Human Impacts Gearing Up to Bring Oysters to Brooklyn!

Excited Workshop Participants with Finished Oyster Cages

Excited Workshop Participants with Finished Oyster Cages

In April of 2014,  I attended a workshop on oyster gardening for educators hosted by the Billion Oyster Project and the Harbor School. The Sunday morning event was held in a workshop space in Staten Island. In attendance were mostly elementary and middle school teachers, hailing from different boroughs, including Staten Island.

 The Billion Oyster Project aims to restore one billion oysters in New York’s Harbor in the future with goals of education and to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Oyster’s posses fascinating qualities of purifying water, stabilizing shoreline, and preventing erosion on our valuable coastlines. For these reasons the BOP seeks to use oysters as a form of resilience and protection from natural disasters and occurrences associated with climate change, as well as a way to treat sewage contaminated water in our estuary.

Understanding Oyster Ecosystems

Understanding Oyster Ecosystems

 The BOP hosts’ workshops like the one I attended to inspire schools, children, organizations such as ours, and interested civilians to become a part of cleaning up our waterways and protecting our water surrounded city.

 To start off the day we enjoyed a PowerPoint presentation on oyster restoration. We learned about the processes of raising oysters in a nursery, hatching, and eventually installing the oysters out in the water. We then built our own oyster cages! Because of time constraints we didn’t talk specifically about the technical aspects of installing our own oyster gardens, but we all received a very useful Oyster Gardening Manual that illustrates everything there is to know about maintaining oyster gardens in New York City.

Human Impacts Institute's Oyster Cage..Coming to a Park Near You!

Human Impacts Institute’s Oyster Cage..Coming to a Park Near You!

Coming up this summer the Human Impacts Institute will be installing our very own oyster garden in East River State Park. I look forward to sharing all of the knowledge I gained this weekend in implementing HII’s oyster garden.NEIWPCC-logo

Many thanks to HEP/NEIWPCC for supporting this program.

By Anna Marr, Environmental Education Intern, Human Impacts Institute 2014

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Taking a closer look at “Pura Vida”: Human Impacts in Costa Rica

Tess Clark in Costa Rica

Tess Clark in Costa Rica

After a week of intensive job shadowing and cultural exchange, the State Department’s  Economic Empowerment Fellows convened this March for four days of hands-on learning in one of the world’s most economically and socially dynamic nations: Costa Rica.

Fellows from Costa Rica, Peru, Colombia, Panama, and the United States joined the program staff from UConn’s Global Training and Development Institute in San Jose this past March. Over the course of four days, the 12 US fellows and Latin American counterparts were immersed in group activities from touring the Coopedota Cooperative, a sustainable member-run coffee cooperative in Santa Maria, Costa Rica; to peacemaking seminars at the University for Peace. The Human Impacts Institute was represented by staff member Tess Clark, with hopes of exploring environmental possibilities for economic empowerment and expansion.

With the added benefit of several local Costa Rican fellows to personally explain the domestic economy and social experience, this nation proved to be an interesting setting for a program centered on economic empowerment and social entrepreneurship.  From the national motto of “Pura Vida” to a reputation for world-renowned eco-tourism, it may or may not be surprising to know that Costa Rica is one of the highest scoring countries on the Happy Planet Index, a system that ranks countries by looking at life expectancy, ecological footprint, and experienced well-being. Costa Rica is also one of the leading nations in protected land, with 25% of the total geographic area under some kind of protected status. But perhaps counterintuitively, Costa Rica ranks far lower in Energy Equity according to the World Energy Council, which pertains to the the accessibility and affordability of energy across the population. This is because, as our Costa Rican fellows reminded us, Costa Rica is still dealing with the pressure of development, including a growing industrial sector and a large population of urban and rural poor. Poignantly, Costa Rica’s Tárcoles River is one of the most polluted in Central America.

Their message was clear: while prosperous, Costa Rica has a ways to go in terms of long-term sustainability and in terms of arriving at a just society. Not to be excluded, other fellows can say the same about their respective cities and locales. Get in touch with “Pura Vida” in this video by Patrick Pierson>> Pureza. Espiritu. Vida.

