Saturday, February 28, 2015

Environment vs the Economy. Who Wins?

    A case that has been in the news recently has been that between ExxonMobil and the State of New Jersey. This, actually, has been a decade long legal battle that is finally being resolved, but not on the terms originally proposed. The case concerns two refinery sites that were once run by Exxon, Bayonne ( 1879-1972) and Bayway (1909-1972), which had contaminated more than 1,500 acres of public marshes, meadows and wetlands in the cities of Bayonne and Linden, NJ. 
    These oil refinery sites have had a history of spills and leakages of industrial wastes into this land, which, consequentially, has destroyed and polluted it. The pollutants include chromium, pesticides, arsenic, and other extremely harmful substances, and it was estimated 28 years ago that at one of these sites alone, at least 7 million gallons of oil were contained in the groundwater and soil in the area, and it was actually suggested by Exxon that the Platty Kill Canal in Bayonne be permanently closed and sealed off. It has been estimated that it would take up to a grand total of $8.9 billion to clean up all the contamination and restore enough forestland and wetland to make up for the years and years of harm caused at these two sites. However, the state has settled the case for about $250 million, which is a mere fraction of the expenses needed and rightfully owed to the public, so it appears that Governor Chris Christie is basically letting the company, with which he has had a history of mutual support in other matters,off easy. However, official documents from the case have not been released, so hopefully there will be other ways as part of the deal that the company will make up for the damages.
       It is a well known fact that many major corporations and companies do major harm to the environment, and, more often than not, get away with it. Protecting the environment isn't in the concerns of these companies, because by doing so, they'd be limiting their own activities. Also, economic growth is prioritized over environmental protection by nations as a whole, and the effects of today's activities on future generations, unfortunately, often aren't taken much into consideration. This ongoing battle between the economy and the environment represents a major hindrance that is crucial to overcome  in one way or another in order to better and maintain environmental health, and unfortunately, much can't be done about it when companies like Exxon are let "off the hook". 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Meetings on 2-21 & 2-23

On Saturday Feb. 21st Bay and Paul had a mini meeting because most of the people in my cohort were working that day. We were told about events and guest speakers that were coming up. Then we figured out what we were going to do for the weekend because we are going to an event in New York. At first we were going to go to New York on Saturday night, spend the night, then go to the event Sunday morning. But something happened and now we will be staying at the Peabody Saturday night and leaving early Sunday morning. We liked this idea so that way we can have hours to plan, get to know everyone in the 2nd cohort and just have fun. Then we did a little bit of planning for a guest speaker, Heather Tallis, who will be coming to the Peabody on Friday to hang out with us.

On Monday we had a full meeting with everyone from my cohort and the 2nd cohort. The 2nd cohort started this meeting. When we all sat down they started talking to us about about an article they read. The article was about a train that derailed and split 19 tubes of oil in this small rural town. After we heard about what happened and watched a small news clip of the incident the kids in the 2nd cohort had discussion questions for us. Each person said their question, then we had a small discussion about it. My favorite discussion question was ‘ Do you think there are safer and more efficient ways to transport oil? ’ This question caught my attention because I didn't see a better way. If you do it by boat or plane you still need some other form of transportation to get it more inland. Then there's always a pipeline, but my problems with those are that if they burst underground then it’s going to be very hard to clean up. Then the pipeline could be put in places where it can upset the public and that only adds to the problem. Then after we heard all of the questions and finished our discussions we split into two groups to plan for upcoming events.

