Green World: Introductory discussion

The material within these videos and articles will be discussed on our first day of class.
You are asked to be prepared to discuss at least two entries on this page.

  They came. They drilled. They left, and in their aftermath are unplugged holes in the ground — orphaned coal-bed methane wells.  To date, there are 6,924 plugged and abandoned coal-bed methane wells in Campbell County, according to the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Of those wells, 5,202 are on fee or state land. The rest are on federal land.  There also are wells that are orphaned — wells that the operators walked away from, leaving them unreclaimed. The responsibility of plugging these wells falls on the Oil and Gas Commission if the wells are on state or private land, or to the Bureau of Land Management, if they are on federal land.  Since production peaked in 2009 at 580 million thousand cubic feet, the number of orphaned holes has been rising.  There are about 1,220 abandoned wells on state and fee (private) land in Wyoming, most of which are in the Powder River Basin, according to Gov. Matt Mead’s office.
Wyoming’s Orphan wells – By Alexandra Sukhomlinova
The mounds of kelp that recently washed onto local beaches point to a thriving offshore ecosystem created by restoration efforts over the past decade, experts say.  Ten years ago, there was practically no kelp off Orange County’s coast. Pollution and an overabundance of predators such as sea urchins had decimated the kelp forests, killing 80 percent of what Southern California had a century ago.  But over the past decade, environmentalists and others planted nearly 5 acres of kelp along coastal Southern California. They planted lab-grown kelp, transplanted healthy kelp from existing beds, released kelp spores and removed kelp predators, namely sea urchins, which can take over and obliterate a kelp forest if left unchecked.  Those efforts seem to have paid off: The kelp is back.  “This is just a sign of how healthy our kelp forest has become. Just 10 years ago, there was almost no kelp on the Orange County coast,” said Ray Hiemstra.
Ocean’s hidden kelp forests return — Aaron Orlowski
 This article was also fLaurie Barr is a hunter. Each year, around November, when the trees in Pennsylvania lose their foliage and the shrubs are nothing but bare sticks, offering no hiding place or cover, the hunting season begins. But Laurie Barr doesn’t carry a rifle or a crossbow; she doesn’t wear camouflage, and no faithful hounds lead the way. She doesn’t have to tread silently across the forest floor or keep her voice down because her quarry, if she is lucky enough to find it, is already dead – has been dead for decades. Armed with just a digital camera and a GPS device, Laurie Barr is hunting for what almost no one in Pennsylvania has heard of: orphaned oil and gas wells.
Dimiter Kenarov, for the Pulitzer Center
"In my opinion . . . just to get this many people talking about it (is a win)," Sheehan said. "It really is a David and Goliath story, and it's a story that will not go away no matter" which way the vote swings.  Indeed, the initiative to impose a moratorium on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops in Maui County has become one of the most divisive issues the county has ever seen. It's driven thousands of residents to become more politically engaged this election season by marching in rallies, offering testimony before the Maui County Council or sitting down to analyze the piece of proposed legislation.  But the initiative also has brought out combative behavior and vandalism that seldom characterize Hawaii elections. Extreme advocates have been caught on video removing campaign signs from private property and stopping in the middle of a roadway to yell at sign-wavers. In Lahaina, trees and buildings were spray-painted.  For a county that has drawn the lowest voter turnout in the state in the past few elections, this singular initiative has driven more residents to get involved than ever before. It's uncertain what effects the surge of one-issue voters might have on other ballot measures or candidates.  The "vote yes" side hopes to stop cultivation of genetically engineered crops until studies show they are safe for the environment and public health. The "vote no" side maintains such a ban would cost residents hundreds of jobs and taxpayers millions of dollars. And, it is not clearly written, they say.
GMOs or no GMOs?
2014 Election: That is the voter initiative question
— Eileen Chow
Conventional wisdom says western Lake Erie’s toxic algae is supported by commercial farm runoff, animal manure, sewage spills, faulty septic tanks, and other major sources of nutrients responsible for putting much of the excessive phosphorus and nitrogen in the water.  But that’s not the whole story.  As Great Lakes scientists probe deeper into the weeds on this issue, they find such contributing factors as invasive species and climate change also foster algal growth.  Invasive species and climate change don’t cause algal blooms, but they worsen them.  That message often gets lost or misunderstood by a confused public that gets bombarded with information and wants to assign blame to a single issue, even though science doesn’t work that way.
Invasive species compound toxic algae risk — Tom Henry
Cape Town - Gauteng’s water was recently switched off because it was “so close to the edge” – and that’s just the beginning. The rest of the country is running on empty unless government spends 100 times more to secure our water supply.  In more than half of the country, South Africans are using more water than what’s available. We are already using 98% of our available water supply, and 40% of our waste water treatment is in a “critical state”.  A staggering 37% of our clean, drinkable water is being lost through inefficient ways of using water such as leaking pipes, dripping taps – and that is what’s being reported, the figure could be much higher.
South Africa’s looming water disaster — Emma Thelwell
While big companies make millions from El Salvador’s water-rich Nejapa municipality, locals have little or no access to water.  Ana Luisa Najarro’s neighbours include some of the world’s largest corporations. Down the street from her house, giant drinks manufacturers have set up a series of factories and warehouses, bottling water and fizzy drinks for distribution across the country and export across central America.  Coca-Cola is here, bottled by a subsidiary of SABMiller, the world’s second-largest brewer. A Mexican juice multinational has also moved in, as has a large bottled water company.  Millions of dollars are made by major beverage businesses in Nejapa, an expanding industrial area in El Salvador near where Najarro lives. But despite living down the road, and on top of one of the country’s largest aquifers, she says she struggles every day to find enough clean water to drink.  “Nejapa is a gold mine for water. It’s rich in water, and the communities have no access,” says Najarro, sitting in her garden. Her family has lived on this plot for three generations and she remembers a time when water was plentiful. “There were beautiful rivers you could go to and wash or swim. Now we can’t use the water for anything,” she says. “The water in the river is dirty; it’s dead water.”  Just 20km north of the capital, San Salvador, Nejapa is an ecologically critical zone in central America’s smallest and most densely populated country. Salvadoran civil society groups say it is also a prime example of how unfettered competition over limited resources has created scenes of extreme water poverty next door to water-intensive industries
Water everywhere for profit in Nejapa, but few drops for local people to drink — Claire Provost and Matt Kennard
The more traffic pollution a pregnant woman is exposed to—especially during her third trimester—the greater chance her child will develop autism. That’s the conclusion of yet another study, this one published online in the October 2014 edition of the journal Epidemiology.  It was only about a decade ago that scientists first began looking at whether air pollution impacted infant development. Today, four studies link traffic pollution exposure to autism, a developmental disorder characterized by social problems, communication difficulties, and repetitive behavior.  According to lead author of the latest study, environmental epidemiologist Dr. Amy Kalkbrenner, the literature has been very consistent.  “When looking at health impact in a human population, not a controlled animal experiment, getting this level of consistency is, in my assessment, notable,” she said.
Fourth Study Finds Traffic Pollution May Cause Autism — Conran Milner