By Tess Clark, Human Impacts Institute’s Development Manager

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Human Impacts Supporting GOALs for Girls in Science

“A civil engineer,” is what a bright-eyed, high school sophomore said to me as we were settling into the education wing at the Intrepid Museum. I had asked her if she had any idea what she wanted to be when she got older and her surety surprised me. We were there for a GOALS for Girls mentorship day, an afternoon for young girls interested in STEAM—science, technology, engineering, art, and math—fields to speak with women working professionals. The workshop was held at the back of the museum, overlooking the Hudson River. It was pouring the rain outside but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the enthusiasm in the room. I felt lucky to have chosen a seat beside the aspiring engineer when we started the day. Our first activity was a challenge; which table could build the strongest bridge using toothpicks, marshmallows, and gumdrops. My new “mentee” took the lead on construction and I learned that triangles are the strongest shape, and the difference between suspension and truss bridges. Our bridge was able to hold the 55 cents required, but our table decided to test its limits with two cars made out of doughnuts.

Our "Bridge" Experiment

Our “Bridge” Experiment

GOALs (Greater Opportunities Advancing Leadership in Science) for Girls is a free, 6-week summer camp held at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum for 8th and 9th grade girls in New York City Schools. It was started out of a need to increase curiosity and proficiency in STEAM fields and inspire more women to consider a STEM career path. The statistics of women in STEM fields are not ones to brag about. Only 1 in 7 engineers is female and women hold just 27% of computer science jobs. But GOALS is hoping to change these numbers, by showing young girls how promising a career in STEM can be.

We heard from Diane Fresquez, a food and arts journalist who spoke about her new book, A Taste of Molecules. Diane followed a group of obsessive scientists who are trying to understand the intricacies of flavor for over a year. Her book shows that science doesn’t just take place in laboratories but can be found in kitchens and breweries, helping to draw the connection to chemistry in everyday life. She showed that science can be personal to our lives and helped to evoke a deeper curiosity and allure to the STEM fields.


Diane's Inspirational Words on Food Science

Diane’s Inspirational Words on Food Science

The rest of the day was spent mingling and networking. I sat at a table while the young girls came around to learn about my work at the Human Impacts Institute (HII). It was truly a pleasure to talk with so many girls about their specific interests, and how they can be directly applied to environmental issues we face today. I hope they were able to come away with a greater understanding of climate and environmental science.

An Encouraging Post-It Note

An Encouraging Post-It Note

My favorite part of the event was getting an email the next day from one of my mentees. After attending this event, I have come away with a greater appreciation of the role of a mentor and how necessary they are to helping girls pursue careers in the sciences. In an industry dominated by men, it can sometimes be intimidating to confidently walk into a profession as a minority. But having strong, intelligent women there to support you, can make all the difference.

GOALs for Girls Mentors 2014

GOALs for Girls Mentors 2014

By LeAnne Harvey, Human Impacts Institute’s Community Relations Manager

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Stop Baggin’ NYC

City Hall NY, NYOn March 26, 2014, the Human Impacts Institute crew attended a rally at City Hall in Manhattan, where Council Members Brad Lander and Margaret Chin introduced a bill that is intended to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags. The legislation would impose a10 cent fee for every plastic or paper bag distributed at retail and grocery stores in New York City.

Plastic bags are a huge problem in New York City. On average, New Yorkers use 5.2 billion plastic bags per year, which requires an annual $10 million in city funds to transport the bags to landfills. Since the bags are not biodegradable, they continue to accumulate in the landfills; leaving less and less space for the city’s other waste. If the bags do not go to the landfills, they clog storm drains, become entangled in our trees/plants, or float through our streets, like ghosts of pollution.

This form of legislation is not groundbreaking; cities like Los Angles, Seattle and Washington D.C. have already passes similar legislation. In addition, Rwanda, Kenya and Bangladesh have successfully implemented bans on plastic bags.

Coalition Members Show Support for Bag ChargesAlthough it is evident that plastic bags plague our beautiful city and are very costly in the long run, there are still organizations that oppose the efforts of this legislation. Representatives of the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA) were present at the rally today to inform attendees of how this legislation would “incentivize shoppers to carry out less sustainable options”- the less sustainable option that they were referring to was the use of reusable bags. This legislation undoubtedly worries industries associated with petroleum by-products; however, it is necessary to ensure that we can preserve our environment for future generations.

