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Global Issues, Local Impact
  • April 5, 2012 10:45 pm
  • February 17, 2012 5:00 pm

    GOP-heavy House Approves Keystone XL Pipeline

    By Jillian Sederholm

    House lawmakers voted 237-187 to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline and expand offshore drilling as part of a larger energy bill on Thursday. The proposed pipeline would stretch 1,661 miles to carry Canadian crude oil from Alberta to refineries in Texas and the Gulf of Mexico passing through six U.S. states

    keystone pipelineA set of pipes for use in the Keystone XL Pipeline’s Nebraska route. (photo: shannonpatrick17/Flicker Creative Commons)

    It was no shock that the Republican-led House passed the measure yesterday. The pipeline project has been used as political fodder for both Democrats and Republicans. President Barack Obama rejected the project and threatened to veto a GOP proposal attaching the controversial project to his payroll tax cut bill. Republican lawmakers have long touted the projects potential to create a large number of jobs, but just how many jobs it would lead to has been a point of contention for both politicians and the media.

    The day before the vote, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) addressed the House to urge opposition of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Rush accused pipeline proponents of not caring about landowners, saying that approval would lead to private land seized by eminent domain. ”We’re elected here to protect them (landowners), not let a big oil company, Keystone and TransCanada, come in and just take their land, take their land,” Rush adamantly stated. This lead to a shouting match with Republicans who argued that it was each state’s right to decide on the legal process for handling such land issues. 

    That same day, a group of Nobel peace prize winners praised President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline in a letter to European leaders. “Even oil-obsessed America refused to take the gamble and shelved plans for a tar sands pipeline this winter,” Franziska Achterberg, EU transport policy adviser at Greenpeace, told Reuters.

    Stop TransCanada Keystone PipelineProtestors lead a march against the Keystone XL Pipeline on Nov. 2. President Obama rejected the project the following month. (photo: Tar Sands Action group/Flickr Creative Commons)

    Environmentalists are concerned that the pipeline will lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions and an increased chance of an oil spill leading to contamination of the Ogallala Aquifer which lies under much of the pipeline’s route. Protestors — led by the Tar Sands Action group — have put heavy pressure on the President to thwart the project or risk losing their votes.

    The next step for the Keystone legislation is the Senate, where passage will be difficult. The 47 Senate Republicans will need to find at least 13 Democrats to join them in moving it forward.

    Originally posted on Curation Nation.

  • December 15, 2011 6:08 pm

    Queens Charter School Encourages Kids to Grow Up Green

    By Jillian Sederholm

    The entrance of Growing Up Green Charter School in Long Island City, Queens. The school is housed in the former site of St. Patrick’s parochial school. (photo: Jillian Sederholm/NYC Green News)

    The hallways are dim and a faint odor of rotting food wafts through the air from a composting bin in a Queens elementary school classroom. Surprisingly, this is part of the appeal of Growing Up Green Charter School.

    The mission of the school, located on 28th Street in Long Island City, is to: “Empower students to be conscious, contributing members of their community through a rigorous curriculum and an engaging green culture.” This green culture encompasses far more than the green-painted hallways.

    On sunny days, the school often relies on natural light to save on energy costs, but on a rainy December day the lights were on. Students in Nora Kaiser’s first grade class learned that recess would take place inside due to the puddles outdoors. Their disappointment waned a few minutes later as a brown-haired boy presented his show-and-tell item: two tiny turtles. Twenty-five students, dressed in khaki-colored pants or skirts and various colored polo shirts with the school’s emblem embroidered on the left shoulder, excitedly formed a circle on the carpet. The turtles, small even in the young boy’s hands, were set free to roam across a patch of brown paper towels. After five minutes, the turtles’ owner placed his pets back into their terrarium. Another boy picked up the paper towels and walked over to three bins near the door, each clearly labeled for garbage, paper recyclables and other recyclables. He casually tossed the paper towels into the appropriate bin in the middle without reading the label. Recycling is second nature to students at Growing Up Green, where it has been ingrained in them since kindergarten.