One group planned what we were going to show Heather Tallis on Friday, which is the group I was in,  and the other group planned fun environment activities for us to do on Saturday night.  I filled in everyone with a few things we had planned on showing Ms. Tallis already on the 21st. Then I asked if anyone had anything else in mind. We ended up reading a little bit about her and we all came up with a few questions to ask her. Then we also thought of videos we had made to show her. Then some people would like to talk to her about the research projects we did over the summer and we will also show her a few or our carts. After both groups were done we shared our plans. The other group came up with the idea of playing an environmental family feud, movies we should watch, and food. Then to wrap everything up Andrea gave a few announcements.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Deforestation in Developing Nations

Deforestation is a major problem in many areas of the world ( especially in terms of preventing climate change.) Some countries are chopping down their forests at astonishing rates. But what you may not know is which nations really have the highest rates of deforestation. When considering all these it's important to recognize that although Brazil gets a lot of heat and notice for deforestation in the Amazon (which makes sense considering the total area of land) BUT, as a percentage of landmass cleared, it doesn't even in the the top twenty.  The top 10(ish) countries that deforest are Honduras (37%), Nigeria (36%), The Philippines (32%), Benin (31%), Ghana (28%), Indonesia (26%), Nepal & North Korea (combined 25%), Ecuador & Haiti (22%).

This is just important to note because it's impossible to just completely stop deforestation even though it is a huge problem. Lots of these developing nations have high levels of deforestation because constituents use this wood to build homes and provide fire for warmth. These are very complicated issues. The world wide push for a greener planet honestly seems to leave out the people that literally CANNOT afford it. This is just more than "poor people in places like America" which seems to be the only group that we (loosely used as students in America) seem to worry about. People in the slums of Honduras and Ghana that burn trees down to keep their family warm also need to be thought of and protected.

(Information Links)

Genetically Modified Crops: The Solution Our Earth Needs, or a Dangerous Gamble?

Genetically Modified crops have become a widely used resource for farmers in the twenty-first century. These genes in these crops, including common staple foods such as corn, tomatoes, rice, and beans, have been genetically altered to posses foreign traits and abilities outside of their normal range. These crops have met great success in the U.S. market, often going unknown to consumers due to the lack of labeling. However, GM crops have met great resistance in the European market, and many large companies have given up on their European sales completely. So why are these products becoming so prevalent, and why is their use so controversial? To answer this question, I have researched both the good and the bad aspects of genetically modified foods.

These engineered plants were created with good intention, both economically and environmentally. Many poor nations have difficulty growing crops to feed their people due to pests, drought, strongly alkaline soil, and lack of money for proper pesticides and herbicides. Many genetically altered plants have the capability to solve these issues, utilizing genes from bacteria, mice, fish, and other life forms to create a strong hybrid plant that can withstand these environmental challenges and increase crop yields.

At first glance, these genetically modified foods seem good for a sustainable world and to be a viable solution for food shortages in poor third-world countries. However, if we look deeper into the long term effects of these crops, we begin to see cracks in their logic. Pest resistant crops such as Bacillus thuringiensis corn work by emitting a protein that is toxic to common insects that destroy crops. This protein will effectively kill 99% of insects. There is only one problem. If this is so, then the 1% of insects strong enough to resist the killer protein will be left to breed. If we leave only the toughest insects to breed, then their species may become resistant to our modern pesticides, only making the initial problem worse.

Other similar issues have risen regarding the escape of genetically modified foods, including concerns over GM crops migrating into the wild, long term effects on human health, and on animals in the wild. One thing is for sure, if we are to consider the use of genetically altered crops to better our society, it is extremely important that we ask questions and conduct research first.

Websites I used:

Water... What about it?

Have you ever thought about how much water we use everyday? We use water for many different things. We use it for everything things like cleaning, livestock, agriculture, energy, and industry. Most people don’t pay that much attention to the amounts of water they use because when they think of the water supply they know that 75% of the Earth is water. But what most people don’t know is that only 3% of that water is freshwater and 1.1 billion people are living today without clean drinking water at all! Then we irrigate 71% of global water for agriculture to grow our food.
We are using a lot of water nowadays not thinking about the future and the droughts that will happen. Even today some people are seeing the decrease in water. There are wells that were once full now going dry, rivers are shrinking slowly but surely. For example the Colorado river used to flow into the pacific ocean in 2010 but now it does not. Now people use the Colorado river to fill pools in Vegas and they irrigate the water to reach crops and provide drinking water throughout the west; so now not a drop makes it to the ocean.  A recent study shows that by year 2030 the demand for water will be 40% higher than it is today. Since we know this we should be doing something about it now. If everyone knows that then we should be taking action now trying to change the way we use water.