 The Human Impacts Institute is working closely with our Bag It NYC coalition partners to raise awareness of the pressing need to deter consumers from using plastic bags. This legislation benefits the environment and promotes conscious consumerism.

Show your support for Bag It NYC and reduce the number of plastic bags on New York City streets, trees, and waterways! As City Council Member Stephen Levin of Brooklyn said, “Do more. Consume less.”

By Camila Montes de Oca, Environmental Services Intern, HII

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Human Impacts Institute’s Social Entrepreneurship Returns to Central America

Tess and Alexandra in Co-Working Space in Panama City

Tess and Alexandra in Co-Working Space in Panama City

For the second time in two years, the Human Impacts Institute (HII) was selected to participate in the State Department’s Professional Fellows Economic Empowerment Program.  Coordinated by the University of Connecticut’s Global Training and Development Institute, the program is set up as a two-way exchange in which a Latin American professional and a US professional counterpart spend time in both the United States and Central America collaborating on a new project, job-shadowing, and engaging in professional development activities.  With an emphasis on social entrepreneurship, the program allows both fellows to explore the idea of economic growth with added social benefits.

In October 2013, HII had the opportunity to meet and work with Panamanian small business owner and entrepreneur Alexandra Chen, the founder and creative Director of CRUSH. Alexandra designs bathing suits, iPad cases, and other accessories using hand-crafted molas, a traditional art form of Panamanian indigenous groups known for their colorful patterns. Deeply committed to socially conscious, sustainable business models, Alex works with local artists to cut and craft unique bikini tops, bandeaus, and accessories of which no two are exactly alike.

Example of Bathing Suit from Crush

Example of Bathing Suit from Crush

During her time in the States, Alex paired up with HII Development Manager Tess Clark to explore the connections between innovation in the social sector as well as the private sector. Focusing on core questions like “how do we inspire action?”, both fellows were able to think critically and creatively about the goals of their respective groups.

While the Human Impacts Institute and Alexandra’s CRUSH provide fundamentally different products, both are working with similar problems in different fields. As an entrepreneur, Alex has struggled to find a supportive, forward-thinking environment that welcomes new businesses and fosters start up ideas. While Panama City has a thriving economy replete with multinationals, financial institutions, and tech start-ups, Alexandra has noticed that many young Panamanians don’t take the initial steps to participate in the local economy as entrepreneurs.  Consequently, she wants to address this need by providing free community “cooking ideas” meetings, in which young people share their ideas for start-ups while sharing a meal. This model is intended to create an intimate and culturally relevant support system for other Panamanians trying to start a business.

Alex at Work in Panama

Alex at Work in Panama

Despite her good intentions, Alex has encountered a particular “mind-set” challenge– one that the Human Impacts Institute also faces. The challenge involves individual action: how does one person make a difference? At HII, we constantly hear that environmental problems are too big for individuals to make a difference– whether we’re talking about climate change, development, resource depletion, and many others.

Alex sees similar thinking in her community, especially in other young people. The individual action needed involves starting a business, nonprofit, or community initiative, but Alex sees little evidence that young people in Panama City believe these opportunities are feasible options.

Both Tess and Alex work with stakeholders that are in need of inspiration and engagement in the relevant issue, be it business or climate. And both are faced with the challenge of creating ways to get those stakeholders inspired, whether it’s through art, education, or in Alex’s case, cooking food and sharing a meal.

In March of 2014, the second cohort of the exchange took place as U.S. Fellows traveled to Latin America to continue the work begun in October. Through the job shadowing process, it was clear that there is a need in Panama for a truly community based initiative on economic empowerment. Together, Alex and Tess visited coworking spaces, met other hopeful entrepreneurs, and carried out the day-to-day activities at CRUSH.

As an environmentalist and community advocate, Tess felt that the rationale for Alexandra’s unique project was reinforced again and again. In the future, Tess hopes to continue working with Alex on her “Cooking Ideas” program and learning from the unique built and living environment in Panama.