    Students are encouraged to bring in share items related to classroom lessons. One boy brought in a pet turtle. (photo: Jillian Sederholm/NYC Green News)

    Growing Up Green was one of 24 charter schools approved by the Board of Regents in 2008. It opened its doors the next year to 132 kindergarten and first grade students. The school was the brainchild of its aptly surnamed principal, Matthew Greenberg. Nearly two decades of teaching at private, public and parochial schools in New York City led Greenberg to decide that starting his own school was the best way to create the progressive and project-based learning atmosphere he considered best for students.

    Greenberg spent the majority of his teaching experience in elementary schools. He said he knew that “starting with kids at a very young age would be the best way to really bring change about in their educational experiences.” He wanted a school that would immerse students in holistic, project-based learning that highlighted science and encouraged parental involvement. Greenberg was not familiar with the charter school model when he first decided to create the school. Charter schools are public schools funded by taxpayers and governed by public officials - known as charter authorizers – rather than the Board of Education. Greenberg decided that a charter model was the best choice for the school he wanted to build. “It gave me autonomy to hire a staff that was going to be important to helping children learn in a way that I knew was going to be most successful,” he said.

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  • December 12, 2011 9:24 pm

    Vocational Trainee Hopes Green is in Her Future

    By Jillian Sederholm

    At 26, Shidavia Boyd has already had 11 jobs and a handful of internships. After being unemployed since January 2010, Boyd turned to the promise of the green-energy job market to find a career.

    Shidavia Boyd oversees the phones at her job in the office of her most recent vocational training program. (photo: Jillian Sederholm/NYC Green News)

    Specifically, Boyd sought a green-energy training program geared at preparing those with limited or no experience in this sector. But what really drew her in was the cost: it was free. During several past periods of unemployment, Boyd entered vocational training programs that were offered free and promised to lead to jobs in industries she did not have experience in.

    “I can do vocational schools standing on my head,” said Boyd. “I’ll do them all day, every day. I prefer them to college. In a short period of time, I can apply myself and it’s free. I don’t go into debt.”

    When Boyd was laid off from her last job, her father began sending her job leads. Boyd wasn’t interested in most of the positions sent her way. Then her father sent information about a training program that sparked her interest — ReNEW, a free pre-apprenticeship program that highlights green-collar jobs.

    The program is one of three trainings offered by Non-Traditional Employment for Women (NEW), a workforce development program that aims to train and place 500 women — many of whom are low-income minorities — per year in traditionally male-dominated construction trades. It is funded through a foundation of private donors and occasional grants.

    The ReNEW program was created in 2009 as a response to the growing number of green projects in the New York City construction industry. Each six-week session consists of 25 women and offers students an overview in environmental math and literacy, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, building performance, and solar. Like many women who sign up for ReNEW, Boyd was not previously familiar with any of the topics covered in trainings.

    Program Coordinator Anjuli Munjal said most participants choose the traditional blue-collar program over ReNEW. “Green is still a new concept. Women ask ‘Do I have to recycle if I’m in this program?’” Munjal said participants are drawn to the green-collar training for a variety of reasons. “Some have exposure from hearing ‘green’ as a buzz word, others have some experience in it, and others just want to begin the next available training program.”

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  • December 11, 2011 8:46 pm

    COP17: The Longest UN Climate Talk in History Reaches End, Environmentalists Split on Outcome

  • December 8, 2011 12:48 pm

    Santa Earns Lump of Coal for Carbon-heavy Antics

    Santa Claus brings joy to children on his nice list by handing out presents around the world, but his journey to do so lands him on the environmental naughty list.

    Ethical Ocean, online retailer of eco friendly, fair trade and vegan products, broke down Santa’s carbon footprint and found that his toy-stravaganza produces as many carbon emissions in a single night as are produced in a full year by the entire country of Qatar (where Christmas is not widely celebrated). A breakdown of Santa’s dirty ride is below, followed by some suggestions to improve the sustainability of his trip.

    Santa's Carbon Footprint Infographic

    (visualization: with permission from Ethical Ocean)

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  • December 8, 2011 12:05 pm

    Is Newt Gingrich Cooling Off on Global Warming?

