Angel Pascual Jimenez Gutierrez majors in International Criminal Justice at John Jay College and is currently taking EJS 200 – Earth Justice: Introduction to Sustainability Studies with Prof.Milena Popov.
Ecuador is also known as the “middle of the world,” because it is crossed by the Equinoctial Line, which divides the world between the north and the south. It is a country full of biodiversity in all its four natural regions; coast (“la costa”), highlands (“la sierra”), the amazon (“la amazonía”) and the Island region (las islas Galapagos). This story is focused on the coast of Ecuador, specifically in Guayaquil city, which has a Gulf that is the host of ancestral communities that depend on mangrove resources. I am a proud Ecuadorian who would like to share these lines with you on the John Jay College website, exposing the case of the Gulf of Guayaquil and telling the story about how I got to work in this area after my Master of Public Administration (2004) at JJ.
I must say that what I learned in
the Master of Public Administration was a fundamental input for my career; I
studied it when I was young and had experience only as a professor, but not in
the public sector. When I say that the MPA was fundamental I mean that it was
the core of my values and my principles during my 10-year career in the
Ecuadorian public sector. When I started it in 2007 I had reflected so much about
the values of fairness and justice that were enforced by my John Jay College
education. My background at JJ was in fiscal policy, so I worked and travelled
to many municipalities of my country, identifying good practices of tax
collection and local investment, and producing guidelines for the
municipalities that needed help. In this way my path in “technical assistance”
Today, 15 years after leaving John Jay, I still work in development with communities and civil society organizations by giving technical assistance to a handful of them. My life took a new path when I studied a Master of Human Settlements in Belgium (2018), after which I was able to rethink my career and knew that it was time to support other actors that are also key for the development of my country. I have to say that the knowledge and experience on which I have based my work in the public sector, has shaped who I am at this moment, and I keep teaching subjects like “public administration,” “local planning,” and “critical thinking” with cases applied to the Ecuadorian context, but also with international cases and reflections I learned from my professors at John Jay, especially Joan Hoffman, Marilyn Rubin and Robert Sermier.
The geographic area where I work, the Gulf of Guayaquil, is a very fragile ecosystem that is constantly endangered by different socio-ecological conflicts. One of these conflicts is directly related to the government, because the local governments to which the Gulf belongs, like Guayaquil city, have not given to the local communities the coverage of basic needs such as potable water, sewage, and waste collection. On the other hand, the central government that is in charge of protecting the mangrove ecosystem does not act efficiently when there are reports made by the communities about mangrove-felling, which is crime, but a mostly unpunished crime.
In the following picture we can
see the Gulf of Guayaquil, located between the Estero Salado (brackish water)
and the Guayas River (fresh water), that together shape the characteristics of
this rich ecosystem. Guayaquil city is located in the upper part of this
picture, and it is particularly important for this article because it will be
facing serious challenges due to climate change.
Guayaquil is one of the cities that face a high average annual loss of its GDP in the future, and according to some projections it will have the third greatest rate of loss in the world (Hallegatte et. al, 2013). Guided by this and other information about climate change projections, I started studying the impact that climate change will have on the Gulf of Guayaquil, and I presented them in my master thesis “Socio-ecological conflicts and the challenges of climate change” (2018). It shows how climate change will amplify the socio-ecological conflicts of the region.
The socio-ecological conflicts are illustrated in the following animated video that was prepared to increase awareness and consciousness about them. This video was made with the cooperation of Freddy Barreiro, Ecuadorian graphic designer:
Even though I am describing three socio-ecological conflicts in the video, I want the John Jay readers to reflect particularly on the third conflict, which is the conflict with the government. Overexploitation and contamination of water bodies and mangrove resources undermine the livelihood of the communities, but also and importantly, the lack of compromise of the public sector reinforces and amplifies the diminishment of their livelihoods. My work on the claim for social justice I do from the communities and with Fundación Cerro Verde, a local NGO that assists the communities in the search for solutions to these conflicts.