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Summer Internships w/Human Impacts Institute (NYC and Leiden, NL)

Climate Collage

The Human Impacts Institute is currently accepting applications for our highly competitive Summer 2014 internship program. Past interns have included international lawyers, media professionals, certified teachers, as well as graduate and undergrad students from Columbia University, Bard, McGill University (Canada), University of Kwazulu-Natal (South Africa), New York University, Webster University (Netherlands), UPenn, University of Paris (France), National University of Ireland (Ireland), Beijing University (China) and many more. Additionally, former HII interns have gone on to work in such diverse places as Bloomberg, United Nations Environment Program, the Climate Group, International Institute for Sustainable Development, White House Council on the Environment, and in numerous private consulting firms. All interns will be given significant programmatic and organizational responsibilities based upon their internship descriptions, qualifications, and interests.

Internships will last for 12 weeks. There are two options for internships: 12 weeks in NYC or a Leiden/NYC combination.  For the Leiden/NYC option, Phase 1 of the internship will take place in Leiden, the Netherlands, for 6 weeks (mid-May to end-of-June) under the supervision of Human Impacts Institute Executive Director and Founder, Tara DePorte. Phase 2, the second 6 weeks (July to mid-August), will be held in New York City. Only applicants available for the full term (Middle of May to Middle of August 2014–with some flexibility for start and end dates) and who can commit a minimum of 20 hours per week will be considered. Preference will be given to those to can commit 30-40 hours per week. All internships are unpaid.


Applications for internships are due Monday, April 28th, 2014, by midnight EST

About the Human Impacts Institute: As an international non-governmental organization based in NYC, the mission of the Human Impacts Institute is to inspire action for strong communities and a healthy environment through hands-on education, coalition building, and using arts and culture for social good.  Our partners range from the United Nations, U.S. Department of State, and Federal Republic of Germany to major universities and research institutes to community-based, grassroots groups.

Summer 2014 Internships with the Human Impacts Institute

What We Offer

  • Working with a team of environmentalists and artists who are passionate about inspiring social change and have backgrounds in climate science, public engagement, education, policy development, international consulting, private sector advising, and more;
  • An open and creative learning environment where interns and staff collaborate and co-learn;
  • High level of responsibility and a key role in program development and leadership;
  • Inclusion a diverse, international network of environmental, sustainable development, and social change professionals;
  • Diverse experiences in education, coalition-building, creative messaging, reporting and research; and
  • A commitment to supporting your personal goals while pushing your leadership skills

What We Want: Strong preference will be given to applicants who can receive college credit (undergraduate or graduate) or occupational training credits. There is no stipend or lodging assistance available at this time. Interns are encouraged to apply for outside funding assistance. All available internships will have flexibility in scheduling, however, interns will be expected to work on-site at least 20 hours per week, with a preference for those who can commit 30-40 hours per week.

Applicants must have an expressed interest in environmental issues, education, policy development, international relations, research, coalition building, and/or not-for-profit organizational work.  In addition to this, interns are expected to be: self-motivated, extremely organized, independent, open communicators, creative, highly adaptable to different types of projects, atmospheres, interactions, and to have excellent research skills.

Summer Internship Application Information

  • Current resume;
  • Introductory letter, including:
    • Why you want to work with HII;
    • The specific internship(s) to which you are applying;
    • Your specific expertise/interests
    • Two reference contacts;
    • A one-paragraph, original idea for a creative project at HII

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and applicants will be notified of interviews shortly after their application. Spring applications are due Monday, April 28th by midnight EST.

All applications and inquiries should be directed to:

Tara DePorte, Executive Director and Founder, Human Impacts Institute

 Summer 2014 (mid-May until mid-August) Internships with the Human Impacts Institute

All Human Impacts Institute Interns will attend free classes at the Foundation Center on grant writing, develop and research at least one grant proposal for their internship focus, assist with organizational development and program support, write blogs and develop community outreach materials, attend relevant meetings and events to “report back on” to the HII team, and assist with partnership development.  Below, are brief descriptions of specific Human Impacts Institute internships:

Environmental Leadership

Our Environmental Leadership Intern will work to further develop our programs in coalition building (local, national and international).  Environmental Leadership interns will also have the opportunity to work on Human Impacts Institute’s 2013-2014 National Salon Tour: Transatlantic Climate Bridge. Environmental Leadership interns will be instrumental in helping to develop and execute our local, national, and international coalitions and partnerships.  Responsibilities will include: developing outreach materials, sponsorship packages for corporate partners, research and reporting, and strategic partnership development. Interns should have a good working knowledge of environmental issues (including climate change), sustainable development, and international relations.  Policy and/or science experience is a plus.

