Active Minds and SGA Host Event to Help Those Coping with Climate Anxiety

By Ben Hopper

On Thursday, February 24, Active Minds and the Student Government Association held an event in order to help students deal with climate anxiety. The event offered students a safe space to talk about their fears regarding the environment as well as provide people with skills and practices to deal with this anxiety.

The event began with the presentation of a Ted Talk titled, “How to Turn Climate Anxiety into Action.” During the TED talk, speaker Renée Lertzman began by validating these feelings of climate anxiety. She explained that they’re totally normal and something she also experienced back when she was a college freshman

Lertzman found that talking openly about these issues and her fear regarding them with other people who felt the same made her feel better. From this she came to what she described as an “epiphany,” that “What if by understanding ourselves and one another, we could find our way through this crisis in a new and different way?”

With this in mind and through her research in clinical psychology, Lertzman shared three concepts that she believes people should know. The first being the idea of each of us having a “window of tolerance.” Which is based on how much stress each of us is able to take while staying connected to how we feel. Too much stress can push us to either side of the window where we’re left feeling depressed on one side or in denial and angry on the other. Lertzman went on to explain how with climate change any new information coming out has the potential to push us outside our window of tolerance.

The second concept is the idea of a double bind, which Lertzman describes simply as the feeling of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” Here people’s worries and concerns become so overwhelming they present as apathy. So people try to get others to care by displaying more information regarding climate change. But this causes more stress and people become even more overwhelmed.

The third concept is attunement, which is described by Lertzman as, “feeling in sync, when we feel understood and we feel accepted for exactly where we are. And we feel that, you know, we’re in relationship with the world in a way that makes sense, no one’s trying to change us or shame us or judge us.”

Once the Ted Talk was finished the room was opened up to a discussion about each of our fears regarding climate change. Attunement was important in this as everyone listened and didn’t invalidate how anyone else was feeling. 

One student brought up how she feels guilty going into the medical field because of how much single use plastic is used. Another student brought up how you can put something into a recycling bin but you don’t have a guarantee it’ll actually be recycled. Because of this she said things feel hopeless and that brings her a great deal of anxiety. 

An important point that was brought up was how we need to be kinder ourselves and not as severely critical. An example being if you’re depressed and can’t do the dishes, you don’t need to beat yourself up because you used plastic utensils. 

After the discussion a number of ways to reduce your climate anxiety were brought up. These methods included, getting involved in a movement, focusing on what you are able to do, connecting with others, and practicing mindfulness.

Mindfulness is about lowering your stress by focusing on yourself in the present moment. The event concluded with a mindfulness exercise where everyone closed their eyes and followed guided instructions. Participants were to focus on their breathing, how their bodies felt against the chair they sat in, and other general observations about their bodies. The exercise was calming and by the time it finished it seemed people felt much more at ease.

Overall this event gave people struggling with climate anxiety a lot of information. It was emphasized throughout the validity of these feelings and that there were others who felt the same. As well it was made clear the positive impact talking to and being understanding of each other can have. The power of mindfulness was also demonstrated. With all the information presented and the activities conducted it feels safe to say people who attended are better equipped to deal with climate anxiety then they were before.

Road Salt as a De-icer Negatively Impacts the Environment

By Ben Hopper

As we’ve made our return back to campus for the Spring semester, the winter has left us plenty of ice. This ice of course has to be melted, but the first way many think of doing so, through the use of road salt, may not be the best option; as the use of road salt has some severely negative consequences on the environment.

As road salt melts the ice, the runoff produced ends up in the soil as well as in freshwater bodies such as ponds, lakes, and streams. The sodium and chloride that compose road salt ultimately reduce both plant growth and vigor due to how these elements impact the soil’s density, compaction, drainage, and aeration.

In regards to bodies of water, road salt can disrupt aquatic ecosystems. The increase in salt makes the water no longer a liveable environment for the many animals living there. Due to this, the use of road salt can directly lead to the deaths of animals in freshwater bodies.

According to an article written by Jeremy Hinsdale for Columbia Climate School, “Chloride is toxic to aquatic life, and even low concentrations can produce harmful effects in freshwater ecosystems. High chloride levels in water can inhibit aquatic species’ growth and reproduction, impact food sources, and disrupt osmoregulation in amphibians. Some 40 percent of urban streams in the U.S. already have chloride levels that exceed the safe guidelines for aquatic life.”

But still, ice can’t just be left unthawed, and with road salt being an unsustainable option concerning melting it, alternatives must be found. And there are many alternatives to road salt available to melt ice, such as sugar beet juice mixed with salt brine.

Using a mixture of beet juice and salt brine has great potential to melt ice. Road salt melts ice by lowering the freezing point of the ice making it unable to form; but where road salt reduces the freezing point to 5 degrees, beet juice mixed with salt brine can lower the freezing point to -20. Additionally, this mix of  beet juice and salt brine contains less salt and due to beet juices naturally sticking properties, it won’t run off into waterways.

