Spring: Trying to Emerge, by Jeremy Stevens



My second trip to White Clay felt more like a chore than my first one.  It was colder, the air was crisp, and I had just over an hour before my next class.  There was an agitated warmth in my legs from pedaling my bike, but the freezing temperatures numbed the rest of my body.  I was uncomfortable and impatient as I settled onto my mossy patch, but determined to write a thorough journal.

The lakes that held just a few stubborn ice cubes last weekend were now covered by a thin frosty wafer.  Mud along the banks had frozen into kernels that crunched under my feet and bike tires.  The warmth from last weekend was gone, but its effects were still noticeable.  Several small brown birds flitted around me, clearly annoyed by my intrusion.  The earth had a chill to it, but green was forcing its way through, pushing back against the frost encroachment.  Stems were sprouting from the ground, buds were forming on thorn bushes, and the sheet of ice framed the pond’s algae in a pane of emerald glass.  Spring had decided to stay.  Every small observation was further proof that the frozen earth was starting to yield life, as if the plants of the ground were in an argument with the temperature that they were determined to win.  It all breathed together and shivered against the frigid breeze.

The longer I sat and contemplated the growth around me, the more my irritation subsided.  I was now more focused on the task at hand.  After I made those initial observations and comparisons to the previous week, I started trying to pick out and identify individual plants and animals.  Japanese honeysuckle had coiled its way around nearby trees and was contributing its greenery to the scenery.  I also realized that the grasses around me were indeed Japanese stilt grass.  I was already familiar with its prolific summer verdancy, but I never realized that they reverted to old brooms in the winter.

Underneath the dense hay I found another plant stubbornly refusing to submit to the elements or its invasive competition.  The tall green stalks of wild onions rose in opposition to the mass of brown that surrounded them.   Here was a wild, native food that was being swallowed up by an alien plant.  I couldn’t have made up a better connection to Food Fight if I had tried.  The odds were certainly against the onions, but root vegetables are hardy and strong.  It already had the advantage of being able to grow in the winter.  It was insistent that it belonged there, and that, despite its sheer quantity, it was the stilt grass that was the outsider.  In Food Fight, the Hawaiian citizens faced an uphill battle against Monsanto’s agricultural testing, but their stubborness and tenacity paid off in the form of local pesticide restrictions.  As my hour wore on and the ground slowly leached the heat from my body, I resolved to have the same endurance as that onion, solemnly sitting and waiting until the task at hand was complete

February Sun, by Meg Summonte

Upon arrival at White Clay Creek this week, I found myself curious about what today’s environment would show me. As I stepped out of the car, I was taken back by how strong the sun was shining on this very day. This was not ordinary weather for the middle of February. The temperature stood at a crisp 46 degrees but the sun rays had made it feel about 10 degrees warmer. There were only a few clouds in the sky, it was rather quiet up there. It was around 11:30 am as I made my way deeper into the creek. Attracted to the view of the river, I wandered closer to where the land met the water. The trees were lonely and cold. Many of them held a slouched posture and their leaves had all fallen to the ground. Each step toward the river made a crunch underneath my feet. Dirt gathered on top of my white shoes because of the wet grass that I was marching through. The creek consisted of small streams the had originated from the culvert. This is defined as a tunnel that carries a stream or open drain under the road or land. The culvert was made of cement and a continuous flow of water ran out of it. This created a long stream in the creek that varied in width as it continued closer to the large body of water. There were many rocks within the stream, some small, some large that conducted where the water went. Closer to the culvert, the trickle of water sounded louder because of the rocks that guided its path. Compared to this stream, the sound of the river was calm and soothing because of the continuous uninterrupted path. The differences among nature that I had found were so similar yet so separated. Water was able to make different sounds which had also created different emotions to its listeners and viewers. I had started becoming aware of the noises within my environment. Planes were zooming and birds were chirping. The wind did not make a peep. Most of the noises were made by my own feet slushing through wet grass. Each step sunk a bit into the ground. The creek would occasionally sit in silence for a few moments. These were the moments where it felt like everything in the world had stopped and I was able to breathe in the stillness. Taking a good look around, it was evident that my professor had sent us here for something bigger than just journaling. I sat down on a rusted pipe that lay on the edge of land. Closing my eyes, I had thought about the beauty and freeness of the world. It is quite often that with our busy schedules, we get caught up in tiny frustrations and materialistic things that aid our everyday lives. Coming out here to White Clay creek slapped me in the face and open my heart to a smaller area of appreciation. Looking straight into the sky I thought to myself, “Where the hell did this all come from”. The spot I sat in allowed the sun to shine perfectly through the trees while baking my face. The river flowed at a moderate speed and I was able to see surface-level objects floating through. The sight of the river was mesmerizing. The flow of the river sounded somewhat like a calm waterfall. I took a deep breath in… and a deep breath out. The smell was nothing less of dirt and tree moss. Deep breath in…deep breath out. My body was relaxed and a slight gust of wind ticked my neck. Deep breath in…deep breath out, I was at peace.

Suddenly, I was alarmed by two voices hollering at one another, “Honk! Honk! Honk!”. My head peeked over the land only two see two lovebirds following one another’s path down the river. Two geese, brown and small, going back and forth yelling at another. They continued their hollers until I could no longer see them. Their necks stood tall and their bodies remained still. For a minute, I questioned myself about life as a goose. How simple it must be to live a life full of finding food and staying alive. The sun had reflected on the water making certain areas of the water look lighter than others. This made the water shine and feel sort of angelic. The creek vibrated with a happy environment and smiles among its travelers.


The Power of Company, by Abby Fernandez

While I was at white Clay this past week, I was walking among the muddy trails that were once dry and dusty from the blistering heat when I was last there earlier this year.  Most of the big trees that were lush and lively seemed very bare and dull due to the colder months. The sky was quite grey and seemed to be full of clouds but empty in terms of any sunlight. It was very quiet while hiking except for the occasional scurry of a squirrel in the bushes or the wind causing  the branches  to make that oh so unsettling creaky noise. I arrived at my favorite spot, being the waterfall, and watched as the water poured down  from the surplus of rain earlier that day. While doing so, I quickly spotted a hawk seeking food within the woods of the park. It was flying through the grey sky so seamlessly, its huge dark wings contrasting beautifully against the pale stormy sky.  It seemed to be having some trouble scouting out its next meal and looked as though it was starting to give up, looking increasingly more tired and worn out by the second.  Soon enough another hawk joined in to help. Eventually both hawks stopped their search and landed on a large jagged rock in front of me, still and simply taking in their surroundings together. This lasted for about an hour, pure silence as the birds sat keeping eachother company. After collecting their thoughts, the bird who was once alone in search of a meal seemed to develop a second wind, and both birds took flight in a mission together to find their dinner.  While sitting and observing these birds I began to think of a study I learned about in my communications class last year. We were told that when a experiment was conducted on a monkey who had to pick between food or the presence of another monkey in order to survive, it consistently chose the company of another monkey. Suddenly I began to apply this study to my own life while also keeping those hawks in mind.  Recently I have been struggling with some personal issues in my life, isolating myself completely from friends and family. However, when I got back to school I realized it was only making matters worse, and I finally built up the courage to leave my dorm and hang with my amazing friends here at the University of Delaware. To my surprise, a night of playing Twister and engaging in  stimulating conversation, made it seem as if my anxiety and depression had never even existed in the first place. My lethargic and tired self had got a second wind of life just like that once lonely hawk I had seen at white clay.  I felt alive and present again, emotions  that have felt foreign to me for quite some time.  After coming back to my dorm that night, similarly to the two hawks, I sat in my own thoughts for some time in silence and just let myself be. Doing this, I began to think of how beautiful it is that every living being in this world is so complex and different, yet are so extremely similar as well. Isn’t it just crazy that I felt as though I could emotionally relate  to both a monkey and hawk while being in such contrasting circumstances and overall not even being within the same species. Sometimes all it takes is just a moment in  time with yourself, some company and nature to ponder life in order to realize how precious it really is. I have come to the realization of how easy it is to get caught up in such little inconveniences and irrelevant things happening around us rather than taking a second to appreciate what incredible opportunities and people the world has to offer us. Additionally, so many of  the acts seen in nature truly reflect human necessity and mankind in such a multitude of ways.  Nature is just constantly working together… constantly keeping eachother company. Whether it be the rain nourishing all of the soil within white clay, or the sunlight allowing all of the trees to keep growing, housing so much wildlife in the park, such as  the dynamic duo of hawks I discovered, or even the brown bushy squirrels that wander the campus with us everyday. Thus, not only do humans thrive off of the prescence of others, but so do all other walks of life, which is truly a reassuring and refreshing feeling.

