If you didn’t know already, the recent day of September 19th, 2015 was the Ocean Conservancy’s 30th Annual International Ocean and Shoreline Cleanup! The Ocean Conservancy’s original mission, in what was to become their first annual cleanup event back in 1985, was simply to lessen the amount of trash that was free-floating around in our waterways. 

Back then, scientists had already sounded the alarm about all of the reasons why having an excess amount of trash floating in our oceans could potentially lead to a huge problem not only for humans and sea life, but also for the rest of the world’s animals, too. The trash wouldn’t just endanger our survival in the long-term, but in the short-term it could also threaten tourism and recreational activities in highly trash-polluted areas. This would threaten these areas’ economies, impeding shipping and water transportation, and cost both everyday citizens and big corporations big money for the removal of the trash. So, in that first cleanup thirty years ago, the world’s people set out to do their part in helping to declutter our oceans, waterways, and beaches of trash. 

This year, for the first time, I am proud to be able to say that, since the original cleanup those long thirty years ago, I am one of the hundreds of thousands of volunteers that have jumped on board of the ocean cleanup journey and, during this year’s 2015 cleanup, donated some of my own time to help clean up some of the world’s washed up debris! 

Since their original cleanup, the way that The Ocean Conservancy carries out their cleanups has changed a lot. As part of my experience on September 19th, I got the chance to experience all, if not many, of these new improvements. One of them is how The Conservancy is now having each one of their volunteers (including me!) tally every item of trash that they collect on a data sheet that will later be sent back to the organization. The purpose of these sheets is for scientists that work with the Ocean Conservancy to look at the total numbers of peoples’ tallies and to be able to estimate how much of each type of trash is in our ocean by how much trash was washed up on shorelines and collected by the volunteers. From my research, these record sheets, kept by the volunteers and being submitted to the organization, is what makes The Ocean Conservancy’s cleanups unique. No other cleanup that I have seen uses such a handy ocean trash volume estimation method.

Along with getting to use The Conservancy’s new tally sheets, the rest of my cleanup experience was pretty good, too. Living in New York City, I was worried that it would be hard for me to find an actual beach that I could clean up that I wouldn’t need a car to get to, as I don’t have one. With thorough research, however, I found a section of the shoreline on the 148th street Hudson River in desperate need of cleaning that was a short subway ride and walk away from my apartment. When I arrived at the location on the day of the cleanup with my mom (whom I also dragged along for the fun), I was met with a team of other like-minded community members and environmentalists who were also there to help clean up the same stretch of shoreline. Throughout the day, I got to hear the inspiring stories of the co-cleaners and park supervisors who were cleaning with me. These were people who were also wanting to help save the environment and to help ensure the promise of a better world for future generations. By the end of our four-hour cleanup, the whole volunteer team, along with the park supervisors, had helped to collect twenty-two full, bulging, trash bags from an approximate ⅕ mile stretch of Hudson River shoreline. My mom and I collected two full trash bags full of trash, included in the total twenty-two bags.

Even though it was dirty and exhausting work cleaning up the mess that other people had thrown into the river that had consequently washed up on shore, it was also very rewarding seeing that, at least at that specific moment in our lives, my mom and I were being part of the solution instead of part of the problem. It was rewarding knowing that by cleaning up our two bags of trash, my mom and I were helping to guarantee smiling kids on a happy, healthy planet for many years to come. Our small deed that we did that day is just one clip in the long movie that is, and forever will be, the movie of people coming together to help put an end to climate change.

If you you have not participated in a beach cleanup, I sincerely recommend that you do a little bit of research and go out there and clean up a beach, shoreline, marsh, waterway, or whatever you have it ASAP! The beach will not let you down, but will instead lift you up with all the fun memories, satisfaction, and self-pride that you will be gaining out there cleaning. Go get ‘em!

Information about all of the trash collected worldwide on September 19th, 2015 by all the Ocean Conservancy’s volunteers: http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/international-coastal-cleanup/2015-by-the-numbers.html

@eecophere Tells Us How to Wash Our Hands and #SaveWater Doing It! https://eecosphere.com/articles/how-to-wash-your-hands-and-save-1000-gallons-of-water/

