Ten Square Miles

An Environmental Activism Resource

Category: Technology (page 2 of 2)


On social media platforms, there is a new hashtag going viral called #KillTheKCup. This new hashtag is in reference to K-Cups that go in Keurig machines that make hot beverages such as tea, coffee and hot chocolate.

Billions of the tiny plastic single-use cups are being thrown into the trash because they’re not recyclable. The company has acknowledged that this is a problem but doesn’t plan on making them recyclable until at least 2020.

Even the inventor of the K-Cup is now saying that he wishes he hadn’t invented them. According to an article at TakePart.com, creator John Sylvan admitted to not owning a Keurig because they are “too expensive to use.” He touches on the environmental issues and at one point says that he doesn’t think the K-Cups will ever be able to be fully recyclable due to the type of plastic used in them.

All of this attention to the Keurig has prompted the #KilltheKCup hastag in hopes that the company develops an environmentally friendly product at a faster rate.


See the full article here.

A Fierce Green Fire Response

Mark Kitchell produced and directed the 2012 documentary, A Fierce Green Fire that explores different environmental movements and groups around the world. Produced by Bull Frog Films, the film takes a look at different movements regarding the environment within the past 50 years all over the world. It is split up into five different acts, each of which progress in a somewhat chronological order. Kitchell takes the first act to look act the organization of the Sierra club and its early battle in the 60’s with dams and the Grand Canyon. Act 2 focuses on pollution and the 70’s era of Love Canal where a town in New York is overcome with over 20,000 toxic chemicals as its residents try and find resolution with the government. Act 3 is about the environmental organization Greenpeace and their fight to save the whales while Act 4 follows with deforestation in the 80’s and activist Chico Mendez. Act 5 finishes the film by looking at climate change and natural disasters. Overall, the film created a brief history of environmentalism and its’ activists.

This film in particular had a very positive outlook at environmental activism. The upbeat music and ambitious montages were meant to serve the film as inspiring. A particular strength of this documentary was the fact that it was split up into five different acts. The film was nicely strung together with each act and without the separation, would have just looked poorly organized. The diversity of each act worked in the film’s favor because the audience had the chance to see different types of activism in different eras. Ultimately A Fierce Green Fire is meant to observe the activist history in environmentalism and throughout the acts, it achieved that. The first three acts proved to be particularly strong with movements like Love Canal, which viewed one of the bigger environmental issues of the 70’s and groups like Greenpeace which shed light on issues like whaling and sealing that are not commonly known to the public. The last two acts weren’t as strong as they created more distant issues that didn’t prove quite as strong as the other acts but important nonetheless.

Kitchell and his crew stay behind the camera and leave it to the subjects to tell their stories. This is very much unlike the documentary DamNation we watched as a class earlier in the year that used a series of voiceovers from the documentarians themselves as they went on an adventure to advocate the destruction of Dams. Likewise, in class we read Rachel Carson’s text Silent Spring and in Act 2 the film relates back to Carson’s text numerous times. Kitchell seems to have a stronger act when he has more of a solid, focused foundation.

Personally, this was my favorite film we have watched thus far. I thought many of the issues were strong and focused on the importance of activism. I liked how part of the underlying message of the film was that activism has been going on for decades and the need to advocate isn’t going to go away any time soon. I find that this film was so incredibly different than many of the other films we have watched. This film wasn’t one that made me feel badly about issues I may not have any control over and it also didn’t involve a resolution. But it did show the effects of activism and how people are reacting to environmentalism around the globe and I find that this approach was far more successful in capturing my interest and ambition than the others. I thought it was a very realistic, upbeat approach to activism and its history.

Environmental Tips for the Holidays

Holiday is break is so close you can taste the snow that should be happening if it weren’t global warming. So here’s some tips that can help lesson your footprint on the environment this winter.