Asia Struggles with its Plastic Crisis, by Jillian Costa

Deep in the jungles of Thailand, in the small village of Karen /cah-rii-ang/ two mountains of water bottles lay side by side. One, a disheveled mess lying destitute, the other a mountain of sand-filled bottles. Six girls kneel over a pile of wet, granular dirt: a bamboo stick in one glove and an empty bottle in the other. Chatting and giggling, they fill the bottles with handfuls of sand, packing them tightly with bamboo sticks. They stack each completed bottle next to them methodically building miniature hills which will soon be added to the bulky heap. It starts to pour forcing us to suspend our work. Thai villager and GIVE Volunteers guide, Pidech kicks a tree in the nearby garden and papayas rain down; Pidech howls triumphantly, scoops one up, slices it open with his machete and disperses chunks of juicy papaya to each of us. Enjoying my fruit under a large hut, patiently waiting for the rain to subside, I smile, knowing these fortuitous single-use plastics will get a second chance. They have been repurposed and will serve as bricks for a local school bathroom in the hill tribe villages just outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Regrettably, the vast majority of the plastic waste accumulating in Southeast Asia does not get this opportunity.

For decades, western civilization has been avoiding pricey processing by hauling our waste across the sea to countries with more lax regulations. China was the world’s primary importer of plastic until January 2018 when they implemented a ban on plastic imports due to poorly managed waste wreaking havoc for their environment. I wondered where all of this trash would end up after learning about the Chinese government’s sudden ban. I was appalled to uncover that with China out of the picture, developing countries have looked to Southeast Asia to fill that role. The shores of Thailand, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Malaysia have become consumed by crates of unwanted western waste. What was once acres of agriculture has quickly been annihilated and replaced by hazardous toxic dumps.

Illicit dumping and unauthorized imports run rampant all throughout Southeast Asia. But, my heart sinks each time I reminisce about the beloved Thai jungle and speculate on how much has presumably changed. Thailand’s plastic imports saw a 2,000% increase after China’s plastic ban according to Greenpeace’s news website Unearthed. This magnificent country where I left a piece of my heart only three years ago has deteriorated at a rate of 500% every year since I left Chiang Mai in 2017.

China’s ban was implemented over two years ago but Southeast Asian countries are still struggling to deal with the abrupt surge in imports. Recently, some of these disproportionately affected nations have begun to push back against the West’s demands. Since China’s resignation as Earth’s garbage junkyard, Malaysia has become the world’s largest importer of waste. But Malaysian Environmental Minister, Yeo Bee Yin, is working tirelessly to change that. Since last summer, Malaysia has made some high-profile moves, sending over 150 vessels of waste back to wealthy countries: countries have been evading regulations by exporting their trash to developing nations for far too long. Included on the list of dump-dodgers are France, Japan, Canada, Spain, the UK and undoubtedly, the United States.

The Philippines has also made their resistance known. Just this past June, the Phillipines filled a cargo ship to the brim with 69 containers of Canadian contaminated waste to be sent back to Vancouver. Contaminated waste refers to any non-recyclable or dirty material thrown in with recyclable waste. Phillipine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to dump the load of rubbish into Candian waters if they refused to accept their garbage. Duterte alleged that the Canadian government had missed their deadline to take back polluted trash that was sent to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014. Eventually, Canada agreed, still insisting they would need more time to prepare for the shipment.

Not only are richer countries sidestepping the handling of their own absurd amount of waste but when misclassified perilous shipping containers end up unaccounted for on the shores of Sri Lanka, the West is posing serious health risks for the country’s citizens. Just this past Summer, Sri Lanka shipped 111 containers of UK waste labeled “metal recycling” back to Britain after locals noticed and complained about a rancid stench ascending from the waste. Upon further investigation, Sri Lankan officials discovered the containers were staggeringly mislabeled. Medical supplies and rotting remains, namely unrefrigerated human organs, were found amongst the rubble. This is evidently not a stand-alone case; incorrectly labeled containers exported to Asia prove hazardous time and time again.

Sri Lanka has been crushed under the overwhelming amount of garbage…literally. Back in 2017, twenty-eight people were killed after a garbage dump collapsed atop a residential neighborhood. Methane gas, naturally produced by the decaying trash, ignited that afternoon. This led to an explosion which trapped families within their homes, ripped houses from their foundations and crushed people under debris.

The struggle between rich countries and their poverty-stricken counterparts has been going on behind the scenes for decades and there is no conclusion in sight. Southeast Asians, regardless of their country of origin, are all exceptionally vulnerable as they continue to endure the dangers of this crisis daily, waiting for a change to be made.

Thailand is the first to take substantial action in their homeland, starting off 2020 strong by demanding all major stores ban plastics, specifically plastic bags. This overdue campaign was put in motion when the government teamed up with retailers to work together towards the ultimate goal of a complete ban on single-use plastics by 2021. To no surprise, Thai shoppers have gotten creative, snubbing the expense of reusable grocery bags by replacing plastic bags with various, random containers. From hampers to wheelbarrows to fishing nets, Thai people are just as resilient and resourceful as I remember.

Reduce, reuse, recycle is ingrained in Americans from a young age. But with the truth about waste exporting finally exposed, society needs to let go of the fictitious fairytale that is recycling and start focusing our attention on innovative ways to reduce and reuse. If political leaders won’t step up, we will have to step up individually. Reduction is imperative and easier than ever, with reusable water jugs and straws finally permeating American culture.

In terms of reuse, using water bottles as “bricks” is just one of the many ways to repurpose our waste. Isatou Ceesay, an African woman from Gambia, has inspired thousands after becoming increasingly horrified by the damage that plastic bags were causing in her community. From the expeditious breeding of mosquitoes within the bags to the hazardous fumes released from burning plastic, Ceesay decided to take action. She contemplated and imagined how these bags could be used in new ways and soon began crocheting plastic bags together using them as yarn, or ‘plarn’, to create work bags. Ceesay then sold her invention to surrounding villages, stimulating the local economy while simultaneously providing single-use plastic bags with a fresh purpose.

Students at Harlan Elementary School in Birmingham are just one example of the many who have been influenced by Ceesay. They implemented her ‘plarn’ crocheting technique to create pillows, bags and mats to be donated to the homeless. Ceesay’s innovative idea has laid the groundwork for the rest of us, demonstrating just how easily single-use plastics can take on unconventional new functions. From using a plastic bottle as your child’s piggy bank to employing plastic bags as bin liners, the options for repurposing are virtually endless.

On my last day in Thailand, we hiked quite a long way: ten miles with a fifteen pound backpack weighing me down. A fellow volunteer puked three miles in. Another lagged behind the group, puffing on her inhaler every few strides. I was trapped in my thoughts for the bulk of the hike. Focused on the agonizing pain in my back and aching soreness in my feet, I cursed myself for packing so much unnecessary junk. In spite of it all, we made it to the top of the hill four hours later.

Just a few minutes after we pulled off this inconceivable hike, as I’m basking in my victory, something miraculous caught my eye. I watched in awe as a village elder deliberately trudged up the hill that I had stumbled up begrudgingly just a moment ago. Hunched over, she borne a sizable bundle of wood on her back. As she took her final steps, she met my undoubtedly mystified gaze and smiled graciously, the wrinkles around her eyes scrunching. We held eye contact for a few moments longer, then she unloaded her treasure onto the ground.

This woman, without knowing, illustrated the discrepancy between American and Thai culture right before my eyes. Instead of buying a plastic-wrapped case of timber and a Duraflame from the 7/11 on the corner, she spent hours collecting wood from the jungle, utilizing her local natural resources. Instead of loading up an 18-wheeler with enough lumber to last until the following Summer, she physically lugged a family-sized portion on her back, just enough to get her loved ones through the night.

These are just a few of the aspects of the Thai culture that we could benefit from emulating. This worldwide garbage crisis all traces back to the West’s excessive, wasteful tendencies and proclivity towards a constant longing for more. Drastic societal changes must be made to address this global catastrophe which affects us all. Shipping trash to Asia solves absolutely nothing for the United States; it is like putting a bandaid over a bullet wound.

We cannot ever take back the damage that we have already done. But, we can meander this modern world with a certain discerning eye. We can educate those around us. We can demand that our nation’s government take action and we can vote accordingly. And even if that doesn’t work, we can control what we do by changing our habits to reduce our footprints. No matter how steep the hill or how unattainable the goal, I will load the wood onto my back, burdened without complaint, until I reach the top of the mountain and can look out at our vast, immaculate, uncultivated Earth and smile victoriously.