What I studied at JJ helped open my eyes to the inadequacies of and malfeasance in the provision of government services, and inspired me to always fight for a better country and a better public sector. The fight is still ongoing, and thanks to my education and what I learned from great professors, I am still here.
Jay College Alumni from the Master of Public Administration (2004).
My name is Nicholas Preda, I’m a 2018 John Jay graduate with a major in Criminal Justice and a minor in Environmental Justice.
My journey started when Professor Tausch (SCI 112) opened my eyes to a global crisis pervading almost every aspect of the biosphere and atmosphere. I also want to thank Professor Conrad (SCI 112 Lab), Professor Swenson (Urban Ecology), Professor Struhl (Environmental Ethics), Professor Chua (Environmental Psychology), Professor Siegel (Environmental Sociology), Professor Popov (EJS 200), and Professor Ting (EJS 300).
Professor Ting forced me to look at the goods around us and wonder: who or what has suffered or died to produce this, what is the impact of said suffering, and who profited? These brief guidelines can never touch Professor Ting’s extensive knowledge and proven experience delivered with an empathetic induction as well as a reaffirmation that these issues have a solution. One of the biggest lessons I drew from her class was from the “who profited” guideline. While the general population is encouraged to reduce, reuse, and recycle, the top 100 polluting companies will continue to contribute to 71% of global emissions. Our planetary disaster is being fueled by exuberance, decadence, greed, and the inability or disregard to view resources in finite terms. There is also the matter of public opinion manipulation via: “donating” to politicians, a subtle coup of industry groups masquerading as civil liberties organizations, certain media groups being controlled by polluters, and in today’s brave new world, using U.S. government channels to disseminate climate propaganda. Professor Ting has shown many students that climate change/mass extinction is not an invisible enemy but an enemy we can tackle through awareness, alerting consumers to nefarious companies and governments, legislation, community organizing, and a sustainable mindset. Professor Popov is also an excellent instructor, EJS 200 serves as a stepping stone for environmental awareness. Through the use of governmental reports, creative thought experiments, observational tours, and, like Professor Ting, guest speakers on the front lines, she is able to paint a clear and concise roadmap of global issues. In Fall of 2018 Professor Popov had invited a guest speaker, Jessica Schreiber, the Executive Director of FABSCRAP.
Jessica is a visionary with a startup mindset and can do attitude which immediately drew me in.
Jessica and FABSCRAP’S innovative and driven co-founder Camille Tagle (as well as the wonderful FABSCRAP team!) welcomed me with open arms for a once in a lifetime internship. FABSCRAP is a pre-consumer textile recycling non profit that works with designers large or small (300 clients and growing), interior designers, and home sewers. Textile and garment production is one of the top three most globally polluting industries. It takes 2,000 gallons of water to produce one pair of jeans, organic fibers are very resource intensive. Synthetic fibers, like polyester, require massive amounts of energy to convert PET (plastic used for bottles and food containers) into a soft fabric. Since most textiles are made in countries with zero to little environmental regulations, the remnants of the dyeing process are disposed of in bodies of water. Yellow dyed garments contain PCB-11, a chemical cousin to the famous PCB. FABSCRAP, in its two years of existence, has diverted a little over 300,000 lbs from landfill. This is just fabric from the design process. We have a steady stream of volunteers (3,111 as of April) that sort fabric at stations with bins for: trash, spandex, 100% polyester, 100% wool, 100% cotton, mixed fabrics not containing even 1% spandex, and paper recycling. We are also able to collect and reuse almost everything from buttons, hardware, and trims to rubberbands. All of these metrics are meticulously tracked and delivered yearly. Pieces that are at least one yard are sold or given away for creative reuse.
