In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Deb Gordon discusses the impact of environmental changes on recent storms with Amy Goldsmith, New Jersey State Director of Clean Water Action, which is a non-profit environmental organization that works to educate and inform the community about environmental issues and encourage people to take action.
Clean Water Action’s own offices were completely destroyed by Sandy and the organization ultimately moved its main New Jersey headquarters to Long Branch because of it. Ms. Goldsmith stated that the type of severe devastation New Jersey suffered could have been thwarted by advanced work to enhance the environment to better absorb flooding, and also by preventing residents from building right on the shore. Ms. Goldsmith also stated that New Jersey needs be better prepared and rebuild in a more thoughtful and sustainable way.
Also discussed were some innovative solutions that can help the environment and protect New Jersey from future storms including putting rain barrels at the end of downspouts, the water from which can then be used to water trees. Ms. Goldsmith also stated that removing concrete and putting in greener places will clean the air and reduce hotter temperatures, which ultimately not only reduces flooding, but also saves a significant amount of money. According to Ms. Goldsmith, another component that can contribute to a healthier environment is locally produced foods, which will also has the added benefit of filling the shortage of good, healthy food in some neighborhoods.
Also discussed were other sources of climate change, such as pesticides, and pollution from vehicle idling, which contributes to cities like Newark having a disproportionate amount of bad air quality summer days, which causes health problems including asthma, cancer and heart attacks. Asthma is the number 1 reason children miss school. Urban cities like Newark and Paterson have 25% of kids suffering with asthma, which is double the national average of 12%. In addition, more people die from asthma in New Jersey than from the often reported homicides! Clean Water Action is working to create clean air zones for kids — getting companies to clean up their diesel trucks and also to get idling trucks away from parks and schools.
Pesticides are believed to also contribute to diseases like breast cancer and Parkinson’s disease, and the community needs to limit exposure to airborne carcinogens. Ms. Goldsmith provided the daunting data that in the 1970’s 1 in 10 people developed cancer, and today the statistics are 1 in 3. In addition, Ms Goldsmith informed the audience that the town of Toms River New Jersey, has a disproportionately large amount of children with cancer, and that the number of autistic people in Brick, New Jersey is far more than the national average. “These are all red flags that need to be addressed.” stated Ms. Goldsmith.
Ms. Goldsmith provided information about ways to eliminate the use of environmental agents like toxic cleaning products, especially in schools which exacerbates asthma symptoms and also discussed Clean Water Action’s efforts to get schools and other facilities to switch over to non-toxic cleaners. Ms. Goldsmith also encouraged listeners to use natural products at home, such as baking soda, lemon and vinegar.
Ms. Goldsmith stressed the importance of recognizing that climate change is interconnected with storms like Sandy, and therefore, the need to focus on environmental issues is greater than ever. Clean Water Action encourages the community to take action and get actively involved to help save our environment, not only by conserving energy, water, etc., but also by holding their elected officials accountable, and ensuring that they work towards environmental efforts that affect positive change.
For more information, visit cleanwateraction.org/nj.
–Deb Gordon/Fresh 102.7
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