  1. Take the bus or the train. If you have the money, use the bus or the train to get home. If you can take your car off that one road trip, it will save you a lot of carbon emissions.
  2. Try making some gifts this year. Making gifts out of stuff you already have saves money and also is helpful in reducing the amount of stuff you don’t need.
  3. Bundle up. Especially since it’s not that cold this year, turn down the heat and bundle up in sweaters and blankets to save energy.
  4. Re-use paper as wrapping paper. Why buy paper you’re going to tear up and throw away anyway? Use newspaper or old magazines in a cute, creative way that also reuses paper you already used.

5 Foods and Drinks That May Not Be Around For The Next Generation

In case you have friends who care more about their food than climate change. Perhaps this article published by Upworthy will motivate them to make a change.


Three Tips for Better Landscape Photographs

Nature and landscapes are a favorite photography subject. The Earth is beautiful, but it’s not always so easy to capture its beauty. Here are three tips to taking better landscape photographs. All images by Alec Salisbury.

1. Shoot during the golden hour

In photography, the golden hour (often refferred to as the magic hour) is the period of time just before and after a sunrise and sunset. The light during this hour is less intenseand more directional. Giving your images a more dramatic look. Who doesn’t like sunsets?

Post Ice Storm Golden Fog.jpg

2. Get the shot nobody else has

There are countless photographers out there shooting possibly the exact same subject as you. Try and find a way to shoot it differently. This may mean finding a different angle and thinking out of the box.

Foggy Tree.jpg

3. Avoid Gear Acquisition Syndrome

It’s far too easy to think “If I just had a better camera or lens, my images would come out better. While a better camera or lens may lead to technically superior images, the driving force behind a great image is the creative aspect the photographer brings to the image. The following two images were taken with an iPhone.10358976_10204797970281950_5558116966830940924_o.jpg



Four Geoengineering Ploys

In a nutshell, geoengineering is the attempt to artificially modify Earth in order to make it less susceptible to climate change. In most cases, it is less desirable for many reasons, and despite that fact that some geoengineering “solutions” will work, are we really that reluctant to simply try and reduce our emissions? Instead of addressing the real issues that are driven by capitalistic greed, geoengineering only disregards the fact and instead enforces change on Earth itself. This is certainly a wrong step in the direction of progress.

  1. Inject sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere. This will allegedly bounce incoming solar radiation into space before it can get to the lower atmosphere and cause more damage, similar to how volcanic eruptions naturally create stratospheric sulfur aerosols. The shortcoming of this, however, is that once injection starts, it must be continued indefinitely. Otherwise, the SO2 will descend to Earth and subsequently cause a spike in heat, only worsening the problem that it was created to fix.
  2. Place mirrors in space. As ridiculous as this sounds, it has been suggested that by having mirrors orbit the Earth, they could ultimately be used to deflect sunlight back into space. Lowell Wood calculated that a mirror measuring 600,000 square miles (or multiple smaller mirrors), would be required to deflect the 1% of sunlight needed to restore climate stability. Needless to say, this plan has not yet been tested.
  3. Cover islands and rooftops in white. This attempt would theoretically absorb less heat and reflect sunlight back into space, similar to the last two geoengineering plans. While it sounds simple enough, this plan isn’t quite as effective when its implications are further investigated. The white roofs would, in fact, cool urban areas, but it would also cool the air near the ground. This increases local air stability, which consequently results in few clouds due to the lack of moisture and energy being evaporated. Overall, the decreased cloud coverage can offset and even override the effect of the white rooftops, rendering the effort useless, if not more harmful.
  4. Seed the ocean with iron. Iron is the limiting factor for phytoplankton growth, and supposedly the geoengineering plan begins with distributing small iron filings into the ocean. This will increase the population of the phytoplankton, who will then naturally photosynthesize and extract carbon from atmosphere. Eventually they will die due to overpopulation, and their tiny corpses will sink to bottom of the ocean, taking CO2 with them. While this has been tested and worked once, it hasn’t proved the same results in other trials.

