows down the drain on the Pace Pleasantville campus.

The Pace University-Pleasantville water supply comes from the Catskill Aqueduct.  An aqueduct is a structure built to carry a large quantity of flowing water, usually to a populated region. At the time it was being built, the Catskill Aqueduct was compared to such great man-made constructions as the Panama Canal. Water flows throughout the system at a rate of about 4 feet per second or about 550 million gallons per day.  The 163-mile aqueduct starts in the Catskill Mountains at the Ashokan Reservoir in Olivebridge, Ulster County. It travels south towards Orange County, and then crosses underneath the Hudson River to Putnam County. The system crosses the Hudson River using an inverted siphon, a pipe that is formed into a U-shape, which causes the water to flow downstream by the pull of gravity.  The aqueduct then enters Westchester County and flows to the Kensico Reservoir in Valhalla and, when it is not stopping at Pace, continues on to the Hillview Reservoir in Yonkers.  The Hillview reservoir feeds two tunnels that lead to New York City.  While many microbes die naturally during the long trip, the water is treated with chlorine to kill organisms, fluoride to prevent tooth decay, sodium hydroxide to raise pH levels, and orthophosphate to prevent lead from leaching into the drinking water.  These necessary chemicals are added the Croton Lake Gate House in the New Croton aqueduct, Kensico reservoir, Hillview downtake chambers, and the Jerome Park Reservoir gate houses.   

Pace Pleasantville purchases our water from the Town of Mount Pleasant, which purchases its water from the Town of Newcastle Water District, whose primary source is the Catskill Aqueduct system. The secondary source is the Croton Aqueduct system. The water purchased by Pace originates from a surface source (e.g., river, reservoir).  Surface water is naturally replenished by precipitation and naturally lost through evaporation.  According to the EPA, Pace University-Pleasantville’s current water system serves 2,753 consumers with 29 service connections at both Briarcliff and Pleasantville campuses.   

As you now know, water takes quite a long journey to reach us. Now, you must be wondering where it all goes once it is used.  ‘Raw sewage’ travels through a building’s pipes until it reaches local sewers that are owned and operated by town sewer departments.  Sanitary sewers are underground carriage system specifically for transporting sewage from houses and commercial buildings to treatment plants.  Raw sewage generated at Pace travels by gravity in inverted siphon pipes down to the Yonkers Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).  That’s right: when you flush the toilet in Miller or use the shower in your dorm, you are sending that water all the way down to Yonkers. These water treatment systems were created to eliminate the waterborne diseases that became so abundant in the late 1800s and early 1900s and to supply a growing population that demanded clean water to use for everyday needs.  The plants were not only made to maintain water quality, but to improve that quality and protect the health of citizens. 

The WWTP mainly uses processes such as primary and secondary treatments to remove contaminants from wastewater and household sewage.  Primary treatment slows the flow of the water to allow heavier solids to settle to the bottom of the holding tank and lighter materials float to the top.  The lighter materials are skimmed from the top of the surface and the settled solids (activated sludge) are collected in a hopper towards the base of the tank where it is pumped to sludge treatment facilities.  The collected sludge contains potentially beneficial fertilizers for plants.  The organic carbon in the sludge, once stabilized, is also desirable as a soil conditioner, because it improves soil structure for plant roots.  Then the water flows to secondary treatment which degrades the biological content of the sewage derived from human waste, food waste, and soaps. Once the wastewater has gone through these processes, it then flows into the Hudson River with a small addition of chlorine.  300 million gallons per day flow into the Hudson River from the Yonkers WWTP. 

The systems that bring and take water to us are incredible icons of human engineering and it is a wonder why we do not appreciate them more. Most of us do not even know anything about them. Even though these systems operate below capacity, it does not mean our use is sustainable. If we continue to introduce more water conservative measures and revolutionize wastewater treatment to handle our growing world populations, we can ensure the future of our most precious natural resource.

 


Dear Mr. Bloomberg
December 5, 2012 - By .007% Campaign

One month after Superstorm Sandy, members of the Pace University Community signed a letter to Mayor Bloomberg. The message: Let us take the lessons learned from Sandy and protect our water infrastructure from the threats of climate change. Water Campaigners Annie Bingaman and Caroline Craig helped staff the table, along with Roberto Chavez of Center for Community Action and Research. In all, over 70 signatures were collected.