Scraps not containing spandex are shredded and downcycled into industrial felt which is used for insulation, stuffing for interior furniture, lining within car doors to reduce outside noise, dust blankets in warehouses, etc. Spandex cannot be shredded but spandex scraps can be reused by: artists, art projects for students, and there is a company using scraps to fill punching bags. FABSCRAP, to my current knowledge, is the only organization in the world engaging in the gargantuan task of textile recycling at this high a level in terms of efficiency and data orientation. I have met a couple of executive directors from similar sustainability non profits/businesses (Decorate Our Home Planet, Creative Chicago Reuse Exchange) across the country who come to learn from the best. I’ve met zero waste designers upcycling discarded fabric, (ZeroWasteDaniel, Sheet Shirt, Taz the Tailor) these are designers who are fundamentally altering the fashion landscape. I’ve met menders who teach people that garments are like Play-Doh, we can make them into what we want (Jessica Marquez [Miniature Rhino], Kate Sekules [reFashioner]).
I’ve also met artists who have shown me that fabric can just be (foodbabysoul). All of these individuals are lighthouses on a stormy night. They’ve all shown me that sustainability can be fun, aesthetically pleasing, and a business model.
was not fair for me to keep this knowledge to myself so I recently teamed up
with Jessica to give a presentation to Professor Ting’s spring EJ class.
Staying true to my roots, I covered Professor Ting’s guidelines of who suffered
for most of the textiles and garments we wear and who profits. Jessica honed in
on the impacts of said suffering but also how to combat it.
following text was presented by Nicholas Preda on May 1, 2019 as his part of
the FABSCRAP presentation for Professor Ting’s Environmental Justice class.
“Fast fashion, a lack of corporate transparency, a lack of corporate accountability, and authoritarian governments are fueling a barrage of human rights abuses across the globe. The majority of fabric/garments imported to the US originate from China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Turkey, and The Philippines. All of these countries have two things in common: documented human rights abuses from local/federal governments and widespread corruption. The US market generates $170 billion in profits for China alone and this covers clothing, knits, and accessories. The fabric industry and the US market is providing billions in funds to a country currently placing over a million of their muslim minorities into internment camps and “re-educating” them simply because of their religious belief. Almost every garment you own had to be handled by someone in these countries. The easiest way to cut production costs is to underpay workers and that is why fast fashion brands like H&M are able to put out low quality and cheap clothing at an alarming rate. Rana Plaza in Bangladesh is an infamous example of what the true cost of fast fashion is. The building was an industrial garment factory that many western brands, like Nike, had contracted. The building was zoned as a residential structure and therefore an industrial weight load was not accounted for in the support beams. The building was supposed to be 6 floors but they built 8 floors which increased the weight on already strained support beams. The building was visibly crumbling in the moments before disaster and many workers wanted to leave, but it was the end of the month which was their pay day. The bosses threatened to cut that month’s pay for anyone who left, which, for many workers, is the thin line between poverty and full-on homelessness. There was a power outage in the city and the industrial generator on the roof sputtered on as power was restored, the rough start shook the building vigorously leading to a full collapse. The final count was 1,100 people dead with 2,500 injured. The social movement called Fashion Revolution formed shortly after this horrific act of criminal negligence in an attempt to address human rights abuse in the textile/garment industry. The workers also face: being laid off for becoming pregnant, being denied maternity leave, retaliation for forming and joining unions, forced overtime with the threat of being fired, and a blind eye to sexual harassment of female workers by male managers. Over time there have been hand-written notes found tucked within garments in which workers tell the world of physical abuse and borderline slave labor. Famous notes have originated from Turkey and China, the most recent note from China pleaded with the West to stop buying from their country. The good thing about living in the US and being consumers is that companies will listen to us when we raise concern or boycott them. Fashion Revolution suggests taking a picture of your favorite garment, tag the company, and ask them ‘who made my clothes?’ We can use social media and conscious awareness to tackle these human rights abuses that do not need to be happening.”
The exemplary and knowledgeable faculty of the John Jay Environmental Justice program laid the groundwork for my environmental awareness. FABSCRAP gave me my professional foundation, and while my internship has come to an end, I am now a part-time team member! I plan on continuing my activism and searching for another part-time position at an environmentally-based organization. Let’s keep up the good fight!