What is the Real Cost of Water? by Sarah Lachenmeyer

I grew up understanding two things about the water that I drank:  it is some of the best tastings in the country and how it became a water source is a very sad story. The Nipmuc Native Americans used the word “Quabbin,” which means the meeting of many waters, to refer to the land that became the Quabbin Reservoir. This wide valley with its low-slung hills serves as a natural collection point for the streams that form the Swift River, whose water eventually empties into Long Island Sound.  I remember my parents telling me that we were fortunate to have such clean, good tasting water. I did not fully appreciate this until I was older and began to travel outside of my little town. It was in restaurants, hotels, and my relatives’ houses that I started to see how lucky I was. In other places, I could plainly taste chlorine or metal. I avoided drinking water when traveling, ordering milk or juice at restaurants and only having water when it was very hot or very cold which seemed to diminish its taste. I could smell the chemicals on my skin after I showered, it was unavoidable. As I began to understand the quality of my hometown water, I also began to understand the enormous cost of bringing that water to my home.

The Quabbin Reservoir Mass.gov

The Quabbin Reservoir was integral to my adolescence as my family often drove to the visitors’ center (the old Enfield Town Hall) where we would walk along the top of the dam that holds back the reservoir’s billions of gallons of water. On one side, there is a beautiful view of green, forested hills and blue water, and on the other, a steep hill of dirt that reinforces the dam. Signs are posted that say, “No Swimming” and “No Fishing” and a rugged stone shoreline keeps visitors away from the precious water source that hydrates over three million people, mostly in Boston, ninety miles away. That is not to say that I never have had any interaction with this water. I have canoed the Swift River many times. The Swift River and its tributaries form the Quabbin Reservoir. The part of the Swift, which anglers and canoeists use, is only the part that is released from the bottom of the dam, which reaches a depth of 150’. On a sunny 90-degree day, the water is still too frigid to wade in for more than a few minutes, but the clarity allows you to see to the sandy bottom along with 24-inch catfish over ten feet below you. The Swift River is where I learned to kayak, canoe, and properly pick up snapping turtles.

But there is tragedy associated with the Quabbin Reservoir’s creation. When I was seven, I was given a picture book called “Letting Swift River Go” by Jane Yolen. This is when I started to learn the reality behind such an amazing, man-made body of water, one of the largest in New England. In the damming of the Swift River, the towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott were demolished. These towns had a population of 2,500 people. Yolen’s picture book tells the story of a young girl, Sally Jane, who lived in one of these bustling towns and how her whole life changed when the state government decided that all residents must leave the area. Going from having picnics in the graveyard to catching fireflies during sleepovers, Sally Jane watched as adults tore down everything. Men dismantled the roads, cut the trees, moved or demolished the houses, and even dug up and reinterred the white people’s graves into a new cemetery.

Brick by brick, board by board, the towns that had stood for two hundred years holding factories, schools, houses, and businesses, became a desolate land. Their residents were paid a pittance for their land. The communities scattered to the wind, losing their homes and the history they once had. When hiking today through the park surrounding the reservoir, I have come across old stone walls, steps to non-existent homes, glass bottles from old dairies, and even one gravesite, missed by the workers. Builders came and built the dam which allowed the Swift River to flood the area, and now 80 years later, the Quabbin is seen as a success.

The Quabbin holds 412 billion gallons of water and is the largest man-made reservoir in the world that is used only as a water supply. It was created for the large city of Boston with water being delivered solely through gravity-fed aqueducts and requiring minimal filtration and chemicals. It took from 1927 to 1939 to build the dam. Water did not begin flowing from the Quabbin until 1941. This public works project was a huge undertaking, especially when considering the dis-establishment of four communities and the forced human migration that occurred during this period. It should also be noted that even today this water does not serve the community it tore apart, most of the water still goes to Boston. I live in one of the three small towns that Quabbin water is sent to locally.

The Quabbin before, during, and after construction; Greenfield Recorder

Where there was once factories and bustling towns, there is now wilderness. The reservoir and its surrounding park encompass 81,000 acres, and the reservoir, itself, is 18 miles long. The land is home to many different types of animals, including moose, deer, fox, otter, beaver, coyote, fisher, along with rainbow and brook trout, and many bird species. It even helped revitalize the nation’s bald eagle numbers, allowing the birds to be taken off the Federal Endangered Species List in 2007. “There’s this accidental wilderness we’ve created,” Cliff Read, the Quabbin’s supervisor of interpretive services for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, told the Daily Hampshire Gazette. With each passing year, the memories of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott become fewer and fewer. It becomes easier for people to forget the price of such a success.

This monumental dam building was happening all over the U.S. in the early 20th century. As large cities needed reliable sources of clean water, the question became how to bring water to these communities? Communities, such as New York City, used an extensive aqueduct system to bring in freshwater. In the case of New York City, brick-lined tunnels were built underground cutting through people’s land. This water did not serve these people, but they were the ones that had to deal with workers tearing apart their farms with no say of their own.

Another example would be the Ogden River Project in Utah. In the early 1900s, Ogden, along with Salt Lake City, was running out of water. Farmers were stealing water from each other in an area where the climate is naturally dry during the summer, and water comes from the melting winter snowpack, where the average snowfall is 500 inches by the end of the season. The Ogden River Project was tasked with building the Pineview Dam. In 1933, the federal government’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) removed everything from the reserved site for the reservoir. After the removal of buildings, fencing, pipe, and vegetation, the Ogden River was impounded to flood the site in 1937. This reservoir has continued to have issues with overflow and proper distribution of water.

These acts were made possible because of the eminent domain law, the right by the government to use private property for public use as long as proper compensation was given to the landowners. At the turn of the century, these laws were much looser and the residents in towns such as Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott were only given money for their land not what they lost along with the land such as houses, livestock, and any other material goods. It is hard to think of something like this happening in today’s world. But the discussion is still ongoing.

In 2005, a court ruling in Kelo vs. New London found that the city of New London, Connecticut, was allowed to take private property and sell it for private development. This case was tried under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which says a person cannot be denied life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Public outcry since this controversial ruling has been huge as more and more cases are files where people are being forced out of their homes under the auspices of eminent domain.

These issues are easy to ignore if they do not directly affect you, so the question becomes where to draw the line in future cases. It cannot be argued that no private land can ever be taken through eminent domain because sometimes the benefit to society greatly outweighs the cost. For instance, the lives of 2,500 people were changed so that over three million people have clean water every day in Boston. Without this sacrifice, the city of Boston may have failed. But those 2,500 people should have received adequate compensation for their sacrifice. They should have received enough money to be made “whole.” This type of project would likely not happen today in the United States. There would be too many environmental concerns, and people would not meekly surrender their homes to the government. However, it is easy to forget these lessons as voices fade and the actions of the past are forgiven just because they are in the past.

I remember being a six-year-old girl standing on the wall at the top of the Quabbin’s dam. My father was holding me and he said, “Look down, do you see the tracks?” And yes, far below me going into the dark abyss of the reservoir were train tracks. These are the same train tracks that carried the trains that six-year-old Sally Jane use to hear pass by her window at night. And it reminds me that she, like the rest of her community, had to let the Swift River go so Boston could have water.

Saving Turtles Isn’t Just for VSCO Girls, by Cassidy Krulewitch

It was around one in the morning and we had been walking for nearly an hour. Salty water and sand had seeped through my sneakers and into my socks so long ago that it started to feel like it was meant to be there. As we trekked through the deep sand the only sounds were that of the Pacific Ocean waves slowly coming and going and the occasional hushed conversation. Taking in the near silence, I turned to the ocean. The water glistened with bioluminescent plankton that illuminated with every crashing wave.

Following our leader, the group headed away from the ocean, signaling that it was time for a break. We sat on the sand, some people taking out snacks and chatting quietly and others using their backpacks as pillows and closing their eyes to rest. As I laid on the beach, I looked up to the Costa Rican sky to see millions of stars. Friends had always talked about the sky in places this far from any city, but this was better than I could’ve ever imagined. It looked like a screensaver laptops came preprogramed with. The Milky Way was clearly visible and shooting stars flashed across the sky every few minutes.

After about 10 minutes I tore my eyes away from the stars as we packed our things to continue our journey. The night carried on in a similar way, walking and resting, until, staticky voices abruptly broke the pattern. It was the leader of our group, Leah’s, walkie talkie signaling us to come to the opposite end of the beach. What had been a mellow night of stargazing had just gotten far more exciting. Our mission was about to begin. Like Bay Watch lifeguards, we ran down the beach. However, there was one crucial difference, it was not humans we were running to save, instead it was sea turtles.