Mayor Bloomberg actually toured a wastewater treatment plant that same day, as seen in this NY1 coverage, a positive sign that NYC may indeed continue leading the country in this new era of climate change adaptation. "There's not really a lot of luck involved here," Bloomberg said. "You make the investments and you reap the rewards. You don't and you suffer."

Here is the text from the letter:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Dear Mayor Bloomberg,

We the undersigned members of the Pace University Community write to encourage your leadership in addressing the dire need for climate change adaptation and resilience planning. In Post-Sandy rebuilding, policies and action that protect our water and infrastructure should be front and center.

Mr. Bloomberg, your administration leads the City and nation in innovation. For example, PlaNYC has been extraordinarily important. As an academic community, we applaud your formation of the NYC Panel on Climate Change because it utilizes the expertise of our regional institutions.

However, storms like Sandy should not make a mockery of slow or inadequate actions by the City in regard to climate change adaptation. Adaptation entails allocating the proper amount of resources required for truly preventative measures and long-term economic savings.

We ask that you exercise your leadership to protect our water and infrastructure by prioritizing:

  • Wastewater Treatment – Sandy resulted in the release of raw and minimally treated sewage in the range of hundreds of millions of gallons. Storm surges brought these waters directly into our neighborhoods, resulting in a public health disaster. 
  • Flood Zone Planning – We should repurpose our coasts for protective marshes and parks as opposed to vulnerable homes and industrial sites.

True climate change adaptation means thinking outside of the box and reconsidering priorities. We recommend that the protection of our water and infrastructure be one of these priorities. As you consider the big changes that are necessary for the 21st century and beyond, we hope you will continue to engage the innovation that is born and raised in NYC’s academic institutions.

Every single day, members of the Pace Community come from all over the region to educate and be educated, and to partake in the mission of creating 21st century innovators. When Sandy shut down our Lower Manhattan Campus, some of our students slept in our gymnasium at night and then volunteered to help our homebound neighbors in the day. Now that the time to rebuild is here, we want to continue to support our City’s progress.

Let us take advantage of what Sandy had to teach us about ourselves and prepare for a resilient future.

Thank you,

The Undersigned Members of the Pace University Community

 


The Haverstraw Water Supply Project:
Under the din of the fracking debate, another local water controversy escalates

November 26, 2012 - By Caroline Craig

Beneath the green hills of the Hudson River Valley lies a growing concern about fresh water supply. Rockland County, due to an array of circumstances, is faced with delivering water to a growing population with a still growing appetite for water. Prompted by 2006 and 2010 NYS Public Works Commission orders to increase water availability, Rockland County’s private water supplier, United Water NY (UWNY) is proposing to build the Haverstraw Water Supply Project. UWNY calls it a “state-of-the-art desalination facility… that would treat up to 7.5 million gallons of river water per day and will ensure that Rockland customers have a long-term water supply solution by the end of 2015.” Critics, such as Riverkeeper and Rockland Water Coalition, call it economically wasteful and even environmentally harmful. Truly, an expensive desalination plant seems like the opposite of a “long-term water supply solution” and a report by the US Geological Survey indicates that there are other alternatives. The problem in Rockland is based on demand outpacing resources. Focusing the strongest efforts on creating more supply, as opposed to more serious conservation, fails to communicate the real value of fresh water.

(Photo Source: Rockland Water Coalition)

Given its name is derived from “rocky land,” it is not surprising that Rockland County has long been plagued by water shortages. A 2005 article in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association describes the failure to consider water resources despite the rapid development of the County: “Rather than climate alone, the recent water emergencies have highlighted a significant mismatch between supply and demand that has been developing in Rockland County over the past three decades.” In a short blurb from The New York Times dating from October 1886, the author poetically describes a drying land, worried farmers, and “thirsty little creatures” roaming in search of something to drink. A study of tree rings reveals severe droughts occurring ever century as far back as the 1500’s. Unfortunately for Rockland, even the aqueducts of the Catskill-NYC water system bypass it (unlike parts of Westchester, Putnam, Ulster, and Orange). Rockland County seems to be a contradiction to the lush green visions of the Hudson Valley.