Although this method is more sustainable, it certainly isn’t without its issues. The American Physiological Society conducted a study that found mixes of beet juice and ice brine have caused bodily stress to mayflies. According to the study mayflies in a control group exposed to mixes of beet juice and ice brine were found to retain “significantly more fluid while salt levels were elevated, which can compromise organ function.”

Using deicers is necessary in the winter to keep roads and pathways clear of ice. But it’s important to consider the consequences of deicers like road salt and to try and use more sustainable methods. Although beet juice is more sustainable it’s important to still consider the effect it has on mayflies.

Calls for Gray Wolves to be Relisted After Their Removal from Endangered Species List

By Danielle Bongiovanni

In October of 2020, the Trump administration announced an intention to remove gray wolves from the federal list of endangered and threatened species. The Biden administration upheld the decision since total populations exceeded 6,000 members, surpassing existing conservation goals. Federal wildlife officials are content to repeal federal protections and let local wildlife agencies resume managing the populations.

The decision was not applauded by everyone, though. Critics claimed the conservation goals set in 1978 needed to be expanded. Arguments hinged on how gray wolves had yet to fully reclaim the regions where they once thrived, and climate change has posed new threats to the species. Environmental groups such as Earthjustice and the National Resources Defense Council filed lawsuits against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but the removal was not reversed. 

Since then, gray wolf populations have declined due to mostly human causes. By July of 2021, up to one-third of Wisconsin’s gray wolf populations reportedly died due to hunting, poaching, automobiles, and lethal methods of livestock protection. Despite this, the state planned on opening wolf season again on Nov. 6 until Judge Jacob Frost intervened by siding with animal advocacy groups that sued the state.

This trend is not limited to Wisconsin. Many states plan on opening wolf season this fall or winter despite notable declines in their populations. Emergency petitions to return federal protections to gray wolves filed on June 1 and July 29 were deemed credible enough by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to warrant a status review of the species.

The agency is collecting scientific and commercial data relevant to determining whether or not gray wolves should be relisted as endangered or threatened, but it could take another year before federal protections are returned. Indigeneous activists have called for immediate action, including asking Assistant Interior Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to implement an emergency Endangered Species Act relisting.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public input on the subject. Relistwolves.org urges concerned groups and individuals to make their opinions known. They can also sign a petition telling the Biden administration to reverse the delistment.

Despite the geographical distance between gray wolves’ territory and New Jersey, this issue hits close to home for the state. There are no wild wolves in New Jersey, as eastern wolves were wiped out in the 1800s due to hunting and habitat loss. A lack of natural predators has caused the state’s deer population to explode, with some regions hosting three times the sustainable number of individuals per square mile. This has resulted in widespread ecosystem degradation that leads to invasive species taking over.

Although a reintroduction of wolves could help cull the deer, efforts are blocked by a lack of open country and too many humans, according to Larry Hajna of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Hex Connell, a sophomore at Ramapo College majoring in music production, believes the stalemate highlights the importance of protecting and restoring wolf populations wherever feasible. “This legislation shows just how little the government cares about wildlife,” they said. “We gain nothing by hunting wolves, but their extinction would have catastrophic effects on the ecosystem.”

Conference held by Food & Water Watch Shows Anyone Can be a Climate Activist

By Danielle Bongiovanni

On Sept. 30, Food & Water Watch hosted a virtual conference and benefit to showcase how anyone can join the fight for safe, healthy food, clean, public water and a livable climate. F&WW is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that supports grassroots efforts for local and systemic changes to improve everyone’s quality of life.

Holding the event online offered unexpected benefits. There were twelve sessions divided into two tracks for the evening, which attendees could switch between at will.

The first track gave organizers a platform to turn their personal experiences into lessons. Matt Smith, the NJ state director of F&WW, and Anthony Diaz, the co-founder of Newark Water Coalition, hosted the track’s second session, ‘Building Coalitions to Fight for Environmental Justice.’ They first met in 2012 during F&WW’s movement to oppose a fracked gas plant supported by then-governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie.

Diaz described how once he became an environmental justice advocate, he began noticing how racial minorities are disproportionately affected by issues like air pollution. “If you’re not involved in the work you don’t know these things,” he said. The fracked gas plant he and Smith opposed was set to be built near Newark, where over 70% of residents are people of color. Anyone who is interested in joining the climate movement must know protecting the environment is inseparable from protecting vulnerable communities.

Both speakers emphasized how a coalition’s success depends on lots of planning, ensuring the movement is inclusive, and telling members their time and talents are more valuable than their money. Diaz said, “The only way to get through this… is to organize. Organize your fellow community members, organize the people you know, because that power- that power is untouchable.”

The second track consisted of workshops to help aspiring advocates get started. The track’s fourth session, ‘The Food & Water Volunteer Network: Building Volunteer Leaders and Political Power,’ was hosted by experienced organizers Michelle Allen, Brooke Errett and Sarah Edwards to teach attendees how they could support the nonprofit.

Volunteers are the heart of every movement, and the Food & Water Volunteer Network is accessible to anyone who wants to get involved. Opportunities range based on how much time and effort people can dedicate, from phonebanking to implementing strategic organizing campaigns.