Big Data, Google, Orwell. Pretty much in that order.

For the past couple of years I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with Google.   It began with not being thrilled that I had to sign in with a Google (or Google-owned entity) account to post a comment on something I’ve read.   The more I learned about Google, the less I wanted to support creating a history for every website  visited, every purchase made, every email, every picture taken, every person I’ve met, every aspect of my on-line life and — through linking known associates — extrapolating the rest of my life as well.

The nature of who we are is to a great extent defined by the people we love, our families, where we worship, friends we keep, people we meet, work we do,  interests we pursue, words we write, actions we take, places we go, pictures we take, videos we watch, social groups we join,  objects we purchase, choices we make, and aspirations we have.   All of these manifestations of who you are, including your credit, driving, education and medical history,  are found in the records of your life on-line.

No matter how you choose to justify the “convenience” of using Google to search, for mail, calendars, document generation, or any other of their products, the price which you pay is the record of who you were, are now, and based on that data: who you will be in the future.

I started using DuckDuckGo.com (DDG)as my Internet search engine this past week because of their anti-tracking policy.   In the first hour of using DDG, I clicked on a link to a YouTube video and was greeted by the image below:
YouTube videos cannot be watched anonymously

So – all the times that you have been watching YouTube videos, surfing the web, using your browser to participate in social media, write mail, or use other websites, even though you are not signed into your Gmail account, your user history has been logged and recorded by Google and that data paired with the data in your Gmail and Google document accounts.

Staggering, isn’t it?

He who controls the past controls the present.  He who controls the present controls the past. — George Orwell, 1984

A 2012 NPR article quotes, “While Google is not providing a way for users to opt out of its new privacy policy, this tracking only happens when you are logged in.”

Two years later that is no longer true:  Google can — and does — track users whether they are signed in or not.   Couple this knowledge with recent Facebook experiments in manipulating user experiences and Hearst’s role in the Spanish-American War becomes trivial.  Below is an excerpt from an article published in Forbes:

Facebook conducted a massive psychological experiment on 689,003 users, manipulating their news feeds to assess the effects on their emotions.    The details of the experiment were published in an article entitled “Experimental Evidence Of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks” published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The short version is, Facebook has the ability to make you feel good or bad, just by tweaking what shows up in your news feed.

In 2011 Google‘s search engine was working on shaping news content based upon past history to build a news page reflecting “user intent.”   At that time in order for this feature to work, users had to be signed in to their Google accounts.   As a simple test, if you compare news.google.com between your computer and another person’s you will see that this is no longer true, even if you are not signed in: the news will be “customized” to your viewing history.

A recent Wired article by Robert McMillan reveals the presence of “shadow profiles” which exist even if you are not on Facebook.