For the purposes of land use planning, regulation, and influencing conservation, Rockland’s county, town, and village governments call "home rule". But unlike the decentralized governmental control of nearby counties, Rockland is unique in that a private organization, United Water NY, is in almost total control of supplying their water. These observations and others can be found in Braman and Gruber’s study of water resources in Rockland County. Another player is the Public Service Commission, which set UWNY in charge of increasing the average water supply for Rockland, as well as building “a long-term major water supply project” to provide for the County’s additional water needs in the future. This order resulted in the proposed Haverstraw Water Supply Project.

What critics are now calling into question is Rockland’s actual need for additional water, citing excess releases of water to NJ United Water customers, which have affected the amount available to Rockland, and for which United Water was fined. This would require state officials to reverse their orders to UWNY. In relation to the actual plant proposal, many are raising concern over the motives of UWNY, a for-profit business based on selling water. Also considered is the desalination plant’s location 3.5 miles away from Indian Point and its potential impacts on the local ecology and water quality (especially with the release of its wastewater).

In Nyack News & Views, Robert Kecskes, retired manager of regional water supply planning for New Jersey, writes that the plant proposal should not be accepted until "all conservation alternatives have been thoroughly and impartially considered. A water audit of these larger users could lead to recommendations that could greatly reduce peak usage." He cites the homes and businesses that water their lawns as some of the biggest wasters of the County’s water, calling desalination an "expensive way to keep the grass green." His observations are important. Rockland is not a community of stranded people forced to drink dirty water to stay alive. It is a county with a problem reflective of our larger cultural issues: We do not understand the value of water. We would rather utilize an expensive desalination technology than take simple actions that shrink the demand side. Rethinking the way we live may seem intimidating and inconvenient, but it is the true "long-term solution."

In short, the most ideal actions are always water conservation and better community planning. Rockland County should consider the innovative yet entirely simple technologies of graywater reuse (as in using shower water to flush toilets), collecting stormwater, and more efficient plumbing, as well as regulations and raising water costs just enough to encourage businesses and individuals to conserve. Some also suggest that Rockland cease exporting its water outside of the county. Though desalination technologies have improved and cut costs, it is a wonder how we could resort to a still-costly and wasteful means of providing water when we have yet to implement some of the easiest means of conservation.

Leading up to Thanksgiving, Riverkeeper rallied for 10,000 calls to Cuomo in 10 Days. After almost a year of public comment, meetings, and petitions, the state is expected to be close to their final decision on the desalination plant.

 

 


The Power Of Water: Hurricane Sandy
November 19, 2012 - By Annie Bingaman

As I write this article, many people are striving to physically and emotionally recover from Hurricane Sandy, which left about 8 million without power in the tri-state area and killed over 135 people in the US. Though often thought of as the ultimate, indestructible city, it is fair to say that New York was not at all prepared for what was coming this way. Sandy left all of Lower Manhattan without power, flooded the subway system, forced thousands to evacuate, and left countless others cold, hungry and bewildered. The New York Stock Exchange was closed for two consecutive days, the first time since 1888. Hours before the storm, New York was busy with it’s usual vast amount of noise and people. Then, suddenly, it simply wasn’t.

(Photo Source: Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency)

These recent events have prompted increased discussion of climate change, especially regarding how rising sea levels may have affected, if not prompted, Hurricane Sandy. Whether or not this is the case, one thing is for certain: the past week has shown us just how immensely powerful water can be, even for the world’s toughest city. As stressed by every meteorologist in the Northeast, it was indeed the storm surge that was the most destructive aspect of the hurricane. During high tide, both the Hudson and the East Rivers flooded nearly all of downtown Manhattan, including FDR drive and the West Side Highway, both major roadways in New York. Footage of flooded subway tunnels and cars floating through the Financial District was reminiscent of a scene cut from The Day After Tomorrow. Unfortunately, the sandbags were no competition for just how powerful the floods were. Still more unfortunate is that this type of storm had already been considered in reports on a climate-change impacted New York. As a city surrounded by water, New York is bound to suffer the effects of rising sea levels as evidenced during Hurricane Sandy. While we can say that the Eastern Seaboard was not prepared, we simply cannot stand by the statement that we were not warned, but perhaps can confirm that we remained indifferent