On Playa Ostional, turtles are a very common sight. In fact, the small village, on the pacific coast of Costa Rica is best known for being home to the National Wildlife Refuge of Ostional. The organization is dedicated to protecting the sea turtles that come to the beach to lay eggs.  Once a month thousands of Olive Ridley turtles flood the beach in an event called an Arribada, which directly translates to arrival. With this high abundance of turtles, it might seem a little odd to run all the way to the other end of the mile-long beach just for one turtle, especially if you’re like me and find running on the beach nearly impossible. However, this was a Pacific Green Turtle. Of the three species that come to this area of Costa Rica to lay their eggs the Pacific Green is in the most danger of extinction. The Pacific Green Turtle is on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) endangered species list. The list is part of a larger organizational system called the IUCN Red List, which has categories of threatened species ranging from Least Concern to Extinct. According to the IUCN this species of turtle as well as over 10,000 other species of plants and animals are at high risk of natural extinction. Not only was exciting to see something so rare but it was also critical to the survival of the species that our team was there to collect the eggs she was about to lay.

As we approached the other end of the beach a group of red lights came into view, making it easy to find the group. The red lights made it easier to see without confusing the light sensitive animal. Getting closer you could see that there were already four people closely surrounding the turtle on the ground. Two were flat on their stomachs counting and collecting eggs, one was using a tape measure to collect information on her size, and one was there to write all the information down. The rest of the group was clustered together about 10 feet behind her, where she was unable to see them. Unlike the majority of other turtles, this species can stop laying and flee if she feels threatened. Soon I heard the thumping of her moving her shell from side to side, signaling she was done. As she danced in a circular motion, the hole she had made for her eggs was slowly concealed and she began to trudge back to the ocean.

Kendall Terashima was the person tasked with collecting the eggs. She had been volunteering at the wildlife refuge for 6 weeks, and this was her first time seeing a green turtle. She was covered nearly head to toe in dark black sand and carried a large bag with filled with a least 50 golf ball sized eggs. When I asked her how it went, she smiled but her face was still hard to read. She said it had gone well and took a pause. “There was plastic netting wrapped around her neck, but at least we were able to get it off” she said rolling her eyes, clearly frustrated. The rest of the walk back to our dorms was spent talking about how much we hoped the eggs would make it.

Costa Rica has been dedicated to creating environmentally friendly policy for years now. Rich with biodiversity, the country has used eco-tourism as one of the key parts of their economic development. With that being said, it makes sense why the country is almost completely carbon neutral and working towards a nationwide plastic ban. However, the beaches and areas surrounding them don’t tend to reflect this environmental awareness. Unless it is an Arribada, turtles only arrive on the beach at night. This meant the whole day was spent doing other less “glamourous” tasks to ensure the protection of the area’s ecosystem. The majority of the days were spent picking up the trash that littered the village. Though at first glance the beaches looked relatively clean, closer inspection revealed millions of colorful pieces of plastic, some of which were only slightly larger than the grains of sand. Walking up and down the beach you could find everything from old toothbrushes and soap bottles to Barbie dolls and toy trucks. When I was able to sit down and pick up plastic pieces without moving for nearly 15 minutes is when it struck me just how much plastic we consume. Many times, we are told large numbers or facts about how much plastic is polluting our planet. I have heard things like “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is twice the size of Texas” or “over 5 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year”. All of these statements are supposed to help us visualize the issue but many times end up translating to “there’s a lot of plastic”. It wasn’t I was carrying a full extra-large garbage bag filled exclusively with degrading plastic that I could really begin to see what a huge problem growing plastic use presents to the Earth.

Weeks later, many of my new friends and I piled onto a bus back to San Jose, where we would stay the night before we took flights home. During the 7-hour long bus ride to the capital, I replayed gruesome images of plastic being pulled out of the bodies of turtles in my head. I remembered getting slapped on the wrist for buying plastic water bottles when I had a reusable one back at the station. By the time we made it to San Jose I was angry. It infuriated me to think about the people in Ostional, who spend every day of their lives trying to protect these species from extinction and know that regardless of how hard they work, the chances the turtles born on this beach end up with our trash in their bodies are increasingly high. The people who work and volunteer at the station, protect eggs from dogs and poachers, they work tirelessly to maintain incubators and check on eggs every day, they rope off areas of beach and scare away hungry birds when it is time to release the baby turtles, they do everything in their power to make sure these babies survive and yet it all means nothing if they are going to grow up with a six pack ring around their body or enough plastic in their stomachs to kill them from the inside out.

When I got home, I looked at things completely differently. Single use plastic seemed to surround me in ways I had never noticed before. Plastic utensils and cups, shampoo bottles, food packaging, saran wrap, and of course straws.

One of my favorite things to do when I am home from college is going grocery shopping with my mom. Though it’s not the most thrilling pastime, I’ve always loved to cook, and it was a good way to kill time, but going to my local Stop and Shop after coming home from my trip was completely jarring. My mom made fun of me as I looked around the store in shock “Why on Earth do they need to wrap individual potatoes in plastic? When did they start doing that?” I asked with a confused look on my face. Almost every product in the store had some sort of plastic packaging.

Now it has be two years since I have come home from Costa Rica and I still find myself using single use plastic. Though for a period of time after coming back I thought about it every day, I slowly started to fall back into my old habits. I would use a metal straw but get a plastic cup, I wouldn’t use plastic utensils, but I would wrap my leftovers in plastic. Even when I did realize, I felt like nothing could be done anyway. Everything was plastic and there was no getting around it. Plastic shopping bags were ban from all stores in Connecticut, where I am from, and many of the Dunkin’ Donuts’ in and around my suburban town have switched to paper straws. Though these steps were assuring, at the end of the day there are only 5 states with statewide plastic bag bans and that is not to mention the much bigger picture of the thousands of other ways single use plastic surrounds our daily lives.

Though my outlook for the future of our species and the planet as a whole was generally bleak, I found that there are still things to be optimistic about. China recently banning plastic bags throughout the country, and New York City doing the same. People are starting to talk about their plastic use in ways they never had before. So, even though people love to make fun of the “VSCO Girl” (or otherwise “trendy” teenage girls) for thinking she will save the turtles simply by carrying around a $50 reusable water bottle and using cute metal straws, there is something to be said about how they have started a conversation about the single use plastics that are quickly filling our oceans and our bodies.

The Climate Refugee Crisis, by Kelly Vanuga

Climate change has many catastrophic effects to it that we hear about every single day varying from melting glaciers, sea level rise, crop failure and water scarcity. A topic not widely known and discussed is the issue of climate change being a driving factor for the forced migration of families around the world. In a world bank report, it is estimated that by 2050 as many as 143 million people will be displaced due to climate change. This report also states that the most affected regions are sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America. Climate refugees have many different identifying names including, environmental refugees, eco-migrants, environmental migrants and environmental displacements.

Climate change is no longer just an environmental burden. It does not just affect the environment, but now affects every part of our daily lives. From the stability of our economies to our health, and to where we live. Climate change creates for extremes in weather patterns and causes for more frequent and severe environmental disasters. The most startling data out there, is the fact that if every human on planet earth lived as Americans do, five planet Earths would be required to be able to support everyone. Desert expansion and sea level rise are forcing people out of their homes, and driving them to migrate and find refuge somewhere else. Environmental refugees are described as “people who either have or will be migrating because of some environmental disaster that makes their country, or part of it, less habitable” (Cairns, 2010).

Current numbers on these refuges are relatively small, but not small enough for them to be ignored. At the rate were at with climate change right now, environmental refugees are going to drastically increase. The number of people migrating to what they hope will be better for them and their families is going to keep increasing as climate change worsens. Climate change factors are global, and environmental migration will eventually affect everyone globally to some degree. The world’s top economies and top polluting nations are not adequately taking active steps in reducing their emissions. We as humanity are inching towards facing a point of no return when it comes to climate change. A recent U.N. report states that “global greenhouse gas emissions need to start falling by 7.6 percent each year, starting by next year” (Tharoor, 2019). This goal is currently nowhere in sight as majority of countries are not taking the proper leadership and dedication on climate change.

Unfortunately, the nations that are contributing the most to climate change are not the ones having to deal with the heavy burden of it. The most common way to figure out what nations have the greatest climate changing emissions, is to compare the Carbon Dioxide emissions. Adding up all the fossil fuels burned and produce in each nation allows us to figure out who are the top leaders in emissions. Some of the top emitters of CO2 emissions are China, United States, India, Russia and Japan. The problem with only focusing purely on CO2 emissions from burning fossils fuels though, is that it ignores the other greenhouse gasses and non-fossil-fuel sources of CO2. When these other fuel sources are included the top emitters change slightly, the top emitters being China, United States, Brazil, Indonesia and Russia. These countries have little to no concern with reducing their polluting habits and emissions. They are more concerned with industrialization and economic gain than the harm that they are causing the planet.