You may see adds on TV, that say “send money to Africa” or some other country of interest. These adds are created by people who want to help others. They try to make you look at the world and its issues through compassion. With the medium of television, social media, and the like, people have had the ability to connect more often, and more effectively. With them, we can see more clearly the issues in the world around us, and hopefully, try to solve them. In my opinion, never in human history have we had such a large problem, and such a large means to solve it than we do right now. As governments and policy makers look at the details of bureaucracy, healthcare, taxes, what have you, sea levels rise and those developing nations go under water. The largest emitters are not the ones who bear the brunt of the issue (Clark). Those effected by climate change seem to not be covered in the media. The media covers the things that are obvious, that are statistical and photographical; the people starving and dying of disease. They can only cover the massive hurricanes like the recent typhoon in the Philippines, not the longterm trends. Climate change is the silent killer more so than any disease in human history, and possibly in the history of life. The great irony is that solving climate change is not a selfless act to preserve the environment. The environment will survive, it will come back with new life, but humans won’t unless they adapt. Solving climate change is the salvation of the human race, and those that accept it are looking for solutions, that need to be found. To coordinate international cooperation, foreign and international policy regarding climate change needs to be addressed. That is where change will be made on a world wide scale. Science is the key to understanding the world’s problems, and policy and cooperation are the lock and the  door to solutions.

The key to addressing a problem is first understanding it. To do this, we will look at the global carbon cycle (see figure 1).
As shown, carbon in the air is processed by plants to produce oxygen. This is called carbon fixation (a redox reaction, see figure 2).Environmental Policy Essay 2015~Draft III~Intern Version copy

CO2 + H2O + light energy —> CH2O (stands for a simple carbohydrate) + O2.(Green) (Figure 2)

As shown above, through the process of photosynthesis energy is converted to, and is stored in the form of, carbohydrates (represented by CH2O). Carbohydrates are then converted into useable energy in plants and other forms of life, by the reverse process (with energy instead of light energy, see figure 3). The carbohydrates may also be used as is, or in other reactions, to  create complex structures i.e. plant cell walls, etc…(Green)

CH2O (stands for a simple carbohydrate) + O2 —>. CO2 + H2O + energy.(Green) (Figure 3)

Through the process of decomposing, carbon is released again into the cycle. In some cases, the carbon is trapped in the ground, and over time due to movements of the dirt and soil, is compressed in the earth to form fossil fuels. A major contributor to climate change is the burning of these fuels i.e. coal, natural gas, oil, etc… which results in the anthropogenic production of green house gasses. Currently, we produce so much CO2 that only 40% of our output can be processed annually by the environment, through this cycle.(Green)

This system is being put out of balance by climate change. The amount of CO2 the climate can support is being exceeded, and consequences are clear. The IPCC’s (Which stands for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) recently published fifth assessment report shows the scientific consensus and concern. A summary by Gian-Kasper Plattner, director of science for the IPCC Working Group I, regarding the groups contribution to the report explained that:

IEnvironmental Policy Essay 2015~Draft III~Intern Version copy 2n the Northern Hemisphere, 1983–2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years (medium confidence)(5).

 The observed warming 1951−2010 is approximately 0.6°C to 0.7°C(8).

Global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century and virtually certain beyond 2100(14).

It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century(10).

There is clear scientific consensus on the issue of climate change, with 97% of climate scientists agreeing (NASA), adding support (and fear) to the trends predicted and observed. The IPCC forecasts that the area hit hardest is currently and will be the third world (Vidal).Environmental Policy Essay 2015~Draft III~Intern Version copy 2

Institutions focusing on world economics are concerned about this, like the world bank who believes without action now, years of social/economic progress will be worthless, and that climate change threatens to put prosperity out of reach for millions (World Bank). The increased intensity of storms as a result of rising sea levels (see figure 5.) will affect the smallest nations most. With the known fact that climate change exists, and that it is an issue, a question arises of whose fault it is, and who is responsible to fix it. Small nations say it is their turn to industrialize, and that they should not be limited in their  pursuits by regulations to solve the issues the first world created. Larger nations protest that despite this unfairness, the world can not allow the same mistakes to be made.

As shown to the right in figure 6, since 1870, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased (Plattner). Although not related to climate change, government intervention to solve environmental problems can be dated back to the turn of the 20th century, with the progressive era and its presidents, coinciding with the conservation movement in the United States. Theodore Roosevelt, a progressive president and conservationist, established the parks system, preserving mEnvironmental Policy Essay 2015~Draft III~Intern Version copy 2any natural areas to prolong their usefulness. This was a  fundamental change in ideas, first, it accepted that humans have an impact on the environment, and second, it used policy to protect it.

In 1962, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson was published, which highlighted on the connection of man and nature, and man’s new ability to control and destroy it. (A Fierce Green Fire)

Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species — man — acquired significant power to alter the nature of the world.