 In addition to the flooding of the city, of our transit and energy systems, Sandy introduced the East Coast to other aspects of water that we may be unfamiliar with. Particularly, the lack of access to clean water, a crucial element of survival. Though the media covered the gasoline shortage heavily, the lack of water was just as great a threat to the lives of victims, if not more so. All around the tri-state area, people were striving just to access clean drinking water as the waterways became contaminated. While New York City’s reservoirs were far enough upstate to remain safe, Long Island and New Jersey were not so lucky. Shelves of water at supermarkets were quickly emptied and people were advised to avoid drinking from the tap. The floods had overwhelmed our outdated infrastructure and carried bacteria, chemicals, and trash through these already decaying sewage systems. Though different companies and organizations, such as Occupy Sandy, are working to provide clean water to those who need it most, it is simply not enough. We still have an awfully long way to go.

(Photo Source: NASA via Getty Images)

There has been a great deal of discussion regarding the building of seawalls around New York, in order to protect the city from future flooding and storm surges. Though this seems like a practical idea, is it truly the answer? Or is it just another temporary band-aid? Though applying band-aids may help to heal a wound in the short term, that wound will eventually re-open. In this case, perhaps building seawalls will help the situation for a while, but how long until they are no longer functional? Perhaps we are trying to avoid addressing a much more monumental issue; an issue so great that maybe we do not want to even acknowledge it because just hearing the words “climate change” makes us want to turn the other cheek. Perhaps we need to reevaluate our actions in order to accommodate Mother Nature, rather than trying to force Mother Nature to accommodate us.  

As humans, we forget that we are not able to control nature. Sobering events like Hurricane Sandy remind us of how powerful nature can be. An element such as water can be just as deadly as it is life saving. Suffering the consequences of deficient planning should lead us to consider how we have been relating to nature and how we must relate differently in the future so we may adjust to the ever-changing environment. Perhaps, this can be a wake-up call. Nature will continue to function, regardless of climate change. However, nature will indeed react to the way it is being treated. Hurricanes like Sandy do not care if they blow through the middle of the Atlantic or along coasts lined with luxury homes. It is time to improve our infrastructure in order to protect drinking water supplies through conservation and flood preparation. We need to reconstruct our wastewater treatment plants to handle what we need them for. As Governor Cuomo said as the sun rose in the first day after the devastation, we need a “fundamental rethinking of our built environment… The challenge is not just to build back, but to build back better than before.” His words ring true; we must not only rebuild our infrastructure but also reevaluate our current paradigm.

 


What Have You Done to Me Sandy?
November 19, 2012 - By Khari Linton

(Photo Source: Kathy Willens/AP)

As soon as I heard reports of the tides rising and crashing on the boardwalk of the Jersey shore, my concern started to grow.  This was before Sandy was even close to hitting our coast.  This could possibly be worse than Hurricane Irene.  As we all braced for the unknown implications, I was busy cooking in my kitchen and watching Sunday night football in my townhouse.  Power outages on campus are common when bad weather comes into town, so when the power went out around 11pm I was not surprised.  When I woke up the next morning and just found leaves scattered and a couple branches on the ground, it was exactly what I expected it to be: not a whole lot.  But when my roommates and I finally left campus a couple of days after the hurricane and took a left out of entrance 1, I saw the real effects of Sandy.  Gas lines were at least 30 cars and a mile long.  More than half of the town without electricity, businesses closed, and Con Edison was nowhere to be found.  Sandy was trying to teach us something. 

Sure everyone headed to the supermarket and stocked up on food and water, but was that enough? Even though the reports of the storm warned us about the potential dangers and our elected officials tried their best to evacuate citizens, did we believe them? Did we expect some expert to come and fix it all right away? I don’t know, but we could have taken more preemptive measures.  When I visited my aunt in Sayreville, New Jersey, she simply said ‘we did not think it would happen to us.’  Too many of us had that same mindset.  On the eleventh day after the storm, 473,000 people in New York and New Jersey are still without power.  Powerful flood waters took out poorly placed utilities. Some of us lost access to some of the very basics: shelter, food, and even clean water. We thought very short-term for the effects of this storm, nothing past a couple days.  For many of us, this is the first time we experienced a natural disaster.  In the northeast, we are so used to seeing such catastrophes in our living rooms on TV.  This was a wake-up call from Sandy to tell us that we are vulnerable as well. 