    By Jillian Sederholm

    During election season, nominees do their best to point out inconsistencies in their rivals’ platforms. As the current Republican frontrunner, Newt Gingrich has provided plenty of material for competitors. One major area of shift for Gingrich is his stance on climate change. 

    In 1989, the then Georgia congressman co-sponsored the Global Warming Prevention Act (H.R. 1078), but has spent the past few months backpedaling and even calling for the abolishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. Has Gingrich changed his stance on climate change or is he merely trying to enhance his appeal with conservative voters?

    (video: Repower America via WeCanSolveIt/

    In 2008, former Speaker of the House Gingrich sat next to then Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as part of the $300 million We Can Solve It Campaign bringing together liberals and conservatives to solve the climate crisis. The campaign was sponsored by Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection. In the TV spot, a smiling Gingrich said, “We do agree our country must take action to address climate change.” 

    After the advertisement aired many of Gingrich’s supporters expressed disapproval. Gingrich addressed their concern by publishing an official statement on his website that said, “I don’t think that we have conclusive proof of global warming. And I don’t think we have conclusive proof that humans are at the center of it. … When it comes to preserving our environment for future generations, we can’t have a slogan of ‘Just yell no!’”

    This statement came one year after Gingrich made completely opposite remarks in a filmed interview. In a recently republished video from 2007, Gingrich sat down with New York Times environmental reporter Andrew Revkin to discuss climate change. In the video, Gingrich said, “I had a dialogue with Senator John Kerry recently and I started by saying let’s stipulate that it is problem that global warming is going on, that it is conceivable that humans have a role and therefore as a matter of prudence we ought to have less carbon loading of the atmosphere.”

    In a recent appearance on Fox News, Gingrich called his appearance in the advertisement, the “dumbest single thing I’ve done in years.” He went on to say I actually don’t know whether global warming is occurring,” although he did acknowledge that “the vast majority of the National Academy of Science says it is” and that conservatives should not automatically assume these scientists are wrong.

    More examples of Gingrich’s climate inconsistencies can be found in an article by Brad Johnson for Think Progress.

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  • November 15, 2011 1:18 am

    No Matter Where the Meat Comes From, McDonald’s Customers Are Lovin’ It

    By Jillian Sederholm

    A McDonald’s restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. On Tuesday, the corporation announced a 5.2 percent sales increase. (photo: Jillian Sederholm/NYC Green News)

    During an economic downturn, cost-conscious diners flock to inexpensive fast-food chains. McDonald’s global brand recognition and cheap eats seem to prove particularly enticing. 

    The burger chain has reaped the benefits of cash-strapped customers, reporting a national sales increase of 5.2 percent last Tuesday. This figure – up 25 percent from last year – exceeded analysts’ and even the company’s own expectations of a 4 to 5 percent increase.

    These sales numbers are a good sign for the company during a tough economy, but may not be as favorable for customers’ health. 

    According to a 2010 report in the Nutrition Journal, beef from grain-fed cattle like that used by McDonald’s contains higher levels of unhealthy fats and dietary cholesterol linked to cardiovascular problems. “Grass-fed beef tends to be lower in overall fat content, an important consideration for those consumers interested in decreasing overall fat consumption.” 

    But for patrons of the McDonald’s located on the corner of 71st Street and Broadway in Manhattan, the impact on their wallets won out over their waistlines.

    Robert Feaster, 41, said he does not eat at McDonald’s very often, but he chose it last Wednesday morning because “it’s the cheapest place around.” Feaster said the beef being organic was not a concern for him. “Don’t know, don’t want to know,” said the Bronx native.

    Nadine Allison also chose McDonald’s because it fits her budget. Allison lives in Brooklyn, but works nearby the 71st Street location. She said she eats at McDonald’s every day and, at 10am, this was her second visit that day. 

    The 31-year-old said she is not overly concerned with the healthiness of her food routine. She said her brother told her to go on a diet, but she thinks her weight is fine. She is more concerned with the impact her daily trips to the golden arches have had on her skin. She said she has experienced more breakouts since eating McDonald’s every day. Still, she has no plans to switch up her routine. 