Currently we are exploiting our resources in a way that is not intergenerationally equitable. At the rate we are at right now we are not acting out of fairness or justice between generations. Current generations are not using resources in a sustainable way for future generations to not be harmed by us. We are heading towards a depletion of our natural resources and are not maintaining an ecological balance. The depletion of our nonrenewable resources is occurring because these substances are being used up more quickly than they can replace themselves. Many people do not understand that these resources are finite. When we incorporate climate refugees into the picture of allowing them into new nations, most citizens that are originally accepting of them, do not realize that resources in their nation will become diminished more quickly. Since people cannot easily visualize for themselves the resources that are being consumed nationally, let alone resources that would be consumed by new climate refugees, they cannot fully understand the damage that is being done. Global climate change is also affecting agricultural and natural resource productivity. This creates for the carrying capacity and nations to be significantly reduced, and as long as global climate change continues, it will continue to be reduced. Many effects of climate change are irreversible, we cannot rewind on our mistakes, all we can do is to slow down and hopefully pause these changes from occurring.

Currently, there is no international agreement on who should be qualified as an environmental refugee or even a plan on how to manage this growing crisis. The problem is that no one country wants to take accountability for this issue, it is hard for countries to come to a consensus. The UN has been holding negotiations on the Global Climate Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees. These compacts were both first proposed in 2016 and there was hope for international agreement to be made. Migration researchers and advocates were supposed to provide a platform for new international policies on climate refugees. Most nations currently are not readily equipped to be able to host and take in climate refugees. Nations will not be able to provide food, housing, medical care, jobs, or other services that the millions of environmental migrants will need. An ideal host country for climate refugees should have surplus of the resources and services stated above along with no ecological deficit. This ideal situation is not very common and such an inviting situation is not likely. Nations that are already struggling with not having a surplus of resources and services are already in grave danger. With the addition of environmental migrants these nations will be in even more danger than they already are. Most nations cannot handle and are not prepared to cope with mass environmental migration. Most citizens, especially of developed countries, assume because they are living comfortably that they are equipped with enough surplus of resources and supplies within their nation to be able to take in and help others, but that is often not the case. Climate change international organizations are beginning to call attention to the victims of global warming. In a recent study, the humanitarian group Oxfam calculated that on average, more than twenty million people were displaced by extreme weather events each year in the past decade. “Today you are seven times more likely to be internally displaced by cyclones, floods and wildfires than by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and tree times more likely than by conflict” (Oxfam, 2019). The definitive scale number of climate refuges cannot be easily calculated, but an estimated forecast of the number of environmental migrants by 2050 could range from 140 million to as many as 1 billion people. In a study by Save the Children, they concluded that “in east and southern Africa this year, floods, landslides, drought and cyclones contributed to at least 33 million people in the region—or 10% of the population across ten countries—being at emergency levels of food insecurity or worse. That number includes more than 16 million children” (Save the Children, 2019).

The issues of refugees in general has been a long discussed issue across nations for centuries now. Nations that are willing to accept and take in immigrants are deemed as noble, but there is loss there that is to be accounted for. People who are against accepting an immigrant into their nation notes that an individual may be moral for doing it as the individual suffers no immediate loss, but a loss is suffered by the entirety of the nation. People that seem to be for the acceptance of refugees have been asked the question of if an immigrant were to be accepted into their nation, would that person be willing to give up their citizenship in order for that immigrant to be able to be accepted into their country? Where would these people then go if they give up their citizenship? The choice then becomes selfish in order to protect their own citizenship, these people would no longer be as accepting of refugees. In short, this is unethical as the citizens and nations that are causing climate change and are the driving factors of these climate refugees having to find new homes, we morally ought to do something to help and protect these people. The issue of climate migrants has been invisible to the public for many years on the migration and climate debates. Government officials and political leaders are unlikely to actively discuss and advocate for anti-immigration as it would be harm their elected positions status.

Unfortunately, in the United States we currently have a President who is a massive climate skeptic. The United States is one of the top polluting countries in the world, being one of the world’s biggest industrial and commercial power. We as a nation contribute a lot of emissions of greenhouse gasses that are main causes of climate change and global warming. The Trump administration has already set about getting rid of environmental protections and regulations. Trumps disregard for climate change and greenhouse gas emissions has caused for 2019 to be a record year in global greenhouse gas emissions. The United States’ alone, energy related CO2 emissions have risen 2.7 percent from last year. This is due to the Trump admins removal of climate regulations that used to be implemented. Trump is removing us from the Paris Climate accord and rejects any climate change action. President Trump is now being labeled as an enabler of ecocide, which is the willful destruction of the natural environment. Luckily, majority of the citizens in the United States do not have the same views on Climate Change as President Trump does and our actively trying to do something about it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a recent statement that “This is a matter of public health…of our children, of the survival of our economies, of the prosperity of the world, of national security, justice and equality. We now must deliver deeper cuts in emissions” (Pelosi, 2019). Not only has Pelosi recognized that something needs to be done, House Democrats have recognized and put forward legislation that would create a federal program. This program would take in a minimum of 50,000 climate refugees every year in the United States. Unfortunately, the Trump administration will never let this pass while he is in office. The Trump administration has already reduced United States refugee resettlement to record-low levels. The Trump administration’s hostility to climate change and migrants has gone on for too long.

The only way we can fix this problem of climate refugees is to firmly implement sustainable practices. As the implications of climate change create for climate refugee, becoming more sustainable and slowing down climate change is what is needed for future generations of all nations to be able to live in a life of no fear that they will be forced to retreat to avoid the effects of climate change. If we lived more sustainably on Earth, each nation would be able to keep their own citizens within their borders and the idea of climate refugees would no longer be an issue, but when we ignore what we are doing to our planet, it creates for more issues in the long run. When we ignore the issues at hand we are disregarding the inevitable of living people to suffer.

Whatever the number is, the crisis of climate refugees is apparent and happening. We all have an ethical and moral responsibility to do something about this. The era of using cheap fossil fuels in abundance to provide energy is over. The way that humankind decides to act in the next few years will determine the level of impact we will have. If we fail to act strongly and immediately, climate change, food shortages, population growth and environmental migrants will all continue to increase. If unsustainable practices are continued, humankind will fail. Death and suffering will quickly worsen and there will be no future generations, there will be nowhere left to retreat and find refuge.







The Importance Place for Climate Action, by Sophia Caracuzzo

It’s the summer of 2012, I am 13 years old and I have butterflies in my stomach as I gear up for another exciting afternoon of sailing in Pt. Judith, Rhode Island. The salty air swirls around my head and my eyes squint as golden rays of sun warm my skin while I look out across the beautifully vast waters of Narragansett Bay. I can feel my heart begin to pump faster. I look at my watch; 12:45pm. Perfect. Today’s high tide would peak soon around 1 o’clock. High tide meant that my partner and I would only have to wheel our boat a couple of feet over the rocky shoreline before launching it off of it’s trailer and into the bay, saving our bare feet from the shards of broken shells and rocks that scattered the beach. Low tide meant dreading the extended journey towards the water due to more of the shore being revealed, leaving behind small cuts on the soft soles of our feet. I look to my left; a row of 10 small sailboats prepare to be launched from their trailers that are safely grounded atop the lush, sandy dune overlooking a small salt marsh. Even when the tide reached its highest point our boats would be safe, for this portion of the beach was always exposed. Excitement and anticipation begin to flow through my veins as we push our boat over the dune, across the rocky beach, and into the water. These are the days I loved the most; the ones I looked forward to, and the ones that would make me fall in love with the ocean.

It’s the summer of 2019, I am 20 years old and I have an intense feeling of anxiety as I wait for my group of jr. sailors to gear up for another afternoon of sailing. I look at my watch; 12:30pm. Today’s high tide was approaching fast and I knew we’d have to move quickly. There had been a huge rainstorm the day before which meant the tides would be rising higher and faster than normal. I can feel my heart begin to pump faster.

After a storm two weeks prior, the tides during the following days had risen so high that the entire beachfront went completely underwater, overflowing into the marsh on the opposite side of the dune, something I had never seen before. My fellow sailing instructors and I frantically ran to rescue our boats that were at risk of being swept away along with the tide. Thankfully we were able to pull each trailer to higher ground on the opposite side of our sailing facility that was already crowded with other boats and structures. However, I worried that next time we would not be so lucky.