The reason why I became interested in environmental issues is because I do not want us to live in a society where we only have one option when environmental catastrophes impact us; even if it is now or in the future.  In Cuba, the Caribbean’s largest island deals with natural disasters on a yearly basis.  Due to lack of funds for infrastructure improvements, citizens are adequately prepared for hurricane season and the government is quick to respond when disaster strikes.  With climate change predictions, we cannot be sure what our own new normal will be. Unlike Cuba, we have the means to improve our infrastructure. What we need to change is our attitude, especially toward our relationship with the natural world and especially toward climate change.  As we recover, we can change how we think.  Change starts with the general population.  If we become proactive in the community and realize that we are susceptible to more natural disasters, then our elected officials will work harder to make better, sustainable changes for our future. While the lessons of Sandy are largely around climate change, it is also symbolic of our other attitudes: that we can continue to use fossil fuels without consequence; that we can throw out trash and expect it to be buried forever; and that we can flush clean water away down our toilets and never run out.

Sandy taught us that we were not ready for her destruction.  She also taught many of us that climate change is real.  Even though he was highly critical of both, Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed President Obama based on Hurricane Sandy and his climate change agenda.  We should not have to wait for a major misfortune to happen to us to finally believe that climate change is real.  If we act now, we can save ourselves from the most devastating losses of human life, homes, business, and power if something like this was to happen again.  When these disasters hit, politicians always advocate that we will ‘rebuild’ the devastated area.  Maybe we should cut our losses and not rebuild in those areas.  If we are going to truly learn from this, more precautionary measures have to be taken and climate change adaptations must be considered.   Finally, she taught us that we need to fundamentally change our naive attitude towards the natural world, including our access to clean water. We are vulnerable.

 


Does Water Matter in the Presidential Election?
November 5, 2012 - By Khari Linton


(Photo Source: Charlie Neibergall/AP)

From the start of the current presidential campaign, the topic that dominates is jobs. As of October 2012, the unemployment rate stands at 7.9%, which is the lowest percentage since Obama took office. It is still a pressing issue, as are the crises in the Middle East and Northern Africa, health care, national debt, energy, and taxes.

But one topic that is consistently ignored is water.  With so many concerns about droughts, overconsumption, pollution, and destruction of wetlands, the topic of water has remarkably taken a back seat.  Most recently, Hurricane Sandy reminded us of just how fragile our lifestyles are. Let’s look at the two candidates’ stances and actions on water issues.

(New Yorker Cover Artist: Adrian Tomine)

 

Climate change is one highly politicized topic that relates back to water in many ways, from the warming oceans to the melting ice caps. In 2004, Governor Romney created the Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan to encourage reductions in pollution and energy demand.  The state requires new outboard motors on watercrafts that use 30% less fuel and release less oil into the water.  State agencies reduce water consumption by 15% by cutting outdoor water use, replacing old water fixtures, and identifying possible sites where reclaimed water can be used for approved uses.  This plan is also meant to guide municipalities to improve maintenance of sewer lines and water mains. In addition, Romney has worked with the EPA and the Ocean Management Task Force in cracking down on beach water pollution.

In 2011, Romney stated that, if elected president, he would amend the Clean Air Act by excluding carbon dioxide from its statute, setting a tone for his climate change stance. He also stated that he would push for hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which extracts natural gas from reservoir rock deposits but has the potential to contaminate groundwater from spills and flow back, leading to serious public health concerns.

The inconsistencies in Romney’s environmental platform might spell trouble for water.  As Governor, Romney portrayed himself to be a big advocate for a more sustainable Massachusetts.  However, he has since changed his conservation agenda.  Once a Republican that made sustainable changes that the Democrats could not achieve, now, his political team fears that any “environmentalism” would doom his chances for presidency.  How do we know what he truly believes in?

