Environmental Literature | Social Justice | Sustainable Futures

Author Archives: Thabit Pulak

About Thabit Pulak

Thabit Pulak is currently a sophomore, potentially majoring in Environmental Policy on a pre medicine track. He has extensive interests in affordable water purification for the developing world to combat health problems.

Talking with a tannery factory owner in Bangladesh, Summer of 2016

When I first looked at the term “degradation”, I thought I already knew what it meant. The meaning that was engrained in my head was mostly confined to that of physical degradation of tangible materials and resources. In an environmental sense, I had envisioned it meaning the breakdown or contamination of natural resources like lakes and forest land. This definition made sense to me, as I had witnessed such degradation of natural resources in Bangladesh, my ancestral homeland. I had personally seen the huge amounts of toxic chromium waste being dumped into the rivers that flowed alongside homes by the leather processing companies nearby. The purple, blue, and yellow bodies of water I had seen had all left a stark image in my mind of what I perceived to be environmental degradation.
But reading the definition of degradation in “Keywords for Environmental Studies” led me to think about another aspect of the term which hadn’t been obvious to me before, and that was the social aspect of degradation. When such resources are broken down or contaminated, there is a real impact on the lives of the people who have to live in that environment. Thinking about the word through this lens struck me hard – the amount of social degradation that resulted from the resource contamination was much greater than the visible environmental degradation. Now that I think about it, I recall seeing the locals who lived in the area – and I remembered just how difficult their lives seemed to be. I recalled how bad the smell of the air was, from the toxic fumes of the dumped chromium in the water – it had given me a headache for the 2 hours I was there – so how could the residents live there for long periods of time? The only way to obtain clean drinking water was to buy bottled water from the city, which pinched these residents’ already strained finances.
It made me sad to see these people being affected so negatively by the forces of modern capitalism and globalization, which don’t value environmental and social sustainability as much as pure economic growth in financial terms. The future of economics cannot go in this direction much longer without including the costs of the environment – otherwise, such degradation, both environmental and social, will continue until it is possibly too late.

And that will be just sad.

Standing in front of a wasteland filled with scrap leather from the tanneries

Me and my sister standing by a lake in Bangladesh which has been severely contaminated with waste leather and toxic chromium from the tanneries


“2016 Bangladesh Visit.” Thabit Pulak Homepage. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2017.

Adamson, Joni, William A. Gleason, and David N. Pellow. Keywords for Environmental Studies. New York: New York UP, 2016. Print.

1. Some climate scientists and journalists have complained that the public cannot “see” global warming. How would you solve this problem? Which medium do you think can most compellingly express the impacts of prolonged drought, rising sea levels, disease, and so forth?

I think it is a matter of time before it “hits” the public’s thoughts that global warming is actually at our footsteps- but we all need to actively show that global warming is happening NOW. Yes, there are existing efforts underway that attempt to show this, but I still personally perceive this to not be enough, as some of the efforts are diluted in telling the public that global warming will affect humans immensely in say, 150 to 300 years. It is in human nature to not take immediate action against their behavioral norms when they feel that their actions might not have an immediate consequence. I feel that to many of us, the issue of global warming has been thrown around so much, and so broadly, that we all kind of feel that global warming is a very slow thing and that we are all, at the moment, “ok”.

By focusing our efforts on showing the effects of global warming NOW, I think the message will be much more effective, and by nature, it will allow the public to “see” global warming. Personally, I at one point, felt somewhat detached to the issue of global warming by this very precise reason. I knew of it because of books, and what I learned from my teachers – and I definitely believed it. But I always had the view that this was one of many problems humanity faced, and this particular issue can take a backseat to those problems because the timescale is larger than say, people’s health effects by drinking water from a polluted lake. My perceptions were immediately changed when my parents took me to Bangladesh, the country of my ancestry, in the summer of 2010. I had been to Bangladesh many times in the past, but it was always in the North, were my grandparents and relatives lives. This time, my father took me to the southern coastal region of Bangladesh so then I could see the different, much more difficult life those in that region were living. I was stunned to see that in many places, I was knee deep in water. I noticed the ruined remains of homes due to the high elevation of the water. My father told me that 30 years ago, this region was always dry – but steadily, as sea levels rose, the region progressively flooded more and more, to the present state of today.

When I got back home, my father showed me pictures of what the region looked like before, back when he was a kid. It struck me hard – global warming was real, AND it was happening NOW. People’s lives homes and belongings are being displaced, and their lives ruined.

So I feel the most ideal thing is to physically show people the places directly affected by global warming as I had seen – but clearly this isn’t feasible. The next best thing is to spread the pictures and videos of regions like southern Bangladesh via online video sites like YouTube, and television programming. This is the next best thing to do. Increasingly , the issue of low-lying lands being affected by rising sea levels is coming to the doorsteps of nations like America, which arguably have had the greatest impact on causing global warming to begin with. I believe that once this starts to happen on a larger scale, such media propagation via television and online websites will dramatically increase.


“Rethinking How to Help Water-logged Communities in Bangladesh.” IRIN. N.p., 01 Dec. 2015. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.

Cox, Robert, and Phaedra C. Pezullo. “Chapter 4 The Environment In/of Visual and Popular Culture” Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2016. Print.

Intro Blog: Thabit Pulak

January 24th, 2017 | Posted by Thabit Pulak in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Name: Thabit Pulak

Hometown: Dallas, Texas

Major: Environmental Sciences and Policy , and Biology

Three topics/ideas/issues that intrigue me: Clean Water, Sustainable Economics, Life expectancy/Quality of Life

Most interesting bit of news I read today (or lately): President Trump has passed an executive order to move forward with the construction of the Dakota Pipe Line this morning :/