 Environmental Services

Our Environmental Services Intern will provide businesses, organizations, schools and other Human Impacts Institute partners with resources on how to reduce their overall emissions, negative impacts on community health, and to increase their community support, while saving money and increasing their community involvement. Specifically, these interns will be involved with Human Impacts Institute’s Ecopreneurs (eco + entrepreneurs) program and looking at ways to scale-up this initiative. Interns will be trained as environmental consultants and will mentor other students and stakeholders in sustainability options in their community, with a particular focus on small businesses.  Interns will also analyze the economic and social impacts of sustainability measures being implemented by program participants. Experience in business and CSR is a plus.

 Experiential Education

Our Experiential Education Intern will help in all aspects of hands-on, environmental education programs at the Human Impacts Institute. Interns will focus on curriculum development, teaching classes for all ages, researching educational content, partnership outreach, and developing creative, educational content for blogs, social media, newsletters, and for our international partners. Intern applicants should be interested in hands-on education and in the many components of program development and facilitation. Experience in environmental issues and/or teaching is a plus.

 NGO Management, PR and Marketing

Our NGO Management/PR and Marketing Intern will be predominantly responsible for further development of Human Impacts Institute’s social media platforms (Twitter, blog, Facebook, etc.), website content, organization communications, press packages and brochures, outreach to press and funders, as well as other issues relating to marketing our organization and our programs. Interns will also help with the overall organizational management including responsibilities such as data input, contacts management, newsletter development, as well as events planning, partnership development, and fundraising.  All applicants should be skilled in writing and marketing.  Experience in fundraising is a plus. Experience with environmental issues is not necessary, but favorable.

 Design and Interactive Web Development

The Design and Interactive Web Development Intern will be responsible for further developing the online and interactive presence of the Human Impacts Institute and our programs. Interns will particularly focus on creating and implementing online tools for increased collaboration, outreach and open-source engagement of the public and partner groups in Human Impacts Institute’s programs. Ideal candidates will have proficiency in website development/maintenance, Photoshop and/or InDesign, and ability to learn other online and design tools. Ideal candidates will also have experience or training in graphic design, illustration, and/or branding. Knowledge or interest in environmental issues or community development is a plus. All applicants for the Design and Interactive Web Development Internship should send three work samples in addition to the overall internship application package.  

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Sustainability on the Table in 2014: HII Attends NYC Green Groups Coalition Quarterly Meeting

Last Friday, Human Impacts Institute attended the NYC Green Groups Coalition’s quarterly meeting in order to discuss four key issues, namely:

1. What did we accomplish in 2013? Legislative and regulatory achievements
2. NYLCV (New York League of Conservation Voters) resources: NYC new general guide, council scorecard 2012-13
3. Four-year policy agenda for Mayor de Blasio’s first term
4. Priorities this year: legislative, regulatory and budgetary

The meeting was open to anyone working on a sustainability issue to ensure that New York City continues on a sustainable path. One recurring topic on everyone’s minds seemed to be the transition period for the new mayor, Bill de Blasio. Communication with his office was going slower than many had anticipated, but it was agreed that this did not indicate a lack of support for the collective issues and actions. More likely, Mayor de Blasio is still getting settled in his new post and would respond to green inquiries and actions in due time. The group then focused on what they would like the mayor to prioritize, and how to get the main issues noticed sooner rather than later.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, photo cc:

There were several groups with updates about transportation issues that they are currently pushing for. From lowering the speed limit to 20 mph in pedestrian zones to improving Select Bus Service around the city, the topic of transportation was a main focus point during the meeting. One particular item of interest to many New Yorkers was the possibility of another MTA fare hike before 2017, which begged the question, will there ever be a cap on the cost of riding the subway?