– Rachel Carson, in Silent Spring

As we go into the 70s, the same participants in the civil rights and anti-war movements fought for the cause of environmental protection (A Fierce Green Fire), a cause brought to national attention with the first Earth Day in 1970 (Cooper). The policy results of this rebirth of environmentalism can be found in the clean air act, the clean water act, and the endangered species protection act (see figure 7).Environmental Policy Essay 2015~Draft III~Intern Version copy 2

The domestic concern which ignited national policy change, also stimulated international policy. The United Nations, founded in 1945 (United Nations), sought to be a tool of international peace and prosperity, through  discussion and cooperation. As an extension of this, it attempted to address environmental issues, one of the most famous bids of which was the Kyoto Protocol.

Environmental Policy Essay 2015~Draft III~Intern Version copy 2The protocol, adopted in 1997 (Kyoto Protocol), tried to address the growing issue and fear of climate change. As shown to the right; however (see figure 8.), the overall success of the protocol is questionable. Some believe that it was a failure, but it is worth noting that it was a strong first step, for the international conversation, even though its physical climate impact was negligible (Clark, Kyoto). Of all of the countries combined that adopted the protocol, there was a significant decline in emissions, but not all nations signed on, specifically in the third world (Clark, Kyoto), which was largely exempt, plus China. Most developed nations did; however, adopt it. Yet overall, global green house gas levels spiked since Kyoto went into effect (Clark, Kyoto).

For the international community to solve the issue of climate change, they first had (and have) to understand it. This is shown through the creation of the IPCC (mentioned earlier) in 1988 (IPCC, History). The group sought (and seeks) to understand the issue of climate change, with science, through the lens of possible solutions. In 2007, the IPCC received the Nobel Peace Prize for their work (along with Al Gore) (IPCC, History). Overall, their contributions show the ability of science and policy to coincide, and from this, the solutions that can be produced.

The solutions to anthropogenic climate change are somewhat controversial. In my view, policy is the only method to achieve the massive cooperation necessary for change. Technology and science could be used to limit energy use by making more efficient systems, investing in nuclear power (and research in nuclear fusion), and changing habits. Sustainable development, a current goal of the UN (United Nations), could be achieved in the third world through incentives. Other lures can be put in place in developed nations, along with accountability through systems like cap and trade, or a carbon tax.

Never has there been greater opportunity for global unification under the banner of solving a problem. We have the tools and it is within our reach. Through science and understanding along with implementation of solutions on the world stage, climate change can be solved for future generations.

“2.10.2 Direct Global Warming Potentials.” AR4 WGI Chapter 2: Changes in Atmospheric Constituents and in Radiative Forcing. IPCC, 2007. Web. May 2015. <https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch2s2-10-2.html&gt;.

“7.3 The Carbon Cycle and the Climate System.” – AR4 WGI Chapter 7: Couplings Between Changes in the Climate System and Biogeochemistry. IPCC, 2007. Web. May 2015. <https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch7s7-3.html&gt;.

Carson, Rachel. “Silent Spring Quotes.” By Rachel Carson. Good Reads, n.d. Web. May 2015. <http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/880193-silent-spring&gt;.

Clark, Duncan. “Has the Kyoto Protocol Made Any Difference to Carbon Emissions.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 26 Nov. 2012. Web. May 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com%2Fenvironment%2Fblog%2F2012%2Fnov%2F26%2Fkyoto-protocol-carbon-emissions>.

Clark, Duncan. “Which Nations Are Most Responsible for Climate Change?” The Guardian. The Guardian, 21 Apr. 2011. Web. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com%2Fenvironment%2F2011%2Fapr%2F21%2Fcountries-responsible-climate-change>.

“Climate Change Affects the Poorest in Developing Countries.” “Climate Change Affects the Poorest in Developing Countries” The World Bank, 3 Mar. 2014. Web. May 2015. <http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2014/03/03/climate-change-affects-poorest-developing-countries&gt;.

“Climate Change Overview.” The World Bank. Bank Group, 24 Mar. 2015. Web. May 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.worldbank.org%2Fen%2Ftopic%2Fclimatechange%2Foverview%231>.

Cooper, Mary H. “Environmental Movement at 25.” CQ Researcher 31 Mar. 1995: 273-96. Web. May 2015. <http://photo.pds.org:5012/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresrre1995033100&type=hitlist&num=0&gt;

“Earth Day.” Earth Day. United States Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. May 2015. <http://www2.epa.gov/earthday&gt;.

