Environmental Literature | Social Justice | Sustainable Futures

“Warming has effects on the carbon cycle. It creates a vicious circle which aggravates the situation even more, affecting the availability of essential resources like drinking water, energy and agricultural production in warmer regions, and leading to the extinction of part of the planet’s biodiversity. The melting in the polar ice caps and in high altitude plains can lead to the dangerous release of methane gas, while the decomposition of frozen organic material can further increase the emission of carbon dioxide.”

From who do you think this statement came from? Personally, if I didn’t already know, I would have figured this statement came directly from the mouth of a scientist, warning about the future of our planet. Even better, it would be a concerned global leader. I was quite stunned to realize that these were words of the pope, written out in his statement concerning the state of Earth’s climate, called Laudato Si.

In light of the weak obviously weak rhetoric of the Paris Agreement, I admire the Pope’s clear stance on climate change , as well as other pressing issues like pollution on a global scale. While the language is overall a bit verbose, it is much more dense with useful, constructive content, than the wishy washy language present in the Paris Agreement. The Pope addresses the duties of not only the governments of powerful nations to take initiative to save our planet, but also addresses the people on a personal level. This is what I admired about the Laudato Si – it can be read by everyone, and no one will not feel a sense of obligation after reading it. The eco media challenge that we did no too long ago fits in fairly nicely with what the Pope would perhaps admire – I can imagine my picture with a recycling bin during the challenge would be in line with the Pope’s hopes that the public can change their overall mindset of consumption to help create a future that is sustainable for our planet. My picture with the hybrid (Prius) goes in accordance with the Pope’s earnest hopes to help curb pollution in our planet.

To wrap up this blog post, it only seems fitting to end with a great quote by the pope himself : “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.”


Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015) | Francis. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2017.

My past roommate of two years had always told me one thing that stood out in my head “Ignorance is bliss – try it!”. I would usually retort and tell him he’s crazy – and say that I’d rather be informed and attempt to try to fix a sad reality than be ignorant and think all is good. However, when I do take a step back, I do see merit in that statement. As I’ve grown older, I’ve started to realize that there are so many things that are out of my control to such a degree, that it almost seems fruitless to even think of making an effort to change anything. One of the topics I tend to feel helpless in is foreign policy – I feel that no matter what I as a person feel, and no matter what I do, I feel that the American government will continue to fight wars that aren’t worth fighting , and innocent civilians will continue to die. I feel a similar sense of helplessness when I think about other big issues that affect the world, like climate change. As a nation, we have the single highest impact on climate change across the world – and many smaller nations with much smaller economies are being hurt because of our actions. My ancestral country of Bangladesh, has almost 25 million people at risk of losing their homes annually because of rising sea levels that get worse during the monsoon season in the summer. In front of my own eyes, I’ve observed the situation get more and more dire in Bangladesh over the last decade. I turn to countries like the United States to hope that there will be something done, but no matter how indisputable the scientific evidence that comes out (from universities in our own nation!), I can’t begin to fathom how our politicians turn a blind eye to this.

So when talking about the Paris Agreement, it simply served to reinforce this sense of helplessness that I get when I look at issues like these. The Paris Agreement is definitely an agreement – an agreement to remain fairly complacent on what is possibly the world’s greatest challenge to come. Sometimes I envy my roommate, who likely doesn’t know (or care) about the Paris Agreement – he seems happy. I can’t do much about it right now – so why shouldn’t I just be able to ignore this and be happy?

Such are life’s tough questions.


When I was learning about permaculture, I started to realize that the “permaculture movement” in America, and perhaps in other developed nations, is already something that is to some degree, a way of life for many people across the world. Bangladesh, which is considered one of the world’s poorest countries, is known for it’s natural beauty. The people of Bangladesh take great pride in living in harmony with the beauty of the country side. The endless rows of rice paddies mixed in with other crops in neat lines, with homes spread out between, show the dominance of nature, and the people who live within living in harmony with it.

