French Culture Guide

French Culture in New York, with a Touch of Paris

Time for Concrete Action!

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How is it possible to mobilize for Earth Day just by giving people flyers on the streets? Last week, New York City, like other cities around the world, celebrated Earth Day. In the Big Apple, three meeting points were designated to increase awareness and appreciation for the environment.


The Earth Day exhibits were set up in key places: Times Square, and both indoors and outdoors at Grand Central Station. However, the different stands were not really convincing. These events were organized mostly to ease the general conscience. It all lacked a sense of urgency. Ecology became merely a political instrument. Perhaps no one really cares about the environment during this period of economic crisis. We have forgotten that nature doesn’t have inexhaustible resources, and one day it will be too late to turn back from our wasteful tendencies.


A few weeks ago, I wrote about people’s indifference during Earth Hour. Now, it seems that even twenty-four hours wasn’t enough to get their attention. This point is important and shows the lack of concern. Instead of having an all-too-general presentation and call to action, which is always the same, Earth Day should offer a more concrete project. On the Earth Day Network website you could read this impressive fact: on billion people participate in Earth Day in one hundred and ninety-two countries every year. That’s wonderful; however, when you read a little bit more deeply about the actions the different countries got involved in, your enthusiasm quickly fades. It’s mostly about students planting trees or cleaning beaches or forests. No doubt, these are very good actions, but they have been the same for forty years. Their impact has been miniscule in the grand scheme of things. We display responsible behavior for just one day out of three hundred and sixty-five, and then we go back to our bad habits. This is not the time for complacency; it’s time for action! Concrete action that makes a difference!


To attract people’s attention, you need to show them things they can visualize and understand. Living in a city like New York won’t be difficult to find some dysfunctions to work on. Pollution is everywhere here. Among more than 8 million people, you can’t miss finding a huge mess somewhere!


According to the New York City government, air pollution in the city is a significant environmental threat, which contributes to an estimated 6% of annual deaths. Let’s look at more figures; current exposures cause more than three thousand premature deaths, more than thousand hospitalizations due to respiratory and cardiovascular causes, and approximately six thousand emergency room visits for asthma in New York City annually. The full study is available online, and shows you even more terrifying results.


The air pollution is not the only threat, however – the water is also polluted. Picture the Hudson River, located on the West side of Manhattan and offers a beautiful view of New Jersey. People who live across the river will tell you their nightmare. The highway is causing not only air pollution but also noise pollution. It’s almost impossible to enjoy a quiet, peaceful promenade or run. As if this weren’t enough, even the river is damaged. Indeed, the Hudson River is the thirty-third most polluted river in the United States.


Concerned with this huge problem, two guys decided to save the river. Briton James Bowthorpe and American Antony Crook decided to work together to produce a documentary. Shot in two months, the Hudson River Project is going to be released in the spring of 2013. To encourage awareness, the movie features a man who is going to do a roundtrip journey departing from New York City. He builds a boat out of New York City’s waste and garbage, and takes it to the source of the Hudson River high in the Adirondack Mountains, at Lake Tear of the Clouds. A trailer is available online if you want to know more about this ambitious project. Earth needs this kind of project to undo the damage inflicted by the 2% Eva Joly (the ecological French candidate) scored in the primary stage of the French presidential election.


Find out more…


Hudson River Project

Access to the entire study


By Kenza Yahrfouri