Smugness in Enviromentalism

Environmentalism, by nature of the size of the impact of failing to achieve its key goals, has always maintained a relatively moralistic judgmental tone when regarding its rhetoric. To many, those who don’t share the same ideals or urgency are either stupid or corrupt. However, this practice of shaming those who don’t see our point of view is dangerous and destructive as it alienates those who would otherwise see our viewpoint through dialogue.

There are scores of memes that can be found on the internet. They involve jokes about Hummer owners, disbarring comments made about those who run corporations, or the capitalist system in general. This practice isolates the potential for growth in the movement; beyond those small radical followers at the core. Many would argue this works to highlight the inconsistency or lunacy of the capitalist system that has engrossed our culture, society, and political institutions. However, it creates an aurora of superiority that designates some few environmentalists as above or superior to those who don’t follow their viewpoint.

This smugness can also be seen in discrimination against those who don’t follow the movement’s direct commands. Those who use water bottles, buy from Walmart, invest in mineral companies, or even own a normal gas car, can be seen by some environmentalists as traitors to the cause. The problem with this assumption is that an environmental lifestyle is significantly more difficult and expensive for many Americans to adopt. It is expensive to have an electric car. It is expensive to buy solar panels for one’s home. So, as a result of socioeconomic status, many are considered “less than” in the eyes of the movement, which is wrong. It is also important to note that one’s socioeconomic status is largely out of the hands of the individual person.

When a movement wants to gain traction with the greater part of society, the ideology has to moderate itself to attract more followers. The extremes are necessary to form an ideological pure wing to keep the movement fundamentally accountable to the greater goals, but compromises have to be made for average everyday people, who can’t and won’t be as invested or as strong in conviction, to join. With environmentalism, this translates to restructuring the conversation away from finger pointing and riding high horses. Instead, we must inform people how the systems that we adhere to are flawed and need to be reformed, in order to preserve our greater community and health of our society.

5 Winter Preparation Tips

Photo by Alec Salisbury Photography

Photo by Alec Salisbury Photography

The heat of summer has subsided and the apple orchards are open for business. Fall has finally arrived in New York.  Winter will be here before we know it, so it’s a good idea to start gearing up. It’s not easy being green, but here is a list of five things you should do before the frost hits.

1.Change your ceiling fans’ direction.

Virtually all ceiling fans have a toggle switch on them to change their direction. In the summer, they should spin counter clockwise, pushing air down. The switch reverses the direction so that in winter they pull the cooler air up, thereby pushing the warm air near the ceiling back down towards the floor. This will save you money on heating since you won’t have to turn up the heat quite as easy.

2. Use a seed spreader to throw ice melt on your sidewalk and driveway.

You will be out in the cold for less time. The seed spreader will disperse the ice melt more evenly, which in turn will mean you will use less ice melt. Ultimately this will save you money since you will not have to buy so much ice melt throughout the winter.

3.  Winterize your vehicle.Snow_Chain_Honda

Start by checking your air filter and fluid levels. Checking the tires for tread wear and proper inflation, and checking the condition of your windshield wipers. Ensuring your vehicle is ready for weather changes will reduce damage, which prevents waste from broken parts, and will keep you safe on the road. It is also advised to store a collapsible shovel, cat litter, and some sort of traction device in the event you get stuck.

4. Consider using non-toxic de-icing substance.

Such as clean clay cat litter, sand, or fireplace/stove ashes to prevent hazardous waste from chemicals. Chemical de-icers can be hazardous to your pets, your trees and shrubs, and the environment. Antifreeze that leak from car engines and chemical snow melters on driveways, roads, and runways can pollute surface waters and groundwater through the soil.

5.  Buy Rechargeable Batteries

Winter storms often cause power outages. Prevent waste by keeping rechargeable batteries rather than disposable ones stored throughout your house with your flashlights. If you do use disposable batteries, prevent hazardous waste by buying batteries with low mercury content.



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