In the permaculture film, Inhabit, I realized that many of the techniques that were being used, such as rainwater harnessing to later water rooftop gardens, were already well implemented in Bangladesh. It is a common practice in Bangladesh to have highly elevated containers which contain rain water, which would then generate a natural gradient of pressure to a hose connected to the tank. This would then naturally function as a water hose to water plants that are beneath the tank. It made me happy to see that people in a densely populated city like Manhattan saw the value in these things, and were seeking to spread such a movement. Ultimately, I feel that no matter how much humans tend to actively “spread out” and “build their own way” in the world, it is ultimately impossible to be completely separated from the nature that envelopes us. So why not embrace it, and compliment our lives with it? People across the world have already been doing it – perhaps it is time that we do too.


Bangladesh Photo Gallery,Bangladesh Photo,Bangladesh Nature,bangladesh Tour. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2017.

Final Project Abstract- Points of Focus

Project: A practical proposal to save water in Edens 1C Dorm
What to consider:
* Analysis of the current shower head and toilet appliances in the dorm
* Lookup the current water consumption on the shower heads and toilets online
* Test the shower head water consumption via a bottle fill up test (to corroborate online information)
* Do a literature review to assess what typical water consumption habits in a dorm are like (i.e shower length, toilet usage, etc)
* Do research on affordable shower heads and toilet alternatives that use reduced water
* Perform calculations via excel with raw data first, and then synthesize into proposal to advertise potential water and cost savings

By 2100, it’s estimated that urban land in the United States will occupy a total space of 466,000 kilometers, which is an increase of 216,000 kilometers from the current area of urban land. This increase should be a serious point of concern because urban areas have a significant detrimental effect on the health of the environment. Given that in 2007 it was estimated that urban buildings accounted for about 30-40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, this percentage could markedly increase if our current design of urban areas remains unchanged. A viable option for mitigating the effects of these projected increases could be the incorporation of permaculture design in urban architecture.

Permaculture is defined as the natural integration of people and their landscape which results in sustainable production of food, shelter, energy and other materials. The main idea is to become more aligned with nature’s patterns in order to use them for your immediate benefit. This often takes form in people incorporating local agricultural efforts into their daily lives, such as a small home garden or a rainwater collection system. One particularly interesting application of permaculture design in urban areas is the construction of green roofs.

A green roof is any normal roof that is partially or completely covered with vegetation of any kind, anything from grass to trees. The utility of a green roof stems from the fact that it transforms a generally neglected, underused area into a formidable provider of sustenance and other environmental benefits. One striking benefit is that the surface temperature of a green roof is generally the same air temperature or less whereas many traditional roofs can reach temperatures of up to 90F. This reduction in surface temperature translates into a reduction in a building’s energy consumption since only a relatively minimal 6-inch green roof can reduce summer energy demands by up to 75%. Despite this clear energy benefit, many people are not convinced in their value because they believe that green roofs could potentially damage their current roofing. These concerns are actually groundless because it has been shown that green roofs can actually double the lifespan of a traditional roof since they protect a roof’s membrane from tough weather and ultraviolet radiation.

Taking into consideration the numerous economical and energy benefits a green roof can provide, it becomes clear that green roofs should become a permanent fixture in urban architecture. Although their incorporation will most likely fail to completely offset the negative environmental effects of urban areas, it will be a worthwhile step in the right direction. It will also serve as an incentive for people to adopt the principles of permaculture and integrate them into their individual lifestyles and ultimately reduce their daily impact on the environment.


Works Cited

Biello, David. “Cool Roofs Might Be Enough to Save Cities from Climate Overheating.” Scientific American. N.p., 14 Feb. 2014. Web. 04 May 2017.

Dowdey, Sarah. “What Is a Green Roof?” HowStuffWorks Science. HowStuffWorks, 11 July 2007. Web. 04 May 2017.

Heinonen, Jukka, and Seppo Junnila. “Implications of Urban Structure on Carbon Consumption in Metropolitan Areas.” Environmental Research Letters 6 (2011): n. pag. Web. 4 May 2017.

Silverman, Jacob. “Will There Be Farms in New York City’s Skyscrapers?” HowStuffWorks Science. HowStuffWorks, 26 June 2007. Web. 04 May 2017.


