by Morgan Wieziolowski
Widener University Political Science Major
Thousands of plastic micro beads are building up in the great lakes because sewage plants fail to catch them before they reach the lakes. These beads are made of harmful plastics and are slowly accumulating, polluting the water. The high concentrations of these plastics can cause severe damage to the ecosystems at and near the great lakes, damaging fish populations and spreading toxins. These micro beads can be found in common facial and body cleansing products for exfoliation, therefore then end up down the drain and eventually into the water system. Obvious alternatives for these plastics are sea salt and crushed apricot seeds, which are biodegradable. 5 Gyres is a non-profit organization that works to decrease aquatic plastic pollution, and is involved in lobbying for legislation against this kind of pollution. 5 Gyres is also involved in making consumers aware of the damage, and assisting consumers in finding products that do not contain the plastic micro beads. An app for smartphones was even created that can scan products and determine if it contains the beads or not.
Many large companies and corporations that produce these micro beads have already made agreements to the public, and to non-profits to phase out the use of micro beads in their products or stop the use of them all together. This is a positive step forward in the campaign against this pollution but it does not mean that these corporations will follow through with their promises. Legislation is being drafted in Great Lakes’ states to prevent the use of plastic micro beads in facial/body cleansers by companies. A bill or enforcement by the State governments would make even more of a positive impact on the environment. 5 gyres has also joined an international campaign called “Beat the MicroBead” with Stichting De Noordzee of the Netherlands, and the Plastic Soup Foundation to continue with their efforts against these harmful plastics.
by Lauren Angelucci
Widener University Environmental Politics and Policy Student
Over 1,000 marchers filled the streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for what is said to be the BIGGEST protest and joining of activists in the city since 2009. The “peaceful yet loud” march was lead by marchers who were against continued reliance on coal and natural gas fracking. They were also seeking the clean energy development and “just economy”. As they marched down Allegheny Park, they ended their day of “action” by having a meeting with several members of PNC bank branches about fossil fuel energy development. People from all over came from different organizations and activists group protesting anything from transit cuts, to climate change issues, to tar sands development. The overall Pittsburgh meet up came to about 7,000 activists, all hoping to get their messages out there. “We just want to let them know that we have a voice in Washington, and we’re going to be heard”, said a local contributor to the march. And though there were tireless efforts for members of the elite government to notice people, one example includes one group of anti-drilling activists who were told to “make an appointment”, when asked to have a private meeting with one official. Though the day was said to be very calm and orderly, 7 arrests were made by one group who chose to step out of the norm called the Earth Quaker Action Team, and they were all charged with trespassing for refusing to exit a building when requested to.
I think that sometimes sitting down and not doing anything for something you believe in is as easy as going to the gym and sitting there, because NOTHING will happen. Many people have these very opinionated views of the world, but would never open their mouth when it mattered. And thats why the activists who put their beliefs on the line should be praised. When we learned about other sorts of grassroots movements in our class readings, such as the property rights movement and wise use movement, it goes to show that as Americans we know it is our right to stand up for what we believe in. Though often unsuccessful, these Pittsburgh activists, though all very different in opinion, all came together to use their free speech amendment. Their colorful, vibrant, and very forward signs also stood out to show the effortless time and dedication these people put into painting and getting up early and standing all day just for the hope that maybe someone would notice them and give them five minutes of their time. I think that 5 minutes of talking in exchange for 8 hours of standing is very fair. Maybe its just me and my feeling bad for these people, but I don’t know why some members of congress or government wouldn’t give these people the time of day. Many things I feel are very one sided in government and I think the people that organize and base their years around these events are the reason we have OPINIONS in America, and that is what keeps us on our toes. And though violence and stubbornness in the protesting process I think is a bit of an abuse of power, without these people and their protests and passion, it would not be America, and we should honor that.
by Emily Bonney
Widener University Political Science Major
The Environment v. Economy debate has reared its ugly head in the most unlikely of places this time – California. Known for their trailblazing environmental policies, politicians are now considering making changes to the landmark California Environmental Quality Act by weakening the strict regulations on urban development. Even more surprising is the switch in roles of the players. It is being supported by the Democratic Party and Governor Jerry Brown (D). Democratic Leader Steinburg of the California State Senate proposed changes including “exempting urban projects from parking and aesthetic reviews, and speeding up the pace of litigation” and Business leaders are on the side of the environment now, declaring the proposal “Steps backwards” and urging lawmakers to vote against the bill. Some of the main issues are that the current legislation is being used to block development by environmentalist groups as well as competition. Senator Steinburg additionally adds a caveat that would exempt the Sacramento sports arena from environmental review to stop the city’s basketball team, the Kings, from moving to Seattle. In a follow-up article, the State legislature did pass these laws.
California has long been lauded as the leader in environmental policy and this change of heart speaks heavily of the times upon us. The resulting decision in favor of weakening the policies also brings the question to light – what comes next? The breaking of the steadfast resolve in this green state is shocking to behold. Urban development will now be easier, but it will be interesting to know what California has planned to do to combat the inevitable rise in pollution that comes with increase in business and population in these concentrated areas. Urban development draws more jobs and therefore more people in, which could boost the economy; one aspect Democratic leaders might have been considering in the current economic climate. But at what cost to the Environment? Coming in third behind the peninsulas of Alaska and Florida, California has the longest coastline in the US. The state also holds 278 State Parks. If this is only the beginning, what example has California set for the rest of us?