In 2009, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, created to spur economic activity and invest in long-term growth.  The Act has funded the EPA and the Department of Interior to oversee marine habitat restoration and water quality improvements, among other things.  In 2010, Obama authorized an executive order to the National Ocean Council, which addresses some of the challenges facing our oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes. In 2011, the Administration promoted a national Clean Water Framework in conjunction with the Clean Water Act.  The framework is meant to provide more clarity for businesses in permitting processes such as discharging pollution into protected waters and wetlands.  There have been 5,100 water and waste water community infrastructure projects to safeguard the health of 18 million rural residents and support 135,000 jobs. These programs show Obama’s commitment to cleaner water and conservation of our coastal areas. 

However, just like his opponent, Obama has weakened his environmental agenda during his election campaign.  He also supports the exploration of hydrofracking.  He pushes for clean energy, alternative fuels, and more fuel-efficient cars. Unfortunately, the term “water” is nowhere on his agenda. If he is elected again, can we be sure that we will see greater action on water? Or is his current neutrality a sign of things to come.

Whoever the next president may be, water must be a priority and he must take important steps on protecting freshwater resources. He must work with Congress to create and update water laws, specifically the 40 year old Clean Water Act.  California has already created a Right to Water law, ensuring that Californians have access to clean and affordable water.  This could be a national standard.  Our next president should also reduce the risks of international water-related conflicts, update our pathetic water infrastructure, and better prepare us for water-related disasters. He needs to expand the scientific, educational, and financial leadership of the U.S. in addressing unmet water needs for all.  We only have .007% of the Earth’s water for our use.  If we as the United States continue to pollute, waste, and be inactive, we face dire global consequences in the 21st Century.  

 


Sacred Water - The Unfractured Future: Indigenous Perspectives on Hydraulic Fracturing
October 30, 2012 - By Caroline Craig

The Unfractured Future is a short film created by Dyson’s Tracy Basile, adjunct professor in Environmental Studies in Pleasantville, and Scott Halfmann, both of whom are volunteers at WESPAC. As participants in the spring 2010 “Reel Change for Nonprofits” class at the Jacob Burns Film Center’s Media Arts Lab, they took the opportunity to bring a unique and underrepresented voice to the hydro-fracking debate: that of Native Americans.
 
The film features Tiokasin Ghosthorse (Lakota) of First Voices Indigenous Radio WBAI-NY, Oren Lyons (Onondaga), Faithkeeper of the Onondaga Nation, and Robin Kimmerer (Potawatomi), professor of Environmental and Forest Biology at SUNY ESF.
 
The 12 minute film takes on a perspective that is not seen in the mainstream media coverage of hydro-fracking, a simple message unheard beneath the drumbeats of economic and political speak. It reminds us that we are a part of something larger than ourselves and that we have a responsibility to speak on behalf of the water and on behalf of future generations. The Unfractured Future also highlights the power of a people united and how important it is for NY to lead the nation by rejecting fracking. Interwoven clips of Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works and persistent advocate of fracking, prove the battle will not be an easy one.
 
Watch the full film below:
 
 
The film ends with the words of Professor Kimmerer,
 
“We have to think of ourselves as drops of water because, to each of us, as that little water drop, might not feel like we can have an impact. But water moves. Water collects… eventually creating this powerful river of opposition.”
 
The Unfractured Future arrives at a clear conclusion: Water is sacred. We must ban hydro-fracking.

Teachers can contact WESPAC for a FREE copy of the DVD. Connect with local anti-fracking groups at GasMain.org and check out Jacob Burns' Reel Change for Nonprofits.

Our Writers


Annie Bingaman
Annie Bingaman is the .007% Campaign's NYC Campus Outreach Intern. She currently lives in New York City and is majoring in Environmental Studies.

 

Khari Linton
Khari Linton is a resident of Pleasantville and is currently studying Environmental Studies, Marketing, and Political Science. He has been signed on as
the .007% Campaign’s PLV Campus Outreach Intern.


Caroline Craig
Caroline Craig is the Research Assistant at Pace Academy and Project Coordinator for the .007% Campaign. She is a Pace 2012 Environmental Studies and Political Science graduate.



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February 2013

Hydraulic Fracturing

Janurary 2013

Nature Exposed

Where our water comes from

December 2012

Dear Mr. Bloomberg

November 2012

Haverstraw Desalination Plant

The Power of Water: Sandy

What Have You Done Sandy?

Water and the 2012 Election

October 2012

The Unfractured Future


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