It was eerie watching the water rise slowly and steadily over the wall separating the garden from the tidal marsh at the edge of a small city in northern Florida , for the experience matched the accounts given by coastal dwellers around the world,which are described in the informative book The Water Will Come by Jeff Goodell. I shall provide you with 5 Takeways from the book and then tell you why you may wish to read it yourself.
Antarctic Game Changer: The
glaciers of Antarctica (seven times the size of Greenland), sit in a bowl,
created by glacial pressure, with a lip about 1000 below sea level. Danger
lurks in the warming ocean below. If
glaciers on the lip melt, they cease preventing the massive ice in the bowl
from making a gravitational powered slide into the ocean. The resulting rise in
the ocean for New York could be 13 feet. Interaction of gravity and the
earth’s spin send Antarctic water to the northern hemisphere. (Ch 3)
Real Estate Values Erosions:
Homeowners in areas vulnerable to flooding
will face loss of home values for
several reasons: currently underpriced flood insurance rises in cost, banks
require flood insurance for loans, flood insurance becomes unavailable. True flooding risk has not been built into
home prices because the housing financial structure both masks and passes risk
forward to the end buyer. Rising property
taxes to pay for needed local infrastructure will also lower home selling
prices. The real estate industry and
local governments have avoided raising income and property taxes by building
and selling more real estate, a strategy that will be undermined by serious
flooding. (Ch 5)
Resiliency planning inadequacy: Diverse approaches to protection of cities around
the world from rising oceans makes interesting and informative reading, but
then leaves one with the disturbing realization that all of the plans, no matter how well thought out and engineered (and
not all are), have “fatal flaws” that make the cities vulnerable to either more
ocean rising or unfortunate but possible coincidence of events. Reasons for the inadequacies range from basic
design to budgetary ‘reluctance.’ (Ch 6,7) The dilemma of island states is also
discussed (Ch 8)
Two sorts of military vulnerabilities
are discussed. One is the increasingly recognized way in which hardship
conditions such as drought and flooding
caused or exacerbated by climate change can give rise to violence, civil strife
and war. (see Tropic of Chaos by C.
Parenti ). The second is that much of the
US military infrastructure is located on coasts. Not only are military bases vulnerable
to and already experiencing some flooding, they are dependent on local
governments to invest in local flood protection for roads and other necessary
complementary infrastructure. Both the Congress itself and local
governments have avoided acknowledging the need for and making such
infrastructure investments. Moving the
military establishments inland would be another very large political and
financial challenge. (Ch 9)
author acknowledges the very basic injustice caused by the effects of climate change being more severe for populations that
did not burn the fossil fuels causing the problem, and points to at least
three other likely sources of inequality exacerbation. First, lower income communities are especially likely to suffer loss
in home values and community infrastructure. Second, resiliency planning, if designed
to protect wealthier areas of a city, as is the ‘Big U’ wall being planned
for New York City, can result in more
flooding in poor areas, such as Red Hook in New York City. Third, it is
possible that local governments could be
required by law suits on “takings” to spend their funds to protect the coastal
property of the wealthy atthe
expense of the rest of the community. A precedent has been set in Florida
courts which interpreted a local government decision not to continually maintain
eroding coastal roads leading to the homes of wealthy residents as an illegal
“taking”. (Ch 5,10, 12)
may wish to read the book for several reasons. His first-person tale includes
interviews with persons of varying types of power such as President Obama, real
estate moguls, water protection engineers and military officials. One of the values here is insight into the
thinking of decision makers. He travels
to and provides examples from around the world, with a lot of attention to
Florida, a location familiar to many US readers. He discusses strategies that
could help, although he is often forced to note the neglect, abuse or
undermining of those strategies.
Goodell, Jeff. 2017. The Water Will Come. New
York: Back Bay Books.