High tide means insecurity, risk, and uncontrollable challenges. Low tide now means safety.  Adrenaline and nervousness begin to flow through my veins as I quickly help my young sailors push their boats over the sand. I stand ankle deep in water as I watch 10 small sailboats sail into the vast unknown of the bay and I feel an overwhelming sense of relief. I look at my watch; 1:00pm. We made it. I look to my left and notice that just a sliver of sand remained along the shoreline. These are the days that have begun to occur more frequently; the ones we are unprepared for and the ones that fill my heart with fear knowing that the ocean will continue to change.

Climate change is real and it is happening. A majority of the world is aware of the fact that the increase of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere has caused global temperatures to warm at alarming rates. We know that the glaciers are melting, the oceans are rising, and more severe weather patterns are occurring. It is clear to many that these changes will drastically affect life on Earth as we know it. Even so, minimal efforts towards preparing for how we will adapt to these changes have yet to be acted upon. But why? If it is known that the resulting implications of climate change will inevitably change the way humans make use of the Earth and its resources, why is preparing for, if not preventing, these changes not at the forefront of society’s agenda? I believe this must be due to the fact that many of us, especially in the US, have yet to experience these changes occur within a place we are connected to. I believe that I was one of those people, until I began to witness the intensity of sea level rise first hand while teaching sailing in Pt. Judith, Rhode Island.

Camp Fuller, a residential summer sailing camp, can be found tucked away along the shores of a small salt pond which opens into the Narragansett Bay. The heart of the camp sits atop a strip of land that juts out at the very center of the salt pond. No matter which way you turn your head your eyes will be inevitably met with some of the most breathtaking views found in New England.

For more than half of my life I have been lucky enough to call this place home for the summer. I began as a youth sailor at 10 years old and have since continued on to become the head of the camp’s sailing program. My most valued life experiences and life skills can be attributed to my time spent here. Sailing has provided me with not only a grave amount of strength, confidence, and independence but has fostered a sense of environmental connectivity within me. Mastering the art of properly maneuvering a boat solely based on wind, water, and weather conditions requires an intense level of constant environmental awareness. Sudden gusts of sightless wind, rough ocean waves and swells, changes in wind direction; all essentially are uncontrollable and unpredictable factors that force a sailor to make immediate changes to their plan of action during that moment. Success in this sport comes through being completely and utterly in tune with the environment, anticipating each move it will choose next, accepting that it cannot be controlled, and allowing yourself to work with what it hands you. For these reasons I have developed an extremely strong sense of respect and gratitude towards the environment and more specifically towards the ocean. The deep rooted connection that I have towards this particular place is the reason why being witness to the climate related environmental degradation of this area has had such a profound impact on me.

For decades Camp Fuller’s fleet of C420 sailboats have been stored along a wide stretch of beach front during the summer months due to this being an easily accessible location for daily use. Until recently, the thought that this area could potentially put our boats at risk, if tide waters rose high enough, was unheard of. However, the amount of exposed shoreline that exists here has decreased significantly over the past 2-3 years. These changes have become strikingly noticeable and unavoidable, and have triggered a sense of indescribable fear inside of me. Not only do I have concern for a future where the entirety of this land is underwater, but I am concerned for how else rising sea levels are impacting coastal communities. If it is happening to me, it is happening to others.

The global sea level has risen at least 8 inches since scientific record keeping began in 1900, 3 inches of which have occurred since 1993. The current rate at which the global sea level is rising is a little more than an inch per decade, a rate that has significantly increased in recent decades. This increase in the rate of global sea level rise is primarily driven by a combination of two factors related to anthropogenic-caused climate change; thermal expansion, as water temperatures increase, and melting land ice (i.e. ice sheets and glaciers), as air temperatures increase. Scientists predict that global ocean levels will rise at least 10-30 inches by 2100.

However, the rates at which local sea levels are expected to rise are worthy of much greater concern. Local sea level rise, or relative sea level rise, is affected by the global sea level rise and is also affected by local land motions, and the effects of tides, currents, and winds. The rate at which local levels are expected to rise is much faster than the average global rate of increase. Many US cities that are located along the coastline have seen high-tide flooding, sometimes referred to as “nuisance flooding”, between 300% and 900% more frequently during the past 50 years. Almost 40% of the US population lives in relatively high population density coastal areas, where sea level plays a part in flooding, shoreline erosion, and hazards from storms. 8 out of 10 of the world’s largest cities are located near a coast meaning that urban settings such as these face potential risks to infrastructure and things like roads, bridges, oil and gas wells, power plants, and sewage treatment plants as coastlines move further and further inland. Environmentally, coastal ecosystems will be faced with increased amounts of stress as sea levels rise, causing significant damages to wildlife habitats and natural structures that provide protection from storms.

The future of sea level rise depends on multiple factors. How much it will rise depends largely on the rate of future carbon dioxide emissions and future global warming. How fast it will rise depends on the rate of glacier and ice sheet melting. Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) conclude that even with extreme progress towards the lowest greenhouse gas emission pathways the average global sea level will rise at least 12 inches about ocean levels in the year 2000 by the year 2100. On the opposite side of the spectrum they conclude that on the highest greenhouse gas emission pathway, which would be the case if humans were to make no changes to the levels of carbon emitted into the atmosphere, sea levels could rise as high as 8.2 feet about 2000 levels by 2100. Even though the potential to lessen the severity of increasing ocean levels exists, there is no doubt that this is a problem that has already begun and is unable to be prevented any further at this point. As a result, entire coastal communities along with millions of people are at risk of becoming displaced from the locations at which they reside and are ultimately faced with questions often sounding like; What will we do? How will we prepare? Where will we go?

Both scientists and environmental planners have begun exploring strategies for adaptation due to climate change. The challenge in preparing for a life impacted by climate change lies within the uncertainty of events. In general, it is extremely difficult to produce accurate and quantifiable future predictions of ocean levels and the potential for things like flooding, storm surge, erosion, salinization of surface and groundwaters, and degradation of coastal habitats that will ensue because of it. In March of 2019 the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental economic organization, released a report titled “Responding to Rising Seas” which outlines recommended approaches to tackling coastal risks that countries should incorporate into new government policies. They highlight that the implementation of measures to support adaptation to sea level rise is happening too slowly to match the pace of challenges ahead. “While most countries are increasing investments to understand climate risks, there has been far less action in updating regulation. Only five countries have dedicated funding for coastal adaptation,” (OECD). The OECD also states that countries should focus on increasing engagement with those directly at risk, planning with future conditions in mind, aligning financial incentives for adaption and ensuring that the conditions of vulnerable populations are taken into account. As of March 2019 only 5 countries had dedicated funding for coastal adaptation.

To me it is unclear as to why actions like these are not being prioritized by regions who face the highest risks resulting from sea level rise that will inevitably damage, if not destroy, their homes and communities. I feel as though people are blinded to the harsh reality of what our future holds. Shouldn’t this be a desperate matter of life or death for anyone who has any sort of relationship with a coastal environment? Shouldn’t the sense of place and place attachment that is present in those who reside in coastal areas be the driving force behind implementing adaptive measures to combat climate change related events?

I am certain that my own personal connection towards the ocean, that is based upon my relationship with Rhode Island, a place that has had a significant impact on life, is not unlike the experiences of millions of humans across the globe. The sense of place that humans experience through their relationship with their surrounding environment has the ability to influence the definition of one’s identity, and in regards to the environment, can play a major role in climate change adaptation. However, this is a strategy that I feel has yet to be fully embraced by many.

Seeing an environment that I grew up being surrounded by, become victim to the unforgiving impacts of human inflicted climate change felt like losing a part of myself. It felt like watching a close friend, family member, or loved one slowly and painfully suffer an illness in which there is no cure. I was always aware that this place was very special to me but what I had been unaware of leading up to these moments was how my relationship with this place defined my deepest goals, values, and motivations. Although witnessing the slow destruction of my coastal habitat evoked a feeling of sadness and fear inside of me, the experience has signified a call to action and has ignited a need to work towards mitigation, accommodation, and adaptation in lue of environmental changes that await. I believe that this is in response to an instinctive desire to defend my sense of place, my home, my habitat, which has permanently imprinted on me, regardless as to whether or not I was aware of it.

This instinctive desire to protect one’s home, I feel, must be the case for others in regards to their own sense of place. Like myself, many are unaware of how large of a role this sense may play in their lives and slowly as the destructive impacts of climate change on our planet become increasingly more and more apparent, they too will be faced with the gut wrenching feeling I have experienced over the past year. Possibly, this could be a wake up call and a force to motivate rapid implementation of adaptive strategies that is required to salvage the environments we call our homes.