Friday, February 20, 2015

So What? It's Just Dirt!

The earth’s soil is home to a host of essential organisms, living and nonliving, and provides the foundation for our daily needs.  Soil forms when rocks break down into smaller bit and pieces due to weather and other forces.  Moss and lichen aid in the formation of soil by breaking down the rocks they grow on.  Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are vital for soil nutrition, and these minerals are naturally seen in healthy soil.   
“An acre of healthy topsoil can contain 900 pounds of earthworms, 2,400 pounds of fungi, 1,500 pounds of bacteria, 133 pounds of protozoa, and 890 pounds of arthropods and algae.”

So what happens to our soil when we engage in agricultural activities?  The natural biological and chemical balances of the environment sustains itself through a process that release and receives a balanced amount of nutrients.  When we grow our industrial sized crops, we deplete the soil of its nutrients, which is why we turn to artificial nutrients, fertilizers.  Fertilizers act as amazing imitators, but when too much is used, it can cause runoff into nearby water supplies.  This could be solved if we grew less crops, however with the exponential increase in the human population, this is not feasible.  Let’s all keep in mind how much food we consume and waste, our soil needs it!

 Science and Sustainability 1st Edition Student Textbook (purchase from

Ocean Acidification

 Simply put Ocean Acidification is when the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is absorbed into ocean. Meaning that less carbon ends up in our air, a good thing right? Well not exactly! So much carbon is being absorbed by the ocean that its starting to have negative effects. Since the Industrial Revolution, the ocean has become 30% more acidic! The Ocean Portal Team explains that the when ph of sea water lowers, the water becomes more acidic and makes carbonate ions less abundant in the water. An increase in the acidity of the ocean is not really a good thing. This affects many species who live in the ocean such as shellfish. Many different species of shellfish are dying due to the increase in acidity. It is causing the shells of animals to actually dissolve in the water! So why is this bad for humans? Well in many areas shellfish are a source of income and a main source of protein! This means that when the number of shellfish dwindle we are losing money and many people are losing their main source of food.

We are at fault for the rises in acidity, so what can we do to fix it? With help from everyone it should be easy! Using less and less fossil fuels with help greatly! This will lower the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air. Fixing this environmental issue as well as many others starts with us. Finding "greener" ways to live is how we can make the environment a great place for all its inhabitants!

To learn more about Ocean Acidification:
Watch these informational videos here on Ocean Acidification and Ocean Chemistry:

Saturday, February 14, 2015


Hello Everyone! My name is Chinanu Gubor, and I am a current junior at Career High School. I would just like to introduce myself to this blog.

This is my first year in the Bay & Paul Environmental Leadership Program. My interest in the program sparked at a past Dinosnore, where last year's Bay & Paul Fellows conducted presentations and activities on vehicle idling. I thought that it was super cool (in fact, I was so interested that later sophomore year I decided to expand my knowledge and did a PSA for English on idling!). It inspired me, seeing people my age who care about learning and educating others on the environment. I have always felt that the environmental realm of science was one that society as a whole doesn't acknowledge as much, so I thought that joining this internship would be a great and unique opportunity to connect with others who share in my love for it. I also hope that, through this program, I will be able to develop better communication skills, and overall, expand my knowledge on the environment around us.  I look forward to our coming pursuits, and to working with all of you! 