Our age of big data was beyond George Orwell’s nightmare view of society.   Today his pithy aphorism might be amended to, “Control the past and you can control the present.  Control the past and the present and you can control the future.”

Night, Peter Terezakis, Heart Beats Light, Yuha Desert 2007

Pictures at an Exhibition

“Pictures at an Exhibition,” as in I have one included in a group exhibition.
Night, a 2007 image from an installation of Heart Beats Light is included in New York University’s Photo and Emerging Media 2014-2015 Faculty and Staff Exhibition.  The exhibition opened on September 2, 2014 and closes on October 9, 2014.  The show is in two locations: the Gulf + Western Gallery (1st Floor, rear lobby) and the 8th Floor Gallery, 721 Broadway New York, NY 10003.

My piece is at the 721 Broadway location.  Admission is free and open to the public.

NYU’s Photo and Emerging Media faculty and staff of 2014-2015 include Ulrich Baer, Matthew Baum, Michael Berlin, Wafaa Bilal, Terry Boddie, Isolde Brielmaier, Kalia Brooks, Mark Bussell, Edgar Castillo, Iliana Cepero Amador, Charlotte Cotton, Yolanda Cuomo, Erika deVries, Thomas Drysdale, Brandy Dyess, Cate Fallon, Adrian Fernandez, Kara Fiedorek, Nichole Frocheur, Mark Jenkinson, Whitney Johnson, Elizabeth Kilroy, Elaine Mayes, Editha Mesina, Charles Nesbit, Lorie Novak, Paul Owen, Karl Peterson, Christopher Phillips, Shelley Rice, Fred Ritchin, Joseph Rodriguez, Bayeté Ross Smith, Abi Roucka, Peter Terezakis, Cheryl Yun-Edwards, and Deborah Willis.
Night, Peter  Terezakis,  Heart Beats Light, Yuha Desert 2007
Peter Terezakis, MPS
New York University Artist in Residence
http://www.terezakis.com
http://www.allthenamesofgod.com
http://www.sacredskysacredearth.com

Same as it ever was

In June of 2014 President Obama announced the goal of reducing coal pollution from power plants by 30%; a definitive gesture to the world in efforts to combat climate change.   On September 16th  Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, held a “CALL FOR CREDENTIALED NEWS MEDIA ONLY.

The gist of her presentation was that President Obama has back-pedaled on the most critical component of his climate-change plan: that of slowing the process of setting new rules cutting carbon pollution from power plants.   Even in a world of shifting baselines June’s announced rule would have cut carbon pollution from the country’s power plants by an average of 30% over 2005 levels.

Yesterday’s forty-five day extension of a public comment period by the current presidential administration follows 106 days after the stated change in what most would consider business as usual.   This delay is a symbolic gesture to all concerned with anthropogenic effects on our biosphere and our climate – including the United Nations.

Seven days after President Obama’s administration announced this “extension” the United Nations will host the largest summit on climate change in history.  Over one hundred and twenty heads of state will convene to address an issue which will impact the future of humanity.

Instead of leading by example, President Obama will again demonstrate actions dictated by fossil fuel interests as he continues to endorse the exporting of our country’s resources at the expense of current and future generations of Americans while multi-national corporations continue to profit.  Instead of embracing renewable technologies to power our economy into the future the message is clear: we are to remain enmired in nineteenth century technology.

Same as it ever was is hardly change anyone can believe in.

 

 

The Corporation – documentary

The CorporationA few years ago a friend told me how corporations fit the psychological profiles of sociopaths.  Considering how corporations run daily life, I really didn’t want to believe him.

Recently I came across  The Corporation: a 2003 Canadian documentary film written by Joel Bakan a professor of law at the University of British Columbia.   The documentary examines the modern-day corporation.  Bakan wrote the book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, during  filming.

I am still processing the information in this film and would recommend it to anyone interested in environmentalism, human rights, their future, or their now.  The information in this film will change the way that you see the world.

Past President George Bush extols virtues of corporate ethics

Detail, North side of 1 Washington Pl, New York, NY 10003

Best construction practice or another kind of vandalism?

For the past two years I have walked past the Gallatin building on my way to 721 Broadway (where I recently graduated from ITP!).

A long-time New Yorker, I have a fondness for the historic architecture of downtown – especially those which comprise the New York University campus.

Yesterday I had a bit of a shock when I saw steel L brackets bolted to otherwise pristine faces of granite blocks framing the windows on the Gallatin building’s  south-facing 1 Washington Place side.

I understand that scaffolding must be put in place for various types of construction and why.  I simply have never seen an invasive attachment like the one on Gallatin.

Even if there isn’t secondary fracturing and the bolt holes are plugged with epoxy, those otherwise pristine faces will never be the same and their deterioration will now accelerate requiring maintenance where none would have been needed.

The cavalier treatment of this historic building is a crime against culture, history, and property.   These are the actions of someone who has decided that the preservation of historic architecture has little to no value: unless they  — or an affiliate  — will be hired to continually repair the damage which they have begun.