April 25th, 2017 | Posted by Riley Cohen in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Project Summary:

Throughout the project, I will explore the Keystone Pipeline in all its complexities. Specifically, I want to explore the economic impacts of the Keystone Pipeline, the environmental impacts,  its impacts on America’s Native population, and predict the future of America. I want to conclude the project with an exploration of two different futures, one where the Keystone Pipeline isn’t built and another where it is.


Project Outline:

  • Economic Impact:
    • Impact of the Oil Sands on Canadian economy
    • An analysis of oil and the American economy
    • Economic prospects
    • Economic detriments:
      • Environment and the economy
      • Sustainable economic development


  • Environmental Impact:
    • Increase in oil production
    • Impact of construction (carbon footprint/animals)
    • Climate change in general
    • Impact on people


  • Impact on Natives:
    • An analysis of Native rights in general in America
    • How the Keystone Pipeline fits into that narrative
    • Why Native rights matter


  • Interactive Timeline:
    • This interactive pipeline will include the two possible futures


April 22nd, 2017 | Posted by Nanki Singh in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)


Colonialism and Indian Forests

The project will be a narrative/social commentary that will encompass:


  • The history of forests in India
  1. In ancient Texts
  2. In The Indian Dynasty
  3. In The Mughal Dynasty 
  • People’s relationship with the Forests (Then)
  1. Folk Stories
  2. Poems
  • Colonialism
  1. What forests meant for/to the Imperialists
  2. Change in the Indian Topography
  3. Beliefs and Attitudes
  4. Predominant species of Trees/ Introduction of new Species
  5. Laws and Regulations 
  • Current Situation


  1. Highlight and find laws that are from the British era
  2. Assessment of current use of Forests
  3. What is our attitude towards the forest now?




  1. Superpower :  Her steps leave plants behind, and she has vines sprout out of her hands. Also brings dead plants back to life. Speaks to animals and plants
  2. Name:  Venetus (green) , Flora  (general name)
  3. Motto: Everything deserves to grow
  4. Outfit: Varies: sometimes it is a mummified green yellow wrap when she is in superhero form
  5. Appearance: Lives on a permaculture farm, and looks normal – always looks like she is slightly jaundiced (skin is yellow) . She appears perpetually weak on the outside, and people think she is always weird and sad loner.
  6. Transportation: Her real car is a prius. Her superhero car is giant bee that can shoot out little sting needles. It pollinates anything underneath it.
  7. Weakness:  Heat and smoke (for her bee), pesticides hurt her
  8. Sdiekicks: Has a dog with green spots
  9. Villain: Humans doing environmentally unfriendly things, ozone killa
  10. Form/species: Gender-neutral alien
  11. Backstory:  Was in a earth-like planet, raised by parents, sent in a plant pod because planet was dying because of anti-eco friendly stuff going on, resulting in severe climate change. So she comes here, and gains superpowers.

By: Thabit Pulak, Victoria Grant, Nanki Singh

Name: BioCool

Power/ability: Turns corn into biofuel in a cost efficient manner. Using corn for good!

Motto: “Fueling the world, one husk at a time”

Form/species: Human

Outfit/appearance: Really buff:

Transportation: Sparkly flying tractor

Weakness: Limited driving range, needs glasses

Sidekick: “Corny”

Villain: The oil industry

Backstory: parents killed by Monsanto


“The Green Crusader”

April 20th, 2017 | Posted by Jessica Marlow in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)
  1. Power/ability: Influence people’s mindsets and behavior in an eco-friendly direction!
  2. Name: The Green Crusader
  3. Motto: “For the good of us all.”
  4. Outfit: Dark green suit, sunglasses
  5. Appearance: Looks like a normal person when not in superhero garb, small scale permaculture farmer in Vermont like Ben Falk

  1. Transportation: Natural flight (most eco-friendly) –> think superman
  2. Weakness: His “kryptonite” is pollution
  3. Side kicks: The planet
    1. Earth world planet globe smiling happy cartoon vector Vector clipart ...
  4. Villain: Consumerism, commercialization, wasteful human behaviors
  5. Species/Backstory: Appears to be human, but comes from a planet that was transformed into an arid wasteland as a result of overconsumption and unsustainable practices. He now travels the universe finding planets in danger of facing the same fate and does his best to deter their impeding destruction.