Joanna Zelman

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Joanna Zelman is a writer currently working for The Huffington Post in New York City. She is a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in International Studies. Her work as a global activist has led her to various regions of the world including Ghana, India, and Panama. More information on Joanna can be found at her website

World Oceans Day: A Wary Celebration

The state of the oceans often reflects the state of the world. Oil-covered animals and tar balls in shrimp nets represent a need to improve our regulations and alter our energy demands, and rising sea levels demonstrate the urgent need to combat man-made climate change.

On June 8th, the international community will celebrate World Oceans Day. This year, the focus will be on “Youth: The Next Wave For Change.” The idea is to inspire young people in communities around the globe to focus on ocean conservation.

As the World Oceans Day website reads, “Young people are the most knowledgeable and motivated segment of the population when it comes to the environment and its protection. Youth generally have the free time, familiarity with current issues, and the motivation to go out of their way to take environmental actions. “

The site goes on to state that market research has shown that parents look increasingly to their children for information on important issues.

iMatter Marches Prove Younger Generation Is Ready To Fight Climate Change

This past week, the younger generation proved it just might be able to do what older generations have struggled to accomplish – unite to combat climate change.

Young people from 25 countries on five continents joined together for the largest ever youth movement on climate change. The marches were organized by iMatter, an organization that was started by 16-year-old Alec Loorz. This teenager created quite a movement, as the past week’s events confirm:

In San Francisco, CA, Ted Turner reportedly joined Loorz in leading the city’s march nearly two years after the media mogul made a promise to the young activist to do so. iMatter reports that Salt Lake City, Utah students involved the state’s ACLU to fight permit roadblocks posted by the Utah Department of Transportation. In Kuwait City, Kuwait, an oil executive’s 17-year-old son organized a march.

iMatter Marches Worldwide This Week: Time For The Younger Generation To Lead

Government officials with degrees and offices in the nation’s capital can’t seem to get it together to fight global warming. So a bunch of kids who aren’t old enough to vote have decided to take the charge instead.

The iMatter movement was founded three years ago by Alec Loorz, who at the time was just 13 years old, but already recognized the urgent need to fight climate change and focus on global sustainability.

Between May 7th and May 14th, iMatter will hold international youth marches to raise awareness of the importance of fighting global warming. According to iMatter, these marches are “the largest ever mobilization of young people against climate change.” Organizers expect tens of thousands of people to march in the U.S. alone.

Beyond the marches, the youth leaders are planning to appeal to the courts in a series of legal and administrative actions that will soon be filed against all 50 states and the federal government.

Air Pollution: The Problem With Coal-Fired Power Plants And Ocean Vessels

The American Lung Association recently released their annual report, State of the Air (SOTA) 2011. There were some positive findings, such as that air quality improved in many places from 2007-2009. There were also some negative findings, like that over 154 million people (yes, over half the nation) still suffer from pollution levels that can be dangerous to breathe. With data like this, it’s time to look at sources of air pollution, namely coal-fired power plants and sea-going vessels.

Janice Nolen, assistant vice president of national policy and advocacy for the ALA, discussed coal-fired power plants and sea-going vessels during an interview that I conducted with her for The Huffington Post.

Regarding coal-fired power plants, Nolen discussed the report that the ALA released earlier this year, “Toxic Air: The Case For Cleaning Up Coal-Fired Power Plants,” in which the ALA states that particle pollution from power plants kills an estimated 13,000 people per year, and the greatest contributor to this hazardous pollution is coal-fired power plants.

Rachel Carson's Legacy Guides Today's Climate Change Battle

Ed. note: Happy Earth Day everyone!  Here is a reflection on Rachel Carson’s legacy from DeSmog contributor Joanna Zelman:

When I was first assigned to read a segment from Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” in a college class, I skipped the homework assignment. But the next day, the other students were engaged in such a heated debate over the piece, that I went home and read it the following evening (instead of doing my next homework assignment.) I’d never seen one piece of writing spark such animated discussion in a class that met after lunch.