A Fierce Green Fire. Dir. Mark Kitchell. Perf. Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Ashley Judd, Van Jones, Isabel Allende, David Brower, Lois Gibbs, Paul Watson. First Run Features, 2012. DVD. June 2015

“Global Climate Change: Consensus.” Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. NASA, n.d. Web. May 2015. <http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/&gt;.

Green, Hank. “The Global Carbon Cycle – Crash Course Chemistry #46.” Crash Course. Crash Course, 13 Jan. 2014. Web. May 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLuSi_6Ol8M&gt;.

“History.” IPCC. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, n.d. Web. May 2015. <http://www.ipcc.ch/organization/organization_history.shtml&gt;.

“Kyoto Protocol.” The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The United Nations, n.d. Web. May 2015. <http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php&gt;.

Motel, Seth. “Polls Show Most Americans Believe in Climate Change, but Give It Low Priority.” Pew Research Center RSS. Pew Research Center RSS, 23 Sept. 2014. Web. May 2015. <http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/09/23/most-americans-believe-in-climate-change-but-give-it-low-priority/&gt;.

“Overview.” United Nations. The United Nations, n.d. Web. May 2015. <http://www.un.org/en/sections/about-un/overview/index.html&gt;.

Plattner, Gian-Kasper. “Highlights of the New IPCC Report.” Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. IPCC, 2013. Web. May 2015. <https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/unfccc/cop19/cop19_pres_plattner.pdf&gt;.

Vidal, John. “Climate Change Will Hit Poor Countries Hardest, Study Shows.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 27 Sept. 2013. Web. May 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com%2Fglobal-development%2F2013%2Fsep%2F27%2Fclimate-change-poor-countries-ipcc>.

The Wild West!

This spring, I was lucky to be able to go on a trip with my school to the Chihuahuan Desert and the Rio Grande River in Texas. We spent several days camping in the desert and travelling along the river. We also visited the Mimms ranch run by the Dixon Water Foundation, which raises cattle using sustainable practices that save water and help the environment.

When we arrived, a friendly man in a cowboy hat walked out to greet us. He asked us where we were from and what our interest was. He led us to a conference room and pulled out some maps, and proceeded to explain to us the layout and methods their ranch uses. It was similar to Joel Salatin’s method described in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. They use a rotation method, in which their cows have a different piece of land to graze every day of the year. This allows the grass plenty of time to recover and keeps the cows well fed.

We were particularly interested in water, so as our new teacher, Mr. Potts, led us to a van to drive us around the ranch, he explained how this method is sustainable in the desert. When the Dixon Water Foundation first bought the land, he told us, it wasn’t as healthy. Shortly after switching to their rotation method, the land endured a harsh fire. Since then, the foundation has been working hard to bring the land to its best potential health. The new method, Mr. Potts explained, has made the land more resilient and full of plants that help the ecosystem. This is especially important in such an arid environment. Unlike in places like my home state, Georgia, rain is sparse in Texas and every inch makes a huge difference.

It was really neat to learn about the ranch and how this smart, thoughtful approach can benefit the cattle, the ranchers, the consumers, and the environment in the long run. Check out their website to learn more – there are some great links at the bottom of the Ranches > Sustainable Land Management page.

Mimms Ranch

Mimms Ranch – as seen on their website


The setting was filled with greens and blues, not just seeping into view from the ground and sinking from the sky, but also from the clothing of the people that surrounded me. The people who have brought me closest to nature and the people nature has brought me closest to. The quaking aspen kept us in like bars of a prison, but only reminded me of the cold spring mountains of Park City, Utah. After the branches fall off, the eyes of the aspen watch me as I ski with my family and sit quietly for science lab. The quaking aspen do not have a distinct taste, or smell like the lodgepole pines. The quaking aspen age from the bottom up, wrinkling grey overtaking the smooth pale bark that covers their core. The kinnikinnick carpets the ground and disperses around the small pond reflecting the sky shaded my quaking aspens and littered with fallen quaking aspens. The flutter of leaves and movement of bugs fill the air as the silence continues. The air up above smelled strongly of pine and the ground was damp. The quaking aspen stand their ground, but they will be overtaken by the lodgepole pines soon.