C. “Tropic of Chaos: Climate
Change and the New Geography of Violence,”New York: Nation Books.
by Joan Hoffman with help of the CUNY Professional Staff Congress Environmental Justice Working Group
YOU can support an important program to reduce New York City’s carbon footprint! Because New York City has the efficiency of a subway system, two thirds of New York City’s emissions can be traced to the City’s one million buildings. However, now two bills introduced to the City Council are designed to make a significant reduction in this footprint by requiring the retrofitting of the city’s largest buildings ( over 25000 sq. ft) for fuel efficiency. Retrofitting these building, about 50,000 in number, can reduce emissions by 30%. Their emissions are to drop 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2040 (1). The first bill (int.1253-2018) requires the retrofitting for efficiency and substantially(2). The second (int. 1252-2018), establishes low cost loans for smaller landlords to enable them to meet the new standards(3).(see links below)
How can you help? You can encourage your City Council representative to support the bills and to fight for good jobs for local labor to do this work. Some City Council members have not signed on to support this bill yet and they are listed below. There is also a link to a list of all members and you can encourage them to support legislation calling for good local jobs for this retrofitting work (4).
of City Council Members not yet sponsoring the Bill.
The frustration of encountering “unknown unknowns” is
familiar to everyone, such as when some part of the body that we didn’t even
know existed suddenly hurts and we don’t know what to do about it. And, sometimes, when we finally learn what will
help alleviate the discomfort, it is not easy to do. Human society’s global
warming problem has been and is still filled with “unknown unknowns”. For
generations the possibility of global warming was totally unknown and then
slowly its existence and the role of fossil fuel emissions slowly seeped into
society’s consciousness. The
prescription of reducing our use of fossil fuels, upon which we had created
great dependence, met resistance, fighting against which has required
significant effort. Knowing how much warming has occurred and how fast it is
growing is important to this ongoing global conversation. However, the challenge of “unknown unknowns”
has thwarted our measurement efforts. Both clouds and water were playing
unknown roles; each, in different way, has masked the extent of our warming
False hopes were raised by the slowing of the rise in measured global warming from 1998 to 2013, called the “hiatus” (2). Scientists, however, observing the increase in heating emissions during the hiatus, knew the warming was going somewhere, and some theorized that the deep ocean (below 1000 feet) was the recipient (3). Attention is paid to ocean warming indicators for oceans cover 70% of the planet and have temperatures steadier than those on land, making them the most reliable gauge of warming (2). However, our measurement system used to be directed at the upper 700 feet of ocean, relying on relatively few disposable devices (bathythermographs) which collected and sent ocean data only once as they sank to the depths and died (1,3 .4) Since 2005, a fleet of 4000 data collecting robots, called the Argo, began to traverse the oceans, making the trip to 2000 feet every few days, gathering and transmitting information on the upward journey(1,4). With this rich collection of data, supplementary information newly available from satellites, and climate models improved to account for ocean current interactions, by 2011 scientists determined that ocean currents, during certain periods such as the hiatus, push the heat from emissions deep into ocean waters below 1000 feet and do this for periods as long as 10 years(1, 3). As a result of the new data and modifications, climate models can now explain the past and are therefore considered reliable for predicting the future, and rising temperatures are predicted. Because projections include more hiatus phases, (probably during “La Nina” episodes when the ocean currents are cooler in the tropical Pacific), it is critical that we monitor the ocean below 2000 feet to explore the consequences of this deeply stored heat (1).