Rachel Carson’s work has done more for me than boost my scientific knowledge. She has taught me the rather simple, quite powerful fact that if I act irresponsibly, my actions will come back to harm me. If I embrace practices that contribute to global warming - drive a gas-guzzling car, eat beef, or leave all of my electronics plugged in, then I, my children, my grandchildren, and also my great-great-great-great-grandchildren will pay the price for my actions.

For those who do not know about Rachel Carson, she was a writer and scientist credited for helping to inspire the modern environmental movement. Her book “Silent Spring” challenged the practices of agricultural companies and the government, questioning the effects of pesticides on the environment and human health. The book was controversial and it was a game-changer. Seventy years after Carson published her first book, Open Road Media is releasing Rachel Carson’s “Under the Sea Wind,” “The Sea Around Us,” and “A Sense of Wonder” as ebooks in time for Earth Day 2011.

Eco-Friendly Microfinance: It's Time To Clean Up The Bandwagon

Green microfinance is the link between good intentions and real results.

Microfinance is a business model focused on providing small loans to low-income clients, enabling them to develop small businesses. The model has become a hot topic in recent years, thanks in large part to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, joint winners of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Yunus recently released a documentary, “To Catch A Dollar,” further raising awareness of microcredit loans.

While microfinance has lifted many people out of poverty, a job focused on environmentally damaging practices can actually worsen a loan recipient’s situation.

Knut The Polar Bear: The Hypocrisy Of Mourning Just One Member Of A Vulnerable Species

As people around the world mourn the death of Knut the polar bear, up to two-thirds of the entire wild polar bear population remains threatened by human actions.

Knut, a polar bear at Berlin Zoo, died unexpectedly this past Saturday. The polar bear rose to fame after being rejected by his mother, and “Knutmania” ensued. 

How many of Knut’s adoring fans had their heart strings pulled by the loss of this one famous polar bear, yet don’t think twice about their contributions to climate change, one of the chief threats to the survival of the entire polar bear population?

Japan's Nuclear Crisis Highlights U.S. Energy Policy Problems

As the tragedy continues to unfold in Japan, the U.S. nuclear energy debate has been reignited.

The New York Times points out that some potential 2012 Republican candidates have already reaffirmed their support for nuclear energy. After citing his concern for the crisis in Japan, Donald Trump recently stated:

 “I’m in favor of nuclear energy, very strongly in favor of nuclear energy. If a plane goes down, people keep flying. If you get into an auto crash, people keep driving. There are problems in life. not everything is so perfect. But we do need nuclear energy, and we need a lot of it fast.”

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour expressed similar sentiments, stating, “We need to study and learn and make sure that we continue to have safe reliable clean nuclear energy in the United States.”

But is there such a thing as “safe reliable clean nuclear energy”?

Do 110 Pennsylvania Legislators Not Read The New York Times?

Are politicians willing to take responsibility for their debatably harmful actions? This Monday, Pennsylvania’s House lawmakers voted to reject a fracking wastewater amendment.

According to The Times-Tribune, the amendment proposed to increase regulatory oversight for trucks hauling hydrofracking wastewater from drilling sites in the Marcellus Shale. The amendment would have required drivers to be trained on how to handle hazardous material if they were hauling hydraofracking wastewater. The vehicles would also need to be labeled as carrying hazardous wastes.

Why The U.S. Department of Defense Should Fight A War Against Global Warming Instead Of People

U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres warned militaries this month that they should be spending more money to reduce carbon emissions. According to her, one of the biggest threats to nations right now is global warming. 

President Obama recently asked Congress for $671 billion for the Department of Defense’s budget for fiscal 2012. The proposed budget (although currently facing cuts) allotted billions of dollars to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and billions more were requested for procurement; research, development, test and evaluation; operations and maintenance; military construction; personnel; family housing; and revolving management funds. While the Department of Defense has recently focused some attention on global warming, it’s time they start focusing a lot more.

Christiana Figueres’s biggest concern is that a growing food crisis, water stress, and weather damage will result in an international migration, regional conflicts, and ultimately a “climate chaos that would demand a defense response that makes even today’s spending burden look light.” Instead of investing in more weaponry, Figueres urges generals to invest in reducing carbon emissions.