A Shawk


One day my sister and I were walking home from school. It was a windy, hoodie-weather day in the should-be-spring of early April. We were talking through an exam we had just taken when something huge and brown landed in front of us. A giant bird of prey perched three feet in front of us on the wet side walk. It was more than a foot tall and clutched a limp squirrel corpse in its talons, ready to chow down. I determined later, by looking at my bird book, that this was a Red-tailed hawk. This was not the type of thing you normally get to see up close, and yet, it was happening right here, in front of someone’s house in the center of suburbia. My sister made us cross to the other side of the street when the creature turned its black owlish eyes toward us but I could not make myself walk any farther away. It was fascinating to watch it rip apart the  animal, fur, flesh and all.
It felt like a privilege to watch this very natural process in person. At the same time I felt sympathy for the bird. A few minutes later, someone parked in front of the house and the bird retreated to the neighbors porch roof, leaving it’s meal behind. I could not help remembering a science fair project that I had done on urban sprawl and thinking that before we sprawled into its habitat, the bird could be eating this squirrel in peace, without the disturbance of cars or pedestrians.

Though I am sure it had no such feelings of reverence towards us, I felt honored to be watching this beautiful creature. It brought to mind an article I just read in the YES Magazine about the power of language in the way that we view the earth. The author criticized our use of “it” to describe everything related to earth.  No wonder, we do not respect things that are given such an inanimate name. Though they are all part of Mother Earth, we call them “it”, something that we would never use to refer to our mother or family. The author contrasts the English language in this regard with the languages of indigenous people, many of whom have respect for the earth built into their culture and language. Just as these people refer to organisms as kin, I did not feel that it was appropriate in that moment with the hawk to say “it.” I understood, watching the majestic scene, the article authors’ rejection of degrading ways of referring to the natural world.

(article: YES Magazine, Spring 2015, p. 34, IT: Alternative Grammar: A New Language of Kinship by Robin Wall Kimmerer)


About a month ago, Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma set out to disprove climate change once and for all. Inhofe is the chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works, a position for which he proudly shows his competence — with snowballs. In his speech in the Senate on February 26th, Inhofe brought in a poster of his daughter’s family making an igloo, and a snowball he had made all by himself outside in D.C.

Addressing the Senate chair, Inhofe said, “In case we have forgotten, because we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, I ask the chair: Do you know what this is? It’s a snowball. And. . . that’s just from outside here. So it’s very, very, unseasonable.” So, to dispute the radical, twisted assumptions made by scientists on the effects of greenhouse gases building up in the earth’s atmosphere, Senator Inhofe blew away the Senate with some science of his own. He pointed out that Washington, D.C. was “unseasonable,” or unusual for that time of the year. Thus, rain falling from the sky was actually freezing, which allowed him to create a packed ball of snow that he then tossed lightly at the Senate chair.

While D.C. did experience some of it’s coldest weather in a few years, something that Senator Inhofe may have “forgotten” himself is that in certain parts of the world, about every 12 months there is a weather phenomenon that those so-called “scientists” like to call “winter.” Often times, in this “winter” season, the weather becomes a temperature at which rain freezes, allowing both the young and old alike to make (and throw) snowballs.

What Inhofe fails to note in his presentation is that global temperature has risen since the industrial age began and humans started producing more and more Carbon Dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, hence the term, global warming. Just because any one area in the winter is cold doesn’t warrant the assertion that global warming isn’t happening. Senator Inhofe might as well have brought in a tray of ice from his freezer and made the same statement to the Senate. While he was right that the weather in D.C. was unusually cold this winter, global warming isn’t the only part of climate change affecting the earth. “Global Weirding” is a term coined by Thomas L. Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and New York Times columnist. This term focuses on the fact that, through the extensive amounts of environmental harm we are causing to the earth, there are temperature extremes in different parts of the world, from the hottest heat to the coldest cold. Therefore, the recent cold bouts in cities like D.C. don’t invalidate the idea of climate change and global warming, but rather support the effects of “Global Weirding.”

It is great to know that the chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works can still make a snowball. However, it is disconcerting to see that he believes that the presence of cold weather and snow in one place during a season that happens every year in the Northeast is evidence against global warming. If people like this are able to spread their ideas enough and continue ignoring climate change, eventually places like the Northeastern U.S. may not have winter seasons every year, and Inhofe’s snowballs won’t exist anymore.

Maybe the next time Senator Inhofe steps up to make a presentation in the Senate, he can wave around a dollar bill and prove that the United States isn’t actually in debt. . .

Here is an article with a video of Senator Jim Inhofe’s presentation.

Here is a link to a 2010 article by Thomas L. Friedman.

Here is a link to a website about “Global Weirding”.


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