The presence of this feeling is what I hope to be the saving grace for life as we know it. Though every conducted piece of climate research and every environmental scientist supports the fact that the earth is changing in extreme ways that will cause detrimental catastrophes forcing our lives to alter, it seems as though people continue to lack urgency regarding the situation. I believe that if people are able to harness their own deeply rooted connections and relationships towards the environment and begin to share those with others, we will begin to see that humans share a commonality in that the environment is our lifeline and we have no choice but to protect and restore it. It is what has shaped us into the beings we are today, for without it we would not survive. I believe that if this fact can be acknowledged huge strides will be made towards creating a resilient and sustainable planet.

In order for me to come to terms with the role my relationship with the environment has had on my life and the importance of preserving my place because of that, took the destruction of that place to occur. This too will be the case for many. By the time the world is awakened by the formidable feelings that come from experiencing environmental destruction before your own eyes, I hope it will not be too late.

Plight of the Blue Crab, by Hayley Rost

I was raised in crab country with an Eastern Shore mindset. Summer days were spent on my grandfather’s back porch at a table adorned with crab paper covered in Old-Bay, blue crabs and sweating cans of Natty Boh. This family scene is common for this part of the country where the blue crab is as essential to the culture as breathing. These traditions and many of their purveyors migrate one-hundred or so miles each spring and summer south-east across the Bay Bridge to the Delaware-Maryland beaches. Drive up and down the main road connecting the coastal towns that line the beaches and you will see dozens and dozens of self-professed ‘crab houses’.

The summer of 2016 I got my first real, non-babysitting, job at one of these crab houses; that summer the blue crab population of the Chesapeake Bay continued to decrease at an alarming rate. Between 2016 and 2017, the number of juvenile crabs in the Chesapeake Bay decreased at a startling rate of 54 percent as people continued to pour into Ocean City, Maryland paying for crabs by the dozen or ‘All You-Can Eat’ steamed crab specials. A silver warmer of hot butter sat glistening on the back-porch counter of the kitchen where bushels of crabs took boiling water baths in forty-gallon silver tubs. The creaky screened porch door whined every morning as crabbers parked their trucks out back and wheeled stacks of faded wooden bushel baskets filled with writhing blue inmates into the industrial size kitchen fridge. Fighting the urge to sneeze on this porch was half of my job as the ‘steamers’ piled trays high with steaming red crabs coated in spice and added a few extra tablespoons of Old Bay on the tray before they were sent out.

The first summer I worked at the crab house, our ‘steamers’ were Bob and Rob; a pair of students attending the University of Texas. Bob was the voice for the two while Rob was tall and shy. I didn’t realize either of them were Nepalese for the first week we worked together. Foreign students who either study in America or come from their native countries to the eastern shore, as well as foreign non-student workers, are common in the crabbing industry. They commonly work in kitchens, on ‘steam porches’ and in factories as ‘pickers,’ picking blue crabs to supply supermarkets and crab houses of the eastern shore with pre-picked crab meat.

In 2018 the Presidential administration awarded visas for crab picking in a lottery system instead of on a first-come, first served basis. Many restaurants and supermarkets failed to obtain visas for their foreign workforce reducing the number of seafood industry foreign employees by as much as 40 percent. As a result, only about half of the Eastern Shore’s crab picking establishments were able to obtain enough visas for their workers. This lack of crab pickers has had a direct effect on the profits of the Maryland seafood industry decreasing the industry’s profits by over 60-percent, jeopardizing not only the seafood culture of the Eastern Shore, but the economics of the area; the seafood industry of the area is worth $355 million.

Finding enough foreign workers to fill these roles will not be an issue going forward, however, if there are no blue crabs to pick. When I returned to working at the same restaurant the next summer crab prices had increased significantly, not only where I was working, but up and down Coastal Highway all the way down to the ocean city inlet. When customers asked where our crabs came from the answer was usually, “Louisiana.” That fall I started my junior year of college at the University of Delaware after transferring from a school in the landlocked state of Colorado. I also became a marine science major. The first paper I wrote was about the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and its critical role in protecting the future of blue crab population on the Eastern Shore. Five-hundred million pounds of seafood are harvested annually from the Chesapeake Bay although that number has decreased as the natural habitat of the bay began to degrade. Endemic species such as the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica), blue crab (Callinectes sapidus), and striped bass (Morone saxatilis) that depend on the underwater grasses of the bay to protect their young, began to disappear.

The waters of the Chesapeake have become opaque and filled with dead zones, areas characterized by an absence of oxygen. One of the main challenges facing the health of the bay is pollution from states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed such as Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Over a quarter of the land in the watershed is used for agriculture which causes significant pollution from surface run-off in the form of excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. The excess of nutrients in the bay leads to harmful algal blooms (HABs) which create toxins and cause a depletion of oxygen in the water as microbes process the post-bloom decay. Each year the Chesapeake Bay is given a grade for each aspect of its health, similar to a grade school report card. In 2018 the Chesapeake Bay received a ‘C’ for overall health, however, the health score declined from 54 percent in 2017 to 46 percent that year. There was an overall decrease in nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the water but, unfortunately, there were also less benthic organisms, animals that live in the sediments of the bay that are critical to the health of the ecosystem.

The latest blow the Chesapeake Bay and blue crab have taken are recent steps the White House has taken to repeal the “Waters of the United States” regulation. The current administration has sought to repeal the regulation, which was put in place to provide environmental protections for streams as well as wetlands and groundwater. They have also taken steps to weaken almost one-hundred other laws put in place to protect the environment by preventing climate change, increasing clean air and water, and protecting endangered species by limiting chemical pollution, and oil and coal mining. As the health of the Chesapeake Bay and the blue crab population becomes more stable these laws, especially those preventing limitations on the types and amounts of pollutants allowed in water, could have devastating effects.

In last decade the commercial crab fishery industry faced the challenge of maintaining their profitability as the industry began to decline. As the profitability of the crabbing industry decreased fisheries began to utilize unsustainable harvesting practices; they began to overfish the crab population in order to compensate for diminished value. These unsustainable practices made a significant dent in the crab population at the time and for future generations.

The struggle of repairing the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and stabilizing the populations that inhabit the bay has historically been complicated. The fishermen know the animals that inhabit the bay are in danger of over exploitation and in need of protection to prohibit the fishing of species like the blue crab would destroy the economy of the Eastern Shore and anyone who depends on blue crabs to make a living. Steps have been taken in recent years to attempt to protect the Chesapeake Bay blue crab taking into account the dependence of the surrounding states on the animal.

The rehabilitation of the Chesapeake Bay and the blue crab is complicated because the bay is affected by many states that are not as invested in crab culture. For states like New York and Pennsylvania, sitting around a table piled high with these blue watermen of the Chesapeake is not a central part of their culture. This cultural separation from the bay has created a sense of disassociation between many people in these regions and the ecosystem that plays a more significant role in their lives than they could ever imagine. A study conducted by the Chesapeake Bay Program found that the water level of the bay has risen between one-eighth and one-sixth of an inch annually since 1960, causing a cumulative sea level rise of as many as ten to twelve inches in southern areas of the bay and six to eight inches in more northern areas. Water level rise in the bay could have devastating effects on the storm management, water and sewage treatment as well as numerous other systems in the states that surround it. The degradation of homes and the health of citizens effects everyone and no one is immune. The same way we can all share in the wonderful things that result from the bay: blue crabs to eat, cooling of the surrounding area, recreational places for families, we also share in the results of its degradation.

The enjoyment of steaming and sharing blue crabs is just one part of why the health of the Chesapeake Bay is critical now and in the future. As someone who cares about the health of the world around me from a marine biologist point of view, and as a citizen of the area, there are many organisms, from plankton to humans that depend on this ecosystem. Going forward there is much to be done to bring back the species endemic to this majestic body of water, such as the blue crab, so children in years to come can learn from their Grandparents how to crack a crab or learn about other parts of the world from people who travel thousands of miles to witness the profound sense of community surrounding the Chesapeake Bay blue crab. It is because of the blue crab I am who I am today. There are many people and experiences that have shaped my life and the path I have taken and who I owe a lifetime of gratitude; for many of them I have the eight-legged, two-clawed watermen of the Chesapeake to thank.

Asthma: Childhood to Adulthood, by Christian Wills

As an African American kid growing up on the east coast of America, in some of the nation’s most well-known cities, I’ve always suffered with asthma all my life. My earliest known case was when I was two years old. My mother had told me the story; how I had an allergic reaction to pollen while playing outside at a daycare. The facility had called my parents at the time and it was evident that I had trouble breathing. That day became the start of it all. Since then, I’ve had numerous encounters with battling serious cases of asthma. Even to this day as an adult, I still have challenges dealing with the disease.