Summer Research Project

Over the summer of 2014 I had an internship with CitySeed. CitySeed is a non-profit organization that runs all of the farmers’ markets in new haven. When I first started my internship I wanted to get a feel for how the farmers’ markets worked. After I volunteered at the farmers’ market for a week or two I remembered hearing almost everyone I know say that farmers markets are more expensive than a grocery store. So I wanted to figure out if that was true not. Then I realized that not many minorities were going to the farmers’ market and I wanted to figure out why.
So the first thing I needed to figure out if farmers’ markets were more expensive than grocery stores is a list of produce to compare the prices of. My mentor in my internship came up with a list of produce. Then we picked out the three most used grocery stores in New Haven which are Stop&Shop, Shop Rite, and Edge of the Woods. For produce that was non-organic we compared the prices of them from the downtown farmers’ market, Stop&Shop, and Shop Rite. For organic produce we compared the prices from the downtown farmers’ market and Edge of the Woods. After we got all of the prices and made sure everything was measured the same we figured out that organic and non-organic produce was either the same price or cheaper at the downtown farmers’ market. The only thing more expensive at the farmers’ market was raspberries.
Then to start off my quest to figure out why minorities weren’t going to the farmers’ market I made a survey.  I knew my survey couldn’t be too long because I knew no one would want to take it. So it ended up being five questions. The questions were 1) Do you purchase fruits and vegetables? 2) Do you go to the farmers’ market? 3) Where do you buy your produce?  4) Do you think that farmers’ markets are more expensive than grocery stores?  5) If the price of produce were the same at a grocery and the farmers’ market would you go to the farmers’ market? Why or why not?  So after I made the surveys I went to the downtown farmers’ market, Stop&Shop, Shop Rite, and Edge of the Woods to survey the people shopping there, and I also checked the prices of the produce to make sure nothing has changed. After I surveyed everyone I went through the answers and coded them. The results we’re that minorities didn’t go to the farmers’ market just because it was inconvenient. The problem was that people couldn’t got to the locations of the farmers’ market because they had no transportation. Or the farmers’ market was open while they were at work.
Now I hope that because the farmers’ market knows why minorities do not go to the farmers’ market and that it isn’t more expensive than a grocery store they use that to their advantage. So maybe next year they will change the times or locations of the farmers’ markets.

The American Museum of Natural History Event

A few people who were in the symposium at the Peabody museum were invited to present and attend a workshop at the American Museum of Natural History. When we first go to the event we were a tad bit early so we got a mini tour of the museum. After that everyone who was attending was brought to an auditorium. So we started the workshop hearing from some guest speakers. The guest speakers had various jobs in the STEM(science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) field. Ranging from someone being a doctor to a woman who rode around in a bus going to different schools teaching kids about science! The guest speakers told us about the importance of networking and how it affected them. We got to hear all of their success stories, which were amazing to me. Hearing them talk about the ups and downs and the ins and outs of what they went through to get to where they are today was inspiring. We also got to ask them questions and they all gave great advice. One thing that all of the guest speakers said and agreed on was that we should make long and short term goals for ourselves and strive to reach them. They also said it’s okay if our goals change over time because we may have to jump around a little bit before we find our true passion.
After the guest speakers we we’re introduced to an awesome improv group that was going to teach us about public speaking. At first I thought that was a weird mix and I didn’t see how it would work out but it ended up working perfectly. The improv group broke everyone up into groups, including the parents and chaperones. Then we all went to different rooms in the museum. After everyone got settled in the new room we all played a little warm up game called zip, zap, zop. Then we all did a series of exercises that had us thinking on our feet. My favorite one was when we all were sitting in a group and our instructor would pick one of us and we had 10 seconds to run to the front of the group and wait for the instructor to give us a crazy scenario. After we got our scenario we had to talk about  for 1 minute it as if it really happened and we were telling the story. The scenario I got was I was on a plane once and Mel Gibson sat down next to me and tried to sell me tuple wear.
The members of the improv group was superb at making the learning experience unique and fun. Even though it didn’t sound like we were doing a lot of learning about public speakers after each exercise our instructor told us the purpose of why we did it and after we each spoke we we’re given advice on what we can do better and we we’re also shown how we looked. So what I need to work on is to not hide my hands behind my back while I talk and instead I should be using them and speaking with my hands. I also have a terrible habit of rocking back and forth as I speak and that can be distracting to the listener.
After that we had lunch and then we everyone presented their poster boards. All of our boards were hung up for us and we all took our posts by our work. Then everyone who attended the workshop including the improv group and the guest speakers walked around and viewed the poster boards. Some people asked questions, some people just looked and there were a few people who were giving really good feedback to the posters and that was the end of the workshop.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Biodiversity and Why it Matters