Some of the takeaways from the meeting included the NYC 2014-18 policy agenda releasing in early March, and a plan for NYLCV to ask the director of the Office of Long- Term Planning and Sustainability (OLTPS) to present at the next group meeting in early April to discuss their priorities and the next PlaNYC update. They also planned to monitor a few programs and budgetary items including some parks, Department of Transportation, Vision Zero, and the NYC Clean Heat program.

Links to some of the key campaign issues discussed at the meeting can be found here:

Stay tuned for more green news! Check out Human Impacts Institute’s TwitterFacebook, and Blogs!

By Rose Bowen, Environmental Leadership Intern

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Sustainability Practice Network Panel Discussion: Environmental Policy Predictions NYC 2014

Bard Center for Environmental Policy hosted a lively panel discussion on Tuesday February 18th, 2014, to examine the newly inaugurated New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Highlighting the successes of the reign of Bloomberg in the area of sustainability and environmental improvements, panel members were asked to provide insights on which direction Mayor de Blasio will steer a more environmentally conscious New York.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Photo CC: The Guardian

Panelists were Carter Strickland, Commissioner, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Cecil Scheib, Chief Program Officer, Urban Green Council, Laurie Kerr, Senior Policy Analyst, Natural Resources Defense Council; Director, City Energy Project, and Marcia Bystryn, Executive Director, New League of Conservation Voters. All members of the panel are successful sustainability advocates in their own right, each bringing a different angle to the discussion. All four panel members were in accordance; the velocity of Bloomberg’s movement was so strong that Mayor de Blasio will have to continue in a similar path.

Eben Goodstein, the night’s “moderator” of sorts, is the director of the Bard Center for Environmental Policy. He set the night off on an interesting note, giving a visual representation of the kind of changes we’re heading towards as our climate is rapidly changing. His point was this: during the Ice Age, snow and ice was piled almost as high as the empire state building in New York, over 1000 feet. The temperature at that time was only 9 degrees Fahrenheit below what the average is in NY now. That number is the same temperature change that is predicted to transform our world, except in the other direction. To picture the severity of that measure is monstrous. Once Goodstein firmly established climate change and its effects as a given in the night’s discussion, we moved to the panel members’ discussion.

Carter Strickland, commissioner of NYCDEP came out first to say that he believes there will be more continuity than change under de Blasio, highlighting sustainability as an actual economic necessity and measure. Although initially spending money on environmentally improving New York City will seem costly, changes made will actually save money for the city and its residents. Strickland also spoke about his own goals for DEP. Goals such as Air Code revisions that are long overdue, Green Infrastructure Plans to build green roofs and bioswales that not only serves a good purpose, but also makes neighborhoods more attractive. Strickland concluded by saying that for him it’s very difficult to see a reversal under Mayor de Blasio, positive news for the audience.

Cecil Scheib of Urban Green Council is an expert in New York City’s buildings. Scheib spoke of the transformed GreeNYC changes in our city. Particularly after Hurricane Sandy, green building improvements mean safety and health, in the short term and long term. An emphasis de Blasio has been trying to make is his focus on equality. In relation to this idea, Sheib urged that it is imperative that green building benefits become “not just green benefits, but benefits,” meaning they are expected, necessary, and present no matter which borough you live in.


Laurie Kerr helped to develop PlaNYC under Bloomberg. The program formed behind the idea that New York City was expected to gain over 1 million people. The question to this prediction was how NYC would accommodate these people while maintaining a quality of life. PlaNYC has become a token sustainability program under Bloomberg, examining issues of transportation, water, and energy. Kerr noted that Mayor de Blasio mentioned specific environmental programs in his inauguration address, hopefully meaning that he plans to continue on Bloomberg’s track in order to meet goals set for New York City.

Marcia Bystryn of the New York League of Conservation Voters also agreed that de Blasio would follow Bloomberg. However, Bystryn brought up a point that perhaps the drive towards environmental improvement would develop from a different angle than it did under Bloomberg. Bystryn highlighted that under Bloomberg, programs were pushed by City Hall. It is necessary to look at Mayor de Blasio’s agenda and find a way to infuse our goals and what we want in to his plan, because Bystryn made it clear that she does not believe these goals will be completed from City Hall like they were under Bloomberg. She urged that this movement has to become more of a bottom-up effort. Taking into account de Blasio’s agenda of equality and social justice, it looks like environmentalism can naturally become a part of that.