The oceans have taken in 93% of the effects of global
warming and the increased warmth of the oceans has been feeding the violence of
storms and causing acidification which has been bleaching coral reefs, and
melting of glaciers (1,2,12). The
improved measurement system now in place indicates that the oceans are, in
general, warming even faster than previously predicted (2). In sum, heating emissions are undermining the
human habitat at a more rapid pace than we had previously understood, signaling
an even stronger need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Initially, even as the reality of global warming was being accepted, the very existence of global dimming, which shields some of the earth from sunrays, was not suspected. Completely independent research projects had recorded puzzling declines in sunrays reaching the earth. The solution to the mystery was the discovery that water drops clung to the surfaces of particulates, such as those from fossil fuel emission or volcanoes, turning the clouds into mirrors which return sunrays to the sky. Clean clouds let the sun rays’ heat pass to the earth. (5,6)
Global dimming’s blocking
of warming sunrays is significant enough to be incorporated into climate
models. Do not applaud yet, for dimming presents serious problems. The
pollution creating dimming is harmful to health. Dimming’s warming reduction is temporary and
does nothing to reduce greenhouse gas build up. Dimming is always local and
diminishes direct sun rays on crops below which reduces plant growth. Dimming also
has problematic impacts on local weather, such as shifts in the location of
monsoons, with dire effects for populations dependent on those rains. Cloud
drift creates environmental justice issues. Currently in India, dimming from
its coal pollution in the north is shifting needed monsoon rains away from the
south. India can address the problem with national policies, but this remedy is
not available to less developed countries whose needed local sunshine is
reduced when clouds polluted by the burning of fossil fuels in developed countries
float into their skies (5,6, 7,9)
Diminishment of dimming is clearly desirable, but not
unproblematic, for less dimming means that more sunrays reach the earth. In
fact decline in fossil fuel use in the world has, by cutting particulate
pollution, reduced dimming (called brightening). Creative balanced policies are
being sought to reduce greenhouse gases even more to offset the extra heat from
brightening.( 6,7,9) Simultaneously,
controversial proposals to provide humanity more time to reduce the greenhouse
effect by creating temporary artificial dimming exist. Harvard scientists have
scheduled a dimming experiment for the first half of 2019 (8) Such proposals have encountered serious objections; dimming
has known negative side effects and as
yet unknown negative effects could result from artificial dimming( 7).
Exacerbating our disturbing dilemma is the fact that in the US federal government environmental leadership has gone from inadequate to counterproductive and has been destructive of established protections. A new film entitled from” Paris to Pittsburgh” (viewable on-line) documents how local and state governments and communities have responded to this abdication of responsibility by taking steps to lower carbon footprints and creating alliances to increase the strength and extent of the impact of their policies (11) . One hundred US cities have now signed a pledge to transition to using 100 % renewable energy (10). And finally, in the new Congress, a proposal for a federal plan to reduce climate change, called “the green new deal”, is circulating (13). The uncomfortable facts we have learned about deep ocean warming and the inconvenient nature of global dimming signal that we must use all of our creativity to shape realistic policies. This worthy challenge is a call to all of us inform ourselves and to work with others do what we can.
Dr. Joan Hoffman is Professor Emerita of
Economics and founder of the Sustainability and Environmental Justice Minor and
Program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She has authored varied articles and books on
Each year 1,000,000 seabirds and 100,000 marine animals die from ingesting plastic. In 2017 alone, people in the United States used, on average, 390,000,000 plastic straws a day. That is enough plastic straws to wrap around the entire Earth two times. Over a year, the United States used 142,350,000,000 plastic straws which could wrap around the earth over 711 times.
In 2017, plastic straws were the eleventh most-found trash in the ocean and made up for 3% of all recovered trash from the ocean. One of the issues with plastic straws is that most are made from type-5 plastic (polypropylene), which is not a heavy enough plastic to be recycled at the majority of places, so they end up in landfills – which is why they end up in the ocean and harming the environment. Plastic straws take up to 200 years to decompose, and although they decompose, they do not completely degrade – which means they just break down into smaller, almost invisible pieces and never completely disappear fromthe Earth. When plastic decomposes it releases chemicals into the environment that are toxic to wildlife and the environment. Some states have already started to combat the effects of plastic straws by passing legislation that regulates the distribution. We can do our part by using alternatives to plastic straws, such as: bamboo, metal or paper straws, or skipping a straw altogether.
United Nations. (June 5-9, 2017). The Ocean Conference: Marine Pollution.
Fact Sheet. United Nations. New York, NY. n.d. Retrieved from: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/Ocean_Factsheet_Pollution.pdf