    Alison said she enjoys McDonald’s food and likes that she always knows what to expect there, unlike the flavor fluctuations she said she has found at other establishments. “(At) those other restaurants, you buy it today it’s okay; you buy it tomorrow it’s not like the day before. You have to throw it away. This is the only place that’s consistent with food quality,” said Allison.

    Spoorthi (left) and Santosh Vemula enjoy McChicken sandwiches at the McDonald’s on 71st Street and Broadway in Manhattan. The couple eats at McDonald’s four to five times per week. (photo: Jillian Sederholm/NYC Green News)

     Eating at McDonald’s is also a regular routine for Spoorthi and Santosh Vemula. The married couple from New Jersey said they eat at a McDonald’s restaurant four or five times per week. They particularly enjoy the breakfast platter and the McChicken sandwich. When asked if they paid attention to how meat was raised, Mr. Vemula said, “The McChicken is our favorite food so we don’t really care.” They both said they trust the quality that comes along with the McDonald’s brand name because they trust the chain is “well maintained and inspected.”

    Just two blocks away on 72nd Street between Broadway and Columbus sits Energy Kitchen. The fast food chain was founded for the health conscious in 2004 in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan and has since expanded to seven other locations in the borough. Nothing on the menu is over 500 calories or fried, even the fries. They are baked.

    Energy Kitchen offers much healthier fair at slightly higher prices than traditional fast food restaurants(photo: Jillian Sederholm/NYC Green News)

    Energy Kitchen offers grass-fed, hormone-free bison, sirloin, turkey, and chicken burgers, as well as vegetarian options. McDonald’s and Energy Kitchen’s “products are like night and day,” said Chris Leone, owner of the Upper West Side Energy Kitchen.

    But Leone acknowledged the main reason people continue to eat at McDonald’s. “Times are tough. People are hurting. McDonald’s offers a way for people to feed their family for as little as possible.”

    Combo #1 at McDonald’s consists of a Big Mac, medium fries and a medium drink for $6.99; the caloric intake is 1,130 calories if ordered with a regular Coca-Cola. An Energy Kitchen Bison Burger – their most popular – with baked fries and a drink costs $10.75 and totals 538 calories.

    A veggie burger with fries and a drink at Energy Kitchen. One of the chain’s many low calorie options. (photo: Jillian Sederholm/NYC Green News)

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  • November 6, 2011 10:54 pm

    White House Protesters Pipe Up Against Keystone

    By Jillian Sederholm

    Thousands of demonstrators turned up to surround the White House today in an attempt to persuade President Obama to halt production of the Keystone XL pipeline

    The pipeline would stretch 1,661 miles to carry Canadian crude oil from Alberta to refineries in Texas and the Gulf of Mexico passing through six U.S. states along the way. Protesters — led by the Tar Sands Action group — are concerned that the pipeline will lead to climate change due to increased greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the potential for an oil spill contaminating the Ogallala Aquifer lying under much of the pipeline’s route. 

    In August, the U.S. State Department concluded that the pipeline would not pose a significant threat to U.S. resources. 

    In an interview with a Nebraska TV station from the White House, President Obama said he will weigh environmental and health concerns against energy security to make a final decision.

    “We need to encourage domestic natural gas and oil production. We need to make sure that we have energy security and aren’t just relying on Middle East sources. But there’s a way of doing that and still making sure that the health and safety of the American people … are protected, and that’s how I’ll be measuring these recommendations when they come to me.”

    Environmentalists opposing the pipeline are putting heavy pressure on Obama by threatening to rally against him in the 2012 presidential election, which will take place exactly one year from today’s protests.

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  • November 2, 2011 8:00 am

    Keeping Wall Street Occupied With Recycling

    A Youtube video uploaded by San Francisco Poet Artie Moffa has racked up nearly 299,000 views since it was first posted on Oct. 27. In the clip, Moffa suggests that instead of throwing out unwanted junk mail from credit card companies offering “pre-approval,” supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement should use the postage-paid business-reply envelopes to send junk mail back to the bank along with a note suggesting things such as the mail clerk at the bank join a union. 

    Original video posted on Oct. 27. Moffa has since posted a video update responding to potentially problematic actions taken by some of his supporters. (video: Artie Moffia via ransackedroom/

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