In the end, the panel came to the conclusion that this is a tremendous opportunity for Mayor de Blasio to incorporate social justice with an environmental movement. We must ask communities what their issues are and what they need, rather than telling them what they need. This technique has potential to broaden the environmental movement and diversify the people involved.

It looks like many exciting things are ahead for new Mayor Bill de Blasio. His environmental potential and prospects seem extremely promising!

Join the Sustainability Practice Network at

By Anna Marr, HII Environmental Education Intern

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A Reflection on NY Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address 2014

As the polar vortex swept through New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo prepared to give the State of the State Address for 2014. Speculations were high as to what the top priority would be, with talk of amending the state’s schools and education system, the consideration of access to medical marijuana, and using federal Sandy funds to provide housing units in storm-ravaged areas.

In his address, Cuomo identified how New York has faced nine major disasters in the past three years. He outlined strategies to protect New York infrastructure from extreme weather. He spoke about climate change and the need to make communities and natural environments more resilient to it.  Cuomo intends to install the nation’s most advanced early detection weather system and train 100,000 citizens in emergency preparedness, free of cost, by the end of the year to assist in weather emergencies in homes and communities. In addition to this, he mentioned homeland security and also announced the establishment of the nation’s first college on emergency preparedness.

The absence of any reference to hydraulic fracking in Governor Cuomo’s speech was particularly conspicuous, as hundreds of people had protested at the Empire State Plaza calling for a ban on the natural gas drilling activity. However, the governor alluded to important issues such as clean energy and climate resiliency, maintaining New York should be leading the way on confronting environmental issues. He has committed $1 billion to the NY Sun Initiative solar program over the next ten years, which will cut solar prices, reduce the empire state’s carbon footprint and create clean energy jobs and businesses.

As anticipated, Cuomo placed much emphasis on education and training, with the introduction of Universal Pre-Kindergarten statewide and the Smart Classrooms Initiative revealed. He affirmed his support of SUNY and CUNY 2020 programs and the provision of additional job training for prisoners released from prisons. The governor detailed how 13,000 inner city youth were assisted in finding work through the NY Youth Works Program the past year and he plans on extending this program to increase employment and training among them. Overall, unemployment figures have decreased this past year. There have been significant increases in jobs in the tourism sector, and the establishment of regional economic development councils in communities has aided to such.

Overall, Governor Cuomo made attributable proposals for the state of New York for 2014.   Although he supports efforts to alter the education system, he failed to acknowledge the importance of arts in the classroom, a proven mechanism for achievement.  Instead, his focus was quite narrow – on new technology in classrooms in the Smart Classrooms Initiative and teacher bonuses. The failure to mention how he would finance Universal Pre-Kindergarten was also evident.  It is anticipated strategies to make communities more resilient to climate change will come into action soon, so that we do not have to suffer as severely the detrimental impacts another hurricane Sandy would have on our state again.

NiamhNiamh Carroll, Program Coordinator

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Tidemarks: What are your Post-Sandy Memories?

Artist Sue Allbert brought her multi-media work Tidemarks to the Southside Connex Street Festival in Brooklyn, NY on September 28th—Day 9th of the Ten Days of Climate Action 2013. The QR codes on the needlepoint cushions take viewers, through the QR phone app, to the artist’s videos of objects found after Hurricane Sandy. The videos take the viewers one year back when the disaster just happened. After experiencing Allbert’s artwork, one viewer recalled that she watched all of her friends’ belongings go up in smokes and flames. Another viewer was reminded that she witnessed people miss out on their education as a result of the hurricane.

Sue Allbert's "Tidemarks" in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Sue Allbert’s “Tidemarks” in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

The spectators also had the opportunity to send a postcard to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to call for recognition and protection for climate refugees. It was made possible by the Environmental Justice Foundation from UK. They also hosted Postcards from the Frontlines event in London on September 25th as part of the Ten Days of Climate Action 2013. Learn how to send your own postcard to the UN today!

Example of postcards that were sent to

Example of postcards that were sent to UN Secretary

By Li Tang, Design and Marketing Intern

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