Symptoms of asthma include trouble breathing, wheezing, coughing, and tightness of the chest. In some situations, it can even be deadly to one’s health. Personally, all of these symptoms have come up in one way or another, leading me to seek medical help. When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I recall having trouble breathing again while traveling to a local Wal-Mart. My skin was red hot from the Sun and I began coughing up mucus from my lungs. This instance was the first time I could remember having problems with asthma as a kid. My mother drove me home, gave me medicine and nursed me back to health. It was clear that this disease I had was recurring in unknown patterns from time to time. Records show that boys are more than likely to have asthma than girls, but girls are still likely to develop asthma when they become women.  As I grew older, I was told that I would outgrow my asthma, however, that wasn’t the case. When I was 10, I remember spending 3 days in a hospital, with a needle in my left arm, placed gently on a hospital bed. I received an inhaler, a few breathing treatments and other forms of medicine to help relieve the pain. African Americans are three times more likely to stay in a hospital because of asthma or asthma related illnesses. From that moment going forward, I took my asthma more seriously and tried to find ways to combat it so that I could outgrow this illness.


Historically, my asthma has occurred within the summer months, but as of recent, it’s occurred in the winter months as well. This is due to the allergens that cause my asthma to flare up whenever I get near to any of them. Pollen is a big source to triggering my asthma, but other allergens, such as dust, ragweed (which generates a lot of pollen) and other forms of debri. Because of this, the spring and summer months cause the most problems for me. As a kid, I would take precautions when necessary. This included staying indoors during recess, carrying my inhaler with me at all times, and even wearing a mask if pollen levels were dangerously high. Other more recent sources include air quality and temperature. Having a cold or the flu could also trigger my asthma, especially if I was walking outside while the temperature was low. My grandmother always told me to wear a hat (and now I see why) so that I wouldn’t get sick. I remember the feeling I had when I had asthma in the winter for the first time. A bewildered, older, more angsty teen version of myself couldn’t imagine having asthma during this time of the year. Back in 2014, I had to use a breathalyzer that I received from a doctor prescription that same year. I had missed some school days and took various amounts of medicine. In 2013, over 13.8 missed days were recorded across the country due to asthma related illnesses. Around this time in my teen years, I started to spit out the mucus inflaming my lungs. As nasty as it sounds, and as weary as I am to doing it, it helped more so in the long run when dealing with this disease later on in the future.


The air quality of the various cities I’ve lived in never made things any better for my health. Within the city, amongst the high carbon levels and cigarette smokers, it can become a challenge just breathing at times. Asthma has been connected to poverty and poor air quality for years, especially in more city-centric and ethnic areas. When the quality of life is poor and most people can’t rely on fresh air to breath, many health-risks can become involved within that struggle to survive from a day-to-day basis. As I lived in the outskirts of the D.C population in Temple Hills, Maryland, life became more difficult growing up with asthma as an African American kid. The summers became hotter, air pollution from cars, cigarettes, and public transit increased and the lack of trees (three giant trees were cut down in front and behind my house) made the pollution even worse. Combined with the disparity of hospitals near my hometown, my parents had to travel a long way to take me to a doctor so that I could be treated for my condition. The average annual cost of asthma related expenses in the United States, accounting for medical costs, missed work and school days is $81.3 billion, costing parents a fortune every year or so. Moving up to Wilmington, another city in Northern Delaware, also didn’t yield any improvements. Since 2015, I’ve had about 5 asthma attacks, with the first one being more fatal than the others. At this point, I thought that I was starting to outgrow my illness, but I saw that it had come back unexpectedly once again. It’s been shown that African American children have the highest prevalence of asthma in the United States. African Americans are also more likely to die as a result from asthma or asthma related illnesses. Even with this in mind, I’d never want to leave the city-life. It may have its share of problems, but I’ll take the highly dense, congested air and street traffic than the emptiness of the rural farms or comfort of the suburbs. Having asthma as a kid was a hard-fought battle I wouldn’t imagine other kids having, butas an adult, it’s a trade-off that I’m willing to live with for now.


I remember as a kid that my father told me he had asthma growing up. He said that he had it in the winter months, something he described as “the most dangerous time to have asthma”, compared to when I had asthma in the summer. This led me to believe that my asthma was inherited, in some way, from him. It made me think that this disease was a hereditary curse that I couldn’t escape; that my future children probably wouldn’t escape. He showed me a picture of my grandmother smoking a cigarette while she was conceived with my father. Back in the 60’s, the dangers of smoking weren’t as well known as they are today. My child-like brain couldn’t believe the image I saw. I thought to myself that the cigarettes my grandmother smoked was the probable cause for my father having asthma and passing it onto me. Whether it’s true or not, it’s a likely factor that played a role in my father’s development, and in turn, my development as a child.


My sister was the lucky one though. She’s been free from the hospital visits, inhaler prescriptions, wheezing, coughing, sudden heaviness of the chest and overall pain that comes with being asthmatic. As stated before, girls are less likely to develop asthma than their boy counterparts, and my sister was the embodiment of that. There were many things she could take advantage of that I simply couldn’t, such as running outside in the summer Sun, singing without running out of breath, or sniffing in the freshly made scent of grass or morning dew without worry of getting sick. Though she’s not as strong or physically fit as me, I imagine if she worked at becoming more active, she could surpass me in some ways, as I become hindered by my ability to breath in and out. My cousins who were more fit than me were also lucky in many instances. African American boys, now men, growing up as athletes in various sports, such as football, basketball, baseball, and everything else under the Sun, worried little about their health, let alone their breathing. A part of me was jealous but a part of me was hopeful that I could break this disease and join their ranks in society. During sleepover or family day games in the summer, I had to withhold myself from exerting too much of my energy when I was outside. I would play, workout, or exercise with them as much as I could, but I had to limit myself in what I could do. Sometimes I would even keep myself back completely from any given outdoor situation. I’d stay inside and find peace with any television show or video game I could lay my eyes one. The fear I had getting sick from asthma controlled every action I did as a child, and honestly, I’m not sure if not taking some of the risks I did were for better or worse.


The stigma of being asthmatic often came with embarrassment and degradation. I didn’t exactly identify myself as an asthmatic, only when I saw it to be necessary to a given situation. Having asthma wasn’t something I was proud of. If anything, I wanted to get rid of my asthma and the problems that came with them whenever and however I could. The feeling I had when I looked at the morning forecast and saw a high pollen count or an 80 degree temperature day frightened me. The fear of going back to the hospital and being bed-ridden with medicine and albuterol (the medicine used for breathing treatments) kept me from living unburdened as a child. The shame of having to announce to a class that I had asthma when it came to recess or P.E. made me feel abnormal or inhuman. I imagine other kids such as myself growing up and feeling the emotional pain of having a disease like asthma. Within the media, the “asthmatic kid”, I feel, is not represented in a way that is realistic or feasible. Many kids around the country share their stories of how they deal with their own asthmatic problems. Many of them look, talk, act, speak and perform in a similar manner to people without asthma or symptoms of the disease. They carry themselves in a way where their asthma does not define them or characterize them into a special kind of person. I remember having a friend in the 7th grade who also had asthma. He told me that his asthma was so severe, he needed surgery to get his lungs replaced. From getting to know him and his situation, I never saw him as the “asthmatic kid”, nor did anyone identify him as such either. He didn’t align with this philosophy either, and went around acting like a normal kid. Television can sometimes paint the asthmatic child as weak, scrawny, disabled or weary, but a lot of the kids I met with asthma growing up were strong, confident and able to do anything they put their mind to. I think that out of the struggle, people with asthma have a sense of resilience and fortitude that is unrivaled by people who may not understand the difficulties of being asthmatic.


Asthma has killed many in its wake, but in America, across cities and shores, over 3500 a year die from it. With over 25 million Americans diagnosed with the disease, there are more stories that need to be told and addressed for others to hear. Being the leading cause of chronic disease, asthma has tried time and time again to claim more lives as the years go by. I believe that asthma and all of its illnesses is a great danger and problem in American society. It’s affected kids and adults that grew up with asthma, looking and searching for a cure to end it all. From my own personal life, I still deal with it today as a 21 year old male. As I go over into adulthood, I’ll probably face more encounters with the disease until I can overcome it in the near future. I hope that others that share similar stories like mine can find peace and happiness in a world that condemns their body to breath easily. I’m thankful for my experience with the disease, as it has taught me to be strong and resilient when it comes to obstacles I face in life. I hope that others with asthma will discover both the good and bad from the disease and use it to their advantage. If the ones who aren’t lucky enough to make it from the deadly clutches of asthma make it to the other side, I wish them nothing but peace and space to breath.