      Biodiversity is the biological variety of life on Earth, this includes all domains of life and is a major sign of the health of an ecosystem. Declining biodiversity is a sign of an unhealthy ecosystem. Biodiversity is important because it boosts the productivity of the ecosystem, the smallest form of life is just as important as the largest. A healthy ecosystem that has a high level of biodiversity can better withstand and recover from natural disasters. Despite 'survival of the fittest' alluding to a constant competition in nature (along with predator vs prey), organisms rely on one another very closely to one another to survive. Each species depends on the other for services that they themselves can not manage to do. For example soil microorganisms provide plants with nutrients needed to sustain life or more obviously bees collecting pollen provides plants with the ability to reproduce.
     Decreasing biodiversity does not just impact a few species in an ecosystem, it can wipe out an entire ecosystem, which can impact people who depend on the thriving diversity of a particular ecosystem to make a living. Taking one prey out of the ecosystem makes a predator have to hunt more aggressively its remaining prey, this can destabilize many ecological relationships. It is important to note that Humans can not intervene to effectively fill the void left by a species once it has been removed from an ecosystem, it is impossible to act as effectively as an organisms who have evolved to fit a specific role in a system. The loss of many large carnivores can leaver herbivores unchecked, causing devastation to plant life, it is important to remember that every ecosystem has a carry capacity for each organism and so we should try to upset the balance as little as possible so a species does not surpass carry capacity and cause devastating damage to their world.

By: Mairead Brennan


Sunday, February 8, 2015


Hello all! My name is Vanessa Hansen-Quartey and I am a junior at Engineering Science University Magnet School (ESUMS) and this is my second year in Evolutions and my first year in Bay & Paul Leadership Program.

Already knowing I had a knack for science, I decided to expand on my involvement in extracurriculars that were science oriented, and low and behold I decided to apply for Evo!  I love chemistry, have an interest in physics, a growing love for business and entrepreneurship, but environmental science is just something that is of growing concern in our world and something that cannot be ignored; this is one of the many reasons why I've taken interest in this field!  "Environmental Science" is far broader than a small society full of clean water enthusiasts and tree huggers, but a collection of people from various backgrounds such as geology, chemistry and biology, and even politics that come together to try to solve the problems that are wrong with our earth -- Our physical earth.  For this reason, and the urge to make a difference, I am interested and am grateful for being able to work with all of you! (Soon).

Friday, February 6, 2015

'Is Recycling Worth It?'

It maybe difficult to realize that there are many trade offs to recycling at first glance of this 'green process' called recycling. Like other sites, Discovery News really questions whether or not recycling is helpful.
The EPA stated that 250 million tons of trash were tossed out by Americans. Americans also recycled and composted 83 million tons of trash. Discovery News wrote that the EPA's calculations is equivalent to the carbon emissions savings of taking 33 million cars off the road.
That seems rather fantastic given the fact that everyday millions of people commute to work, school, and other destinations by automobile. Automobiles release gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in large quantities, that it cannot break it down as the rate we produce it. This causes a problem because the harmful gases stay trapped on earth due to our ozone layer. As it's trapped, uneven heating throughout the earth happens.
There's more that goes into recycling than us sorting out our waste into trash cans and recycling bins. It cost millions to have the recycled products sorted out based on their material; aluminum, plastic, and paper. It often labor intensive by picking up the smaller pieces that machinery don't pick up. The benefits are clear but the economic standpoints of recycling is expensive.
So is recycling worth it?
I believe recycling is worth it. I think that recycling may be expensive now, but if we keep recycling more and more products, it would force for more recycling programs to start up. Major companies like Walmart have invested in recycling; the main reason is that it's cheaper to reuse old products' materials and turn it into new products. If more companies invested in recycling, it will reduce the chances of companies being wasteful and also makes it easier for companies to develop better technologies/techniques to recycle.
~Anna Khairi