To encourage potential volunteers, Edwards spoke proudly of a recent action she participated in to convince Florida Representative Kathy Castor to end fossil fuel subsidies. Participants brought a large fake check and demanded Castor cut it to prove her dedication to the planet. “It was a great example of us showing our collective power,” Edwards said.

After the workshops and educational sessions ended, the benefit portion of the event began. Famous F&WW supporters toasted to past victories, ongoing battles, and a bright future. Notably, actor Mark Ruffalo thanked the organization for its role in the 2010 campaign to ban fracking in New York and musician Max Frost performed “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell.

The benefit paused for the annual honoree award to be presented to Amy Goodman, the host and executive producer of Democracy Now! who works tirelessly to uplift independent media. Her acceptance speech focused on the importance of preventing corporations and those in power from silencing the truth. “We have to provide that forum for people to speak for themselves,” Goodman said.

Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence was the last guest speaker. She spoke on her work as the chief sponsor of the WATER Act, “the guiding star for water investment during congressional infrastructure talks,” which aims to protect the human right to safe, clean water from privatization.

At the end of the evening, Managing Director of Philanthropy Tamara Tripp announced $118,000 had been raised for Food & Water Watch. She thanked everyone who donated and attended the event, concluding with a powerful and hopeful promise, “We’re excited to keep working with you tomorrow.”
Ramapo College students certainly intend to take Tripp up on her offer. On Sept. 24 the college’s Sunrise chapter and 1STEP club partnered with North Jersey F&WW Organizer Sam DiFalco to protest global climate injustices and the East 300 Upgrade Project. The event generated calls, emails and petitions to Governor Murphy and Mahwah Township Council members to oppose additions to a fracked gas pipeline located near Ramapo’s campus. Both the climate action and the conference prove anyone can become an effective grassroots activist as long as organizations like Food & Water Watch continue to provide guidance and resources.

Intersectional Climate Demonstration to be Held on Friday, September 24

by Ben Hopper

On Friday, September 24th, Ramapo College will hold a demonstration in support of intersectional climate change action. The event, sponsored by Sunrise RCNJ and 1Step, in alignment with Friday’s Futures, will be held at 6 pm at the Arch.

Fridays For Future is a “youth-led and -organized global climate strike movement.” The movement began in August 2018, with then 15-year-old Greta Thunberg who began a school strike by protesting outside of the Swedish Parliament. Initially alone, Thunberg was eventually joined by other like-minded activists in her protest. It was on September 8, 2018, when Thunberg, along with her fellow activists made the decision to keep the protests going until the Swedish government established a plan of action to prevent the temperature from increasing 2 degrees Celsius. It was then as well that students all over the world were encouraged to get active in the fight against climate change as well.

The goal of the demonstration is to address intersectional climate change action. This is in regard to the fact that climate change is connected to other serious societal issues, including racism, sexism, ableism, and class inequality. The climate crisis is not affecting people or areas equally. Those in the Global South as well as other marginalized groups are more at risk due to the systematic issues of colonization, neo-colonization, and imperialism. The Global South, along with other marginalized groups (BIPOC, women, LGBTQIA+, etc.) are classified as MAPA (Most Affected Peoples and Areas).

The importance of intersectionality in the fight against climate change is not lost on Sunrise RCNJ president Miriam Sokolka. “Environmental activism is useless without intersectionality. Without acknowledging problems such as racism, sexism, ableism, colonialism, and classism within our work, we fail to support those who are most affected by climate change,” said Sokolska.

Along with intersectionality in the fight against climate change, this protest will also address local concerns. One of those being the proposed Tennessee pipeline expansion, a pipeline that runs nearby to campus. The expansion proposes the building of more compressor stations which release toxic gases. These gases are both bad for people’s health but also harmful to the environment. Along with this, concern has been raised about the consequences of a potential accident regarding the pipeline. This is due to one of the compressor stations and their proximity to the Monksville Reservoir. An accident has the potential to contaminate the water supply for part of northeastern New Jersey.

Those involved with the upcoming climate demonstration are enthusiastic about how the event will go. One such person is the president of 1Step, Karen Ortega, who said, “It’s been really amazing to witness Ramapo sustainability student leaders come together and plan this. I hope we get the turnout we’re looking forward to and that everyone leaves collectively from our action, educated and fueled to continue fighting against things that affect us negatively.”

As well, Danielle Bongiovanni of Ramapo Green, believes this event will demonstrate how people can come together for change. “I hope this climate action opportunity demonstrates what can be accomplished when we unite for a common cause. The event is dedicated to bringing attention to how the movement for sustainability and the movement for equality are inseparable. It is up to us to demand overdue improvements that will raise everyone’s quality of life,” said Bongiovanni. “September 24th will be an example of how seemingly small actions like writing a letter to a representative and voicing your beliefs are essential for larger changes, and I can’t wait to celebrate how far we have come.”

An event where participants can create signs prior to the demonstration will be held today, Wednesday 22 at 5:30 pm. This sign-making event will take place in room A106, all supplies needed will be provided.

The climate crisis is serious and needs to be addressed. That’s why it’s important for people to